Around 2 Lochs

This was a good ride today.
42 miles and three hours of pedaling took us up Loch Linnhe, around Loch Eil, and into Fort William. Lovely.

We also bumped into Stuart and Ben from Rockhopper sea kayaking while passing their base in Corpach.  I'd been meaning to introduce myself for a while.  What they thought when a bloke in lycra strolled up their drive I still wonder...  

The ten miles on the busy A82 between Fort William and the Coran ferry was less fun, especially into a head wind.

I'm doing a triathlon in May, just sprint distance, but I'm trying to get my legs into condition.  

We're heading off soon for some Nordic ski-training.  Or perhaps that's just going to be anice  holiday in a cabin with friends?  

Eastern Horizons review - Bryan's response

I received this response from Bryan Smith regarding the review of Eastern Horizons. I'm pleased and more than a little relieved. Oh, and if you look on the back of the DVD box you'll find this blog quoted there...

Great review Simon. I'm glad you enjoyed it and picked up on so many things that were quite intentional. We are getting better one step at a time.

I try to give fair and honest comment with the perspective of someone who makes the odd film or two. I've been in touch with Bryan for a while now and he has kindly agreed to advise me on some aspects of DVD making, although I try not to let this influence the review.

That said, I have a heck of a lot to learn from him!

Review - Eastern Horizons DVD

There are eight separate stories on this DVD.

Nine if you include the profile of Greenland National Kayak Championship gold medal winners Cheri Perry and Turner Wilson which is tucked away among the extras.

Like their road-trip, the DVD begins in Newfoundland where Bryan and Lise-Anne go in search of icebergs and find them right outside their front door. It helps if you have arranged to stay in a lighthouse.

It’s immediately apparent how much the pair have developed as film-makers. They set-up the lighthouse as a key location, staffed with knowledgeable locals who can provide lots of information about ice bergs, contributing interesting content to supplement the quality camerawork.

What’s more, they take us in and amongst the local community, see their daily lives and how they make a living. Later in when visiting Maine they hear a lobster fisherman talk lovingly of life at sea, and reveal he once pulled twenty eight lobsters out of one creel.

It’s these moments when Bryan and Lise-Anne talk to the non-kayakers, the people who know and can truly explain the places they’re visiting, that the travelogue element of this DVD comes to life. Why? Because these people have good stories to tell, and stories are the content viewers want to hear while watching impressive images. Now Bryan and Lise-Anne have the skills to allow them to be told.

After Newfoundland we leap a thousand plus miles to Georgia in the deep south, then they gradually headed north, to the Outer Banks, New York, Maine, the astounding Bay of Fundy, the glorious Magdalen Islands and finally back to Newfoundland.

Possibly my favourite story in here is set among the uber-urban landscape of New York. Resisting developers and City Hall, a group of volunteers run the Downtown Boathouse on the Hudson River, offering free kayaking to anyone who wishes to try. And try they do, in their thousands, twenty thousand one hundred last year alone. Our hosts head off to circumnavigate Manhattan with a group of local kayakers, leading to some spectacular images of paddling past skyscrapers and even the Statue of Liberty, only find themselves in a raging storm with thunder and lightning crashing all around. Stormbound on forty second street.

There are some lovely pictures of a deliberately close encounter with hump-back whale, slightly spoilt for me by Bryan filming himself running to get into his kayak in time to check out the whale sighting. Bryan, we know you did that after you got the shots of the whale. If you’d really been running, you wouldn’t have stopped, set up the tripod, run back and then filmed yourself running past.

Obviously keen not to break the first commandment of kayaking DVDs which states, “thou must show sea kayakers in big water”, Bryan and Lise-Anne pick up star kayaker from Pacific Horizons, Paul Kuthe and dive into the Bay of Fundy where a fifty foot tide creates world famous reversing falls. They’re possibly the fastest tidal currents in the world.

The resulting images of Bryan and Paul trying to get on a wave, falling into holes, and swirling around a massive whirlpool that looks like it could be the plug hole for the entire ocean left me determined to never go there.

What does detract, however, is the music. I’m an old fart perhaps but I can’t relate reggae to icebergs, and I’m utterly distracted when someone is singing lyrics which bear little or no relation to the images I’m watching. Worse, when I’m trying to listen to someone speak I don’t want someone else singing in the background. Music, yes, singing no.

Good grief, I sound like my Dad.

From the moment you pick up the case of this DVD you realise you’ve bought a classy product. The artwork is beautifully designed, and even the normally annoying menu page of the DVD is peculiarly soothing to watch - the beam from a lighthouse slowly sweeps the dark Newfoundland sky while a full moon transits behind. The opening shot, which features in the trailer for the DVD and shows a group of kayakers emerging from mist shrouded jagged rocks, is long, slow and confidently held. It has amazing impact and is probably the best kayaking shot I’ve seen. Should you buy this? Hell, yes.

Reel Water Productions £19.99 Available from Cackle TV

Sea Kayak DVD - Coverage

It's not even shot yet and I've had the first order for the first Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown DVD.  I kid you not!
Gordon and I decided we could do this two ways.  We could either work on this project in secret until someone saw us, and only those in 'the loop' would know what we were up to.  Or we could go public months ahead of time.  

Obviously we took the latter course.  Werner have put it on their blog and others are writing about it elsewhere.  (Thanks folks).

For now though I'm concentrating on finalising publicity for the Scottish Sea Kayak Trail book.  A mock-up of the cover should be available on the Pesda Press stand at the Nottingham Paddlefest this weekend.

Daily Telegraph - Sea Kayaking in Barra

The Hebridean island of Barra is compared to the fictional tropical paradise portrayed in Bounty Bar adverts in todays Daily Telegraph.  Photo: Clearwater Paddling.

It's good publicity for Chris Denehy, the man behind Clearwater Paddling.  The article is by Richard Madden.

Chris was also the first podcast I recorded when we visited the island and rented a couple of kayaks off him.  You'll can listen to him in person in the Podcast Library.

Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown - the DVDs

His book continues to sell phenomenally well, so we've decided to produce instructional DVDs to compliment it.

Two years in the planning and shot entirely on the Isle of Skye, the first of the DVDs will be Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown.  Like the book it will be aimed at intermediate and advanced sea kayakers.

It will combine the narrative of a multi-day expedition along the coast of this spectacular island with Gordon's unique and effective style of coaching.  

The instructional sequences, many of which are already shot, show progression from calm water to rough, with Gordon explaining the refinements needed to cope with the changing conditions.  The first DVD will concentrate on paddling techniques.  Rescues, towing and more will come in subsequent productions.

As the person shooting it I admit to being initially overwhelmed by the technical challenges.  However, I'm delighted with the results so far and we'll be showing some of the material at the Scottish Sea Kayak Symposium in May.  Reviews already!

Scottish Symposium - Contributors

Officially the list of contributors to the Scottish Sea Kayak Symposium on Skye is not yet confirmed.  Unofficially, it's going to be a great place to learn to roll.

Cheri Perry and Turner Wilson will have people spinning in their kayaks, day in day out.   Photo by John Madere.   

Cheri won a dozen gold medals in the Greenland National Kayaking Championships and also teaches yoga for kayaking.  (Liz will be at that session I guarantee!)  Turner is only a little way behind with six gold medals.  He'll be in Skye earlier to run a boat building course.

They have an interesting website with quite a few videos of their rolls.  Browsing it is an enjoyable way to dodge work for a few minutes.   

Free Sea Kayak with Every Holiday

Have a lovely holiday on the Isle of Skye learning a skill and take home a sea kayak.  No wonder there are only a few places left.

6-17th May, the acclaimed skin-on-frame kayak builder Turner Wilson of Kayak Ways is running a week long course where you build a custom kayak from absolute scratch.  It'll be a one-off, tailored to fit only you.

Duncan Winning will also be on hand to help and may be encouraged to show you how to make a paddle too.  The cost is £1250 which includes all the tools and materials.  You have to find your own accommodation and food.  

But you leave with your own custom boat. Details by e-mailing 

Turner will be sticking around and will be one of the contributors to the Scottish Sea Kayak Symposium.  Which is full.

Nice Norwegians

They changed Liz's ticket for free (see below).  Nice people.  Always said so.  Just don't mention whales....

What's in a Name?

We're going cross country skiing in Norway in a couple of weeks.  But who am I going with?
We booked the tickets as Simon and Liz Willis, Liz having now changed all her ID from 'Krol', her maiden name, to 'Willis'.  Or so we thought.

We just discovered she's still a 'Krol' on her passport.  Tickets and passport must match.  Norwegian airline representatives in the UK told us there would be a fee each way for changing the name - costing almost the price of the ticket!

However, their counterparts in Norway e-mailed me this morning saying they would do it for no fee.  How nice.  The change isn't done yet though...

Feed the Birds

I know, you're astounded at my carpentry skills.  

Cabinet maker standard, eh?  Well, we needed to replace our aging bird table and didn't like any of the ones in the shops.  None were big enough to also cope with visiting Pine Martens who still come on a daily basis.

My granddad was a carpenter.  I think I hear the distant sound of rolling...

Book Layout - Scottish Sea Kayak Trail

I'm not sure if I'm meant to share this kind of information. It's really behind the scenes stuff.
Pete and Franco at Pesda Press have come up with a layout for the Scottish Sea Kayak Trail book which is a little different to their existing guides.  Closer to a Rough Guide I'd say.

Two columns with full page box-out for the asides on history and out story.  There's a neat reference marker down the margin so you can see where you are on the pages.

They also want to create yet another box out.  I've been asked to pull all the facilities information (shops, busses etc) out of the body of the description and put it in its own area.  

Of course it's the correct approach.  I kick myself for not thinking of it earlier.

Applecross TV Programme

The gentle Sunday night TV programme 'Monty Hall's Great Escape', in which a marine biologist gets away from urban life to live somewhere remote, is proving quite a hit.

His 'beachcomber cottage' lies in Section 4 of the Scottish Sea Kayak Trail, just north of Applecross.

We were kayaking past and called in while they were filming.  There was a party for locals underway and, to be honest, I didn't really understand what was going on.  Why had a wooden porch been added to a cow shed?

I guess I'll have to read the book.  I'll read his if he reads mine.  

Inverness Half Marathon

Did my first half marathon race today in Inverness

Not a great time but I'm happy.  My watch put me at 2hrs 6 mins 50 seconds.  I'm Still waiting for the chip time on the results website.