New PodCast - Sea Eagles

"Look, an eagle", exclaimed a kayaker friend who considers himself an amateur ornathologist.

To be fair, he's usually pretty good. Only this time it wasn't an eagle. It was a deer. Honestly.

This is the man to paddle with if you're going eagle spotting. He's Justin Grant and he sometimes uses his sea kayak to commute to work.

This involves reaching the inaccessible places where sea eagles and golden eagles sometimes nest. Once chicks have left, Justin collects the detritus from the nests. This usually means taking home piles of bones, which he reassembles (sort-of) to work out how many other birds the sea eagles have devoured.

Listen and subscribe free or download directly from the Podcast Library.

Then ask yourself what you did at work today.

Anti-midge Patches - Review

Do they work? Well, yes and no. I'll explain. First, I could find no propper randomised control trials. Just a Wikipedia page saying:

"Whilst there is considerable anecdotal evidence of Thiamine products being effective in the field (Australia, US and Canada), there has yet to be any clinical trials run to demonstrate the efficacy of these products."

Then I found this about Vitamin B over-dose:

"Thiamin (vitamin B1) is a water-soluble vitamin and as such, it is least likely to reach toxic levels. There is little danger of thiamin toxicity when it is taken orally. However, there is an exception. When thiamin is taken intravenously (injections), it has been reported to cause anaphylactic shock in few people. Symptoms of a thiamine overdose may include a feeling of warmth, weakness, sweating, nausea, restlessness, difficulty breathing, tightness of the throat, bluish colored skin, and death."

This weekend Liz and I tried the patches and neither of us went into anaphylactic shock.
They need two hours to become effective, so we put them on at 5pm when we landed, drove home, ate some food, then went out about 7pm to dunk the kayak gear and hang it to dry. We also messed about with our boats, sorting stuff for a forthcoming trip.

When we stood in part of the garden where there are very few midges, but where we would normally be bitten, they seemed to ignore us completely. So here, the patches worked.

When we moved to the most intensely midge area, around our Midge-eater machine, I found the beasts were more of a nuisance. I could feel them in my face and eyes and it was very irritating. The patches are not like a Harry Potter invisibility cloak. If there are lots of the beasts, they will find you. However, I did not get bitten, even here, and that was quite a surprise.

They weren't bothering Liz at all. "That's because I've put on two patches", she told me. "That way they'll go for you not me".

So that's the strategy. Wear patches but don't tell your friends. They get bitten, not you.
Incidentaly, the next morning Liz worked in the garden in exactly the same conditions and was badly bitten. This clearly isn't a full-on clinical trial, it's at best anecdotal evidence and based on just one evening's test.

But we will buy more patches.

My Dolphin

If I look a bit pleased in this photo, it's because I am. Meet my new Nordkapp.

The deck colour is a lighter grey than I expected, and I thought I was having black deck lines and elastics. I'm happy with both the way they are.

The day hatch doesn't have a retaining cord or hole for one, but I'm sure Valley will send a replacement if I ask nicely.

She's gorgeous.

Liz and I now have his-n-her Nordkapps. Sad isn't it? We took them out around Carna on Loch Sunart. And I rolled her first time. For anyone who knows me, that's a big deal. It was with great sadness that I stowed her carefully and loaded my Quest for our trip to Norway soon. The Quest holds more and I'm more familiar with how it performs in rougher seas. My head is ruling my heart.

Still, I've plenty of time to ride my dolphin.

Tonight - new boat

This is a real sign. There is space on the paper to spell cheese with the "e" on the end. Oh dear.

Things like that have annoyed me recently, probably because last few weeks have been rather stressful. I've been trying to do too many things at once.

I had a big decision to make about an operation for my Mother in Spain. I had to find and talk to doctors here - Douglas was a great help.

Liz has been in London with her Mother who has also had an operation.

The 'day job' has involved moving to a new building where the technology works in an entirely different way. And occasionally doesn't.

And I've been writing several freelance articles for newspapers.

Tonight it's payback time. Tonight, I collect my new sea kayak from Scottish Paddler Supplies. Others have been second-hand or demo boats, so this is my first new sea kayak. I hope I'm not disappointed.

EPIRB Owners - useful info

There's a very nice person called Jacqui who works for the EPIRB Registry in Falmouth.

She has asked me to e-mail to the Registry details of our forthcoming trip to Arctic Norway. She wants to know when we're going, where we're going and when we'll get back. Anyone taking a PLB out of home waters, they'd like to know please.

"Oh we have a lot of kayakers on the registry now", she told me. How many, I wondered? "Too many for me to count right now", was the reply.

I submitted my registration details two weeks ago and while they try to input the details on the day they're received, there's a backlog for sending out the confirmations and stickers which are supposed to go on the unit. She e-mailed me my registration so I know it's in the system.

Registration is a legal requirement and one of the most important parts of buying an EPIRB or PLB (personal locator beacon). If Falmouth receives a signal from this yellow device, it only gets a 15 character Hex ID and a GPS location. Based on that information, the MCGA decides how to respond.

If the signal comes from the middle of Glasgow it's probaby be a false alarm so they'll ring the contact numbers to check. If it's registered in Glasgow but the signal comes from Arctic Norway, they may hesitate, scratch their heads and wonder if there's a glitch. Unless I've told them in advance of our plans.

So EPIRB users, if you're heading away from your usual waters, give the EPIRB Registry a call 01326 211 569 or Fax them on 01326 319 264. They're very nice.

Cross Scotland and Back in a Weekend

Ten years ago my friend Allister and I were into big mountain-bike routes.

We had a group of equally daft biker friends, one of whom was Steve Wade the co-owner of Orange Mountain Bikes, and we'd set off on routes not knowing if we could finish them.

In this way we blazed the cross-scotland-and-back-in-a-weekend route between Ardgay and Ullapool. I photographed and wrote it for MBUK.  Continues

Pine Marten Babies - the saga continues

Our Pine Marten is female. She was taking food for babies. Now she has brought them to the garden to feed for themselves. And they're not infants any longer!

One is as big as the female and only distinguishable by playful, inquisitive behaviour. I imagine this is the young male. The other is equally inquisitive but considerable smaller, so I imagine this is the female.

They are developing a comedy routine. Watching three of them try to squeeze onto one bird table is hilarious, involving lots of comedy slides down the post and tumbles onto the ground. They're every bit as entertaining as the badgers on Springwatch.

I have shot some video, which I'll edit soon and post of the web. In the meantime here's a slideshow with eighteen images.

New Podcast - Forward Paddling

Forward paddling is arguably the most important yet least practiced stroke.

Former Irish & British National sprint and marathon kayak champion Jim Kennedy and British Olympic Coach, Shaun Caven reveal the secrets of a successful stroke. It's certainly not just for racers.

Listen and subscribe free or download directly from the Podcast Library.

Jim runs Atlantic Sea Kayaking. Watch Shaun on video or below.

Anti-midge Patches

Stick the patch on your arm, like a nictoine or HRT patch and, it's claimed, the midges will stay away.

From the Highland Midge Company website:

"Research in Australia and Canada found that biting mosquito's, midges and flies hate Thiamine (also known as vitamin B1). People who had consumed quantities of food containing it were much less likely to be bitten. Vitamin B1 or Thiamine is naturally excreted in sweat and urine and you need a constant source to keep up the protective effects.

These patches contain huge quantities of Thiamine and a continuous amount enters your system through the skin. After a few hours of wearing a patch enough Thiamine will be present in your sweat and breath to keep the little blighters at bay."

One patch is meant to give one days protection and a pack of ten patches costs £9.99. This was front page news in the Press & Journal today.

Recycle Your Underwear

Berghaus recently announced it would make some of its fleece garments from recycled fleece garments starting Autumn 2007 . At the time I wondered how you'd get your old fleece to them to recycle. I've yet to find an answer to this.

However, Patagonia has done this for a while under a scheme called Common Threads. While I admire the initiative, it's not exactly practical for UK based sea kayakers. Your can drop them off at your nearest Patagonia store (Dublin), or mail them to a US address.

However, its campaign video is quite good. Shot in Tokyo, a lunatic in green tights tries to persuade locals not to throw away their underwear when they're worn out but to recycle them. Odd. I can only assume Japanese people wear synthetic shreddies.

Ocean Paddler Magazine - First Impressions

Since I've just written a review for the magazine, let's hope the editor doesn't mind me writing a review of the magazine.

We heard what would be in it last week. Now it is here, what's it like?

Early comments on the Forum concentrate on the feel of the magazine. With a laid spine, thicker paper and much thicker cover it feels like an up-market holiday brochure.

It certainly feels better than Paddles of Canoe & Kayak UK, and there's more about sea kayaking in one edition than in a year's worth of either of them. The old guard have a battle on their hands.

But quality comes at a price. TGO-The Great Outdoors, a hiking magazine I write for, tried this a few years ago but couldn't sustain the costs.

Ocean Paddler has a cover price of £4.99. That has to be about right for this quality. So the current offer of a full year subscription for £25 (£2.08 an issue) is a hefty discount to get subscribers. And 98p of that is postage!

Is it a loss-leader? Can you produce that mag for £1.10?

I have one complaint. I know the Editor understands the importance of maps, especially to a destination type article, but there are none in this issue. That's despite describing routes in the Firth of Clyde, Cornwall, Tasmania and particularly the Elafiti Islands in Croatia. I'm sure this will be addressed in future issues.

I have some niggles too, regarding the size of some photos and the punctuation. But that's all they are, niggles. Very entertaining is the editor's blog which reads more like the words of an expectant Father.

This is a superb first edition. I know it will only get better. Congratulations!

More Successful Canoe Boys

Chris and Iain completed their sea kayak from the Erskine Bridge to the Skye Bridge in just over a week. Chris sent me a few photos which he has allowed me to share, thanks. They're raising money for the British Lung Foundation and there's still time to donate a few quid (or dollars) to help mark their achievement.

Island Bagging - next big thing?

This is Andy Strangeway, otherwise known as Island Man from whose website this photo is taken.

Andy has almost completed his challenge to sleep on every Scottish island of 100 acres or more. There are 162.

While Andy has been using local boat operators to take him to and from islands, this clearly has a potential for sea kayakers.

How long will it be before the first self-propelled attempt to sleep on all 162 islands? There are a lot of people looking for a new challenge.

In this article in The Herald, Andy reckons he may have devised a new pass-time as big as Munro bagging, open to less physically able people.

I'm not convinced but admire his determination.

Andy should complete his bagging this week when he stays on Soay in the St Kilda archipelago at the end of the breeding season for its local residents.

No Kayaks

I was a lttle disappointed not to see any kayaks at the Glasgow River Festival. Here are a few photos.

Leaking Palm Dry-suit

Last time we practiced rescues I stepped out of my Palm Stikine dry suit feeling decidedly soggy.

A test in the bath revealed no holes but I did notice dark grey patches inside the light grey lining in the chest area. It was just over a year old, so after a quick phone call for an authorisation number I returned it to Palm.

Ten days later a replacement has arrived with a note saying the old one had de-laminated.

I'm having a run of good-luck with companies replacing faulty gear. First Yak, then Aquapac, now Palm. Good show folks. And smart too.

Because I'd had such a good experience with Yak, I bought two pairs of their Fulmar salopettes for Liz and me at Stirling Canoes this morning.

Video - Arisaig to Eigg & Muck

It's not exactly Ben Hur. But then it was shot on a compact Pentax Optio and edited with a clunky tool. OK, I know. A bad workman blames his tools...

A couple of weekends ago we left Arisaig on Friday morning and camped on Muck.

On the Saturday we made the short crossing to behind Eigg with a superb view of Rum. Then on Sunday morning we went around the top of Eigg back to Arisaig.

This is my first attempt at documenting a paddling weekend on video. So be gentle.

Personal Locator Beacon

I splashed out on an EPIRB. PLB to be precise, a Personal Locator Beacon, the McMurdo Fast-find Plus.

There was some discussion about whether it would work if you were bobbing around in the water. I e-mailed McMurdo who replied, "Yes, it is absolutely OK to get the unit wet, it's designed with that expectation in mind!" So that's good.

I considered trying to blag a freebie and write a review. But then, you can't realy "test" an Epirb.

Set it off to see what happens and before long a man in a helicopter will be shouting in your face as he hands you a bill for several thousand pounds.

Something which has to work in rough seas must be simple, so it was a surprise to find a thirty one page manual. Fortunately, most of it is about registration. But it does matter how and where you hold the device once activated.

The instruction "keep the PLB out of the water" did not initially inspire confidence. They mean, try to fix it to your BA rather than have it floating free.

Why a PLB? Mainly because we're off next month to Arctic Norway. If the worst happened, then sudden immersion would not improve my limited Norwegian, so I can't rely on the VHF. PLB would be a last-resort, but it'll be good to know it's there.

Filming new sea kayak DVD

I love this photo! It show an astonishing level of practical creativity at work. Click it for a closer look.

They want to film, in close up from above, the detail of what a top sea kayaker does in really rough water. How he paddles, weight shifts and other subtelties he probably doesn't know he's doing.

A safety boat wouldn't work. The camera would bob around out of phase with the paddler; there'd be a risk of collison; and it would give a side shot, not a top shot. Hence the microlite. Brilliant!

So who is it? It's part of a DVD being made by Olly Sanders on rough water boat handling which will be out at the end of the year. I reviewed his kayak safety DVD which is still available. You can also listen to a Podcast with Olly talking about paddling in Norway - it's in the Podcast Library.

The paddler is Aled Williams of TideRace at Penhryn Mawr, and they have lots of good footage at the stacks as well. Olly told me "It's amazing how different it all looks. We have a lot of good coaches and paddlers giving input , so hopefully it will give people some ideas about big water paddling".

Apparently, the P&H boats we used for the Canoe Boys recordings are heading down to Olly for more filming this weekend.

Get it on your Christmas list. Now!

Ocean Paddler Issue One

So we now know what's in the first issue of Ocean Paddler Magazine.

Expedition: Rounding Tassie
Interview: Jeff Allen
Preparation: Expedition Planning
Destination: Croatia
Capture: Photographic Inspiration
Preparation: Incident Management
Trip: In Search of the Queen of Inch's Glass Covered Coffin
Review: P&H Cetus Sea Kayak
Technique: Sea kayaking photography
Stern words: Brian Wilson - Paddle Loudly!

All the latest news from manufacturers and expeditions; Reviews of Aquabound Paddles, Palm & Yak touring spraydecks, waterproof iPod case and speakers; Rich gets up close and personal with a self heating (or was that self-exploding) curry; and Competition to win Northwater goodies!

There certainly seems to be a lot of Jeff Allen in it.

There's an interview with Jeff; Jeff contributes to an article on expedition planning; and Jeff writes about incident management in part one of a series, so we can expect more Jeff in future issues. That's a considerable quantity of Jeff to put in one place. Perhaps next month, a free Jeff with every issue?

If you can't wait, you can listen to Jeff talk about kayaking around South Georgia and in Cornwall in the Podcast Library of

I'm particularly pleased to see Brian Wilson has written the tail end article. Partly because I suggested the idea to Brian after recording a Podcast with him on Skye, but mainly because I think he's a superb writer. I plan to put Brian's podcast live on 1st September. Bertie says of this "tail-end" section:

Stern Words, we hope, will become an opportunity for people to speak out about something they are passionate about, or to speak passionately to change our actions, perceptions, beliefs etc.

In Brian's first article, Brian speaks passionately about the role all of us who love sea kayaking can play in becoming valued custodians of the wilderness we all actively seek out and enjoy. As Brian says, "PADDLE LOUDLY and be a voice for the sea and its wildlife". A 'must-read' conclusion to our first magazine!

Apparently the magazine should come back from the printers on Friday so they'll spend the weekend stuffing envelopes and getting them out to subscribers. You have subscribed, haven't you?

Aquapac - "faulty" cases update

If you're unsure as to whether you may have one of their faulty cases, send them an e-mail with details of the date of purchase and the supplier.

Tim Turnbull the Chief Executive of Aquapac International Limited, London contributed to the Forum thread below to say anyone could e-mail him about this

If they believe your case might be affected, they'll send a postage-paid envelope to return the case for checking. There's a Forum discussion of this here.

Damn good customer service I say.

Aquapac faults due to "bad batch of materials"

Have you had a relatively new Aquapac case fail recently?

I had three fail. The first was a three year old VHF case - fair enough, it was old.

However, a brand new replacement also failed on its first outing. At the same time a little used GPS case also failed.

I stuffed all three into an envelope and returned them to Aquapac. I didn't ask for replacements but suggested they might like to take a look.

They replaced all three, so top marks there. "Thank you Aquapac".

There was also a letter, with the words "Without Prejudice" written at the top. Sounds rather legal.

The second paragraph reads as follows: "The replacement VHF case which you purchased is faulty and we apologise for its consequent failure. The issue was with a bad batch of materials which has since been rectified".

Good to know they spotted the fault and solved it. But if you have a new-ish Aquapac case, you might want to check it. Aquapac suggest the "Bubble Test".
"Before using an Aquapac for the first time you need to make sure that it got to you in perfect condition. We ask you to do ‘The Bubble Test’: seal something worthless inside and submerge in a basin.
A few air bubbles may escape from the Aquaclip, this is ok, water can get into parts of the clamp without getting inside the case itself. But if a stream of bubbles escapes when you squeeze it there could be a problem, and you should contact us to obtain a replacement.
The Bubble Test is also a good time to check that the case floats. Before each use you must examine the Aquapac to make sure it’s not visibly damaged – to be safe you should always do The Bubble Test. "

New Podcast - Norway

"There was this invisible melon..."

Recorded at the Plas y Brenin expedition symposium with Olly Sanders of Rock And Sea Adventures.

Listen and subscribe free or download directly from the Podcast Library.

There are three stories in just one Podcast;
sea kayaking in the fjord area of Norway, in the Lofoten Islands and Olly’s big Nordkapp expedition.

One thousand, two hundred and seventy four

That's how many different types of sea kayak there are. At least.

My new spraydeck from Knoydart is made in the USA by Seals. I like the sewn in loops to add shock cord so I can hold my map on my deck.

It came with this small booklet which shows what size deck (or "skirt") fits which boat.

There are thirty two pages, with thirty nine boats on each full page, and one page with just twenty six boats. 1274 in total.

And probably many more.

Goodbye Boats

Today we said 'goodbye' to two boats which have been with us for a while.

I've had the demo P&H carbon/kevlar Quest LV since before Easter and I've enjoyed paddling it. Together we've been to the Treshnish Islands, Garvellachs, Eigg & Muck, and many other places.

I've only paddled it's big brother, the Cetus, for a couple of weekends. Cailean grabbed this one for the Canoe Boys recordings, and I see why.

She's a lovely boat. Even dogs like her.

But the recordings are over so the boats must go back. Today I dropped the pair off at Stirling Canoes where P&H will collect them during the week. Of the two it's the Cetus I'll be most sorry to see go.

Incidentally, I ordered a Valley Nordkapp before either boat arrived and it's still not here. Seven weeks late.

Sea Dog - Video

While we were recording the Canoe Boys programme at the weekend we passed through Kylerhea. The ferry still runs here, and the boatman has a dog called "Nak". He was more interested in what we were doing than going back on the ferry, so he followed us along the coast.

Liz and Meg were ashore. I was with Cailean on the water. Nak couldn't decide where he wanted to be.

P&H Cetus - Video Review

Sorry about the sound. Crap camera. New one on the way...

New Podcast - Firth of Clyde

You don't have to venture into the highlands to enjoy sea kayaking on Scotland's west coast.

Richard Cree is currently in the far north of Canada taking part in the Arctic Voice Expedition.

Before he went, Richard described three of the best routes in the Firth of Clyde.

Listen and subscribe free or download directly from the Podcast Library of

Canoe Boys - Done!

We finished recording the Canoe Boys programmes under the Skye Bridge today. We have 2 more interviews to do but the paddling is over. Now it's down to Meg of Triple Echo Productions to get around to the editing.

Oh, we've damaged the skeg system on the Cetus. I was totally wrong about the way it works and once we get back to the main computer I'll upload a video with Cailean "reviewing" the boat.
And the 1st July podcast will go live Monday night. Sorry for the delay.