Filming a Road Cycle Race on Skye

This is what it involves. Standing around in the rain and midges, staring at the horizon, desperate not to miss the shot of the lead rider approaching Dunvegan. With a camera I've not used before. Then lots of driving to get more shots before heading to a feeding station to chat to some of the slower riders. It's actually very good fun with a superb team spirit before and after, rather like the folk who are competing.

How Your Order Travels To The Post Office

Sometimes we use the car. Sometimes the road bike. And sometimes we take a longer way around. Shot on the GoPro Hero HD. Just a little sillyness.

1st New Podcast - JJ Kelley and Josh Thomas

These are guys behind one of the best sea kayaking films ever, Paddle To Seattle.

They will also be guests in the first Podcast of the re-launched Drop by on Tuesday 1st June to listen or download.

JJ and Josh tell a great story of their kayak expedition, down the Inside Passage, from Alaska to Seattle.

They also spill the beans on their next film-making adventure, which is going to be in India using Alpaka Rafts.

Listen to much more, in their own words, from JJ (in Washington, DC) and Josh (in Seward, Alaska) talking to me (in Scotland) on Tuesday.

Oh, and if you haven't seen Paddle To Seattle you can read my review and watch the 5 minute promo below. It honestly is very, very good, largely down to the personalities of these two.

Return Of The Sea Kayak Podcasts

The world's first and, we like to think, best Podcast website for sea kayakers will return on 1st June. will initially offer one Podcast each month, aiming to rise to two or more each month before the end of the year.

Most will be thirty minute recorded interviews with people who have interesting stories to tell that are related to sea kayaking.

They're a great listen while commuting, on a long journey, training in the gym or out for a run. Occasionally we'll add some video too.

You'll be able to listen and watch the streamed content online, but we expect most people will download the Podcasts onto their mp3 players and iPods. We're told by listeners they're often kept and re-visited months later.

We're also investigating live interactive webcasts. We might even start taking sponsorship to pay for all this. But that's for the future.

Tidal Power Generator Planned for Prime Sea Kayak Location- Skye

I lost count of the number of times we went to Kyle Rhea when filming Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown. All the tidal coaching sequence is shot there.

The tide is fast and crucially, the site is sheltered. Which is why tidal power developers have been eyeing it up for a while.

Now Pulse Tidal from Sheffield has applied for planning permission to build the tidal generator. It would be the first of its kind in the world. A year long environmental study is underway.

Full story in Press and Journal. Video I made in 2008 for BBC Newsnight Scotland about Orkney Tidal Power below.

Outdoors Bacteria Can Make You Smarter - Claim

Going kayaking, hiking or indeed anything in wild places might genuinely make you smarter.

According to Teresa Shipley's story for Discovery News, tiny organisms living in the soil and carried in the air can actually make us more positive and alert when ingested or breathed in, say researchers from the Sage Colleges of Troy, N.Y.

This was presented at the 110th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in San Diego.

And there's more good news.

Ingest a particular bacteria and you navigate a maze twice as fast. Dip my orienteering maps in the stuff and I'll be flying.

Ahh, problem. Seems that only works if you're a mouse. I'll ask Jerry if he wants to do the OMM this year.

Scottish Sea Kayak Trail - Website Update

I've just completed a thorough re-working of the website for the Scottish Sea Kayak Trail.

According to my friends at Sea Kayak Oban, who provided the kayak rental, the first overseas visitors to specifically aim to 'kayak the trail' started a couple of weeks ago.

I hope they're having a good time. But 'kayaking the trail' isn't the point.

The idea of this book is to give sea kayakers, particularly those from outside the area, all the information they might need to enjoy multi-day routes along the west coast.

Almost a third of the book is not about the trail. It's about wild camping, minimising wildlife disturbance, safety, history and all sorts of things I wanted to know about before I began sea kayaking here.

Free Sea Kayaking Scotland Factsheet

I don't know how I missed this first time around. Especially as I have six photos in the thing.

It's available as a Free Download from VisitScotland, and has lots of lovely photos from Dr Douglas to drool over while you're stuck behind the desk at work.

Like me right now. It's not all sun, fun and games here on the west coast you know...

Everest - The Ultimate Challenge. Errr?

Outside Magazine is reporting that around 300 people reached the summit of Everest last weekend. Three hundred in one weekend!

Last weekend I went kayaking with a lady in her sixties and, after looking very closely at a seaweed covered skerry, we realised far few people had probably stood on its summit.

Whereas this bloke swam under Everest, he says to 'raise awareness' of shrinking glaciers.

Mountain Rescue Zombies Reach Ardgour

The red rings around their eyes spoke volumes. More than their owners could, in fact.
"I've only had an hour's sleep since we start on Saturday morning", said one.It was Monday night.

I should have taken a photo but, well, it wasn't a pretty sight.

The advance party from the Kintail Mountain Rescue Team's fundraising challenge had reached the Ardgour Inn, on the west side of the Corran ferry. They'll camp there tonight and set off again at first light.

They aim to cycle to the four cardinal points of Scotland to raise money for their headquarters, as I wrote last week. They've reached three so far - all of thm in the dark. They should reach the fourth and final point, Ardnamurchan point, tomorrow morning. At least they'll get to see the lighthouse in daylight.

They didn't have a schedule as such, but they were certainly well ahead of their expectations. Then it's a long, long ride back to their base in Morvich, including a few killer climbs.

So if you see them on the Mallaig A830 'Road To The Isles" (coming from the Isles), or the A82 to Invergarry, or the A87 through Glorious Glen Shiel - give them a wave. Better still, make a donation.

Should Bloggers Write About Bothies?

When I first walked into Barrisdale bothy there was a note fastened to the bothy book, in which visitors recorded their stay.

It roughly read, "If you like this place, then please don't write about it. If you're a guide-book writer, then that applies double to you".

I also believe the Outdoor Writers' Guild, of which I was never a member, had a code which emphasised not mentioning the whereabouts of bothies.

And write a letter to the Mountain Bothies Association requesting a list of bothies and the reply would read, "there is no list".  Continues

Thirteen Year Old Summits Everest

It happened yesterday. I deliberately waited before rushing to blog.

As I wrote in April, particularly in the comments to my own post, this doesn't seem like a good thing.

In fact, it seems like an inevitable, headlong rush towards a tragedy. Not for this kid perhaps, but for the next one, or the one after that.

It runs to about eight pages, but stick with it - it's well worth a read.

This Is What We Do

Despite the great weather I've been slaving away over a keyboard. I've re-worked my business website for Sunart Media. Part of the work was to produce a showreel featuring some of our work. This is it.

A Useful PIece Of Kit? Not.

Attitude, Not Altitude Sickness on Denali

A Croatian woman climber on Denali, with no apparent sickness or injury, demanded air evacuation from North America's highest mountain.

For six days she was in a stand-off with rangers who, naturally, had refused her request. They did, however, give her a tent, food and water.

When the ranger in charge presented her with a $5000 bill, she called him a "big jerk" and apparently left the country without paying.

Jack The Chicken Stalker

Jack was in the wrong queue, receiving an extra helping of sad eyes, when the brains were being handed out.

He's fascinated by the hens. He stalks them. He never tries to catch them, just stares with an obsessive fascination.

This photo shows Jack pursuing his obsession.

We've been staying with friends who live in a remote Northumberland farmhouse.

Driving there means negotiating a bumpy track with five gates, and once there, we're greeted by hens, cats, and four dogs.

Most are individuals with curious 'quirks' like Jack. Although if they could talk I'm sure they'd say these were fascinating character traits which made them windswept and interesting.

There's 'Indy', for example. Indy is mad. And blind. Hence his nickname, 'blindy'. A rescue dog, he runs in circles, always to the right. I'm not kidding.

Jilly is lovely, lively and we've known her since she was a pup. But yesterday morning she was barking at shadows. Or more likely, distant smells. Something was getting to her. Possibly the neighbour's quad bike?

Midge is a border terrier, who hardly left Liz's
lap from the moment we arrived, as you can see. I've since been pulling dog hairs out of my MacBook.
Midge craves the affection Liz is happy to provide as she would really like a dog and particularly border terrier. While we were in Northumberland I suggested we visit the factory where they're made.

If Midge ever has pups I suspect one of her off-spring will end up living with us.

Then we could all be barking mad.

Guest Blogging

Guest blogging is, I'm told, all the rage. So I'm delighted a piece I've written has run on my friend's blog, especially as it's to help Kintail MRT. Thanks for the chance Fiona! (She runs a very good blog too - worth reading regularly).

A Mountain Rescue Team Would Like Your Help

The old headquarters of Kintail Mountain Rescue Team is past rescue itself.

The ancient barn and croft in Morvich is, like many a weary walker, struggling to stay upright.

Especially in the teeth of a howling gale, ice battering its roof and sides, in the dead of night. Which is, of course, when the MRT need it most.

If you walk Scotland's hills, you might too.

The team are raising money to create a purpose-built centre. A series of fund-raising events are planned. The first is this weekend and you can follow it at KintailCompassChallenge.

Team members cycle from this base, in continuous relay, to the four cardinal points of Scotland.
North: Dunnet Head
East: Peterhead
South: Mull of Galloway
West: Ardnamurchan

They'll pedal 1,200 miles, climb 32,000 feet (yes, that's not a typo!) and pass through many of Scotland's villages and towns.

If you feel you can help them or donate a fiver (or more) to help keep a roof over their heads, then there's a PayPal Donation button on the bottom of their homepage.

Tyne Valley Canoe Club Presentation

A good turn out for tonight's presentation and a great crowd. Thanks
for making me and Liz so welcome.


For the next few days most updates will be by Twitter in the red box to the right of the photo (taken in the Arisaig skerries last week).

Today we're driving to Northumberland where I'm giving a talk tonight at the Adam & Eve Pub in Low Prudhoe.

Sadly we don't have our kayaks with us. We'd planned to turn the trip into a mini-holiday and paddle coast on which I grew up.

Unfortunately our planned building work has intervened. Until now, this work was going to vaguely happen 'some time in the future'. Well, that time has come.

Materials are being delivered on Friday and there's a lot of clearing to do before builders arrive Monday to start knocking down the end of our home.

I will be shooting some work-related video in Northumberland. I'm also hoping for some treatment on my shoulder which, after feeling fine for almost six months, has flared up at precisely the wrong time. That is to say, peak kayaking season.

Still, it might get me out of too much manual labour...

Want To Be A Journalist? Read This.

Ed Caesar's article in last weekend's Sunday Times will make fascinating reading for anyone who has ever thought, "that was sloppy journalism". It should be compulsory for those who developed that thought into, "I could do better".

I particularly enjoyed the re-visit to and re-working of Nicholas Tomalin's famous "rat-like cunning" article.

There were three surprises. Firstly, he didn't mention the largest single employer of journalists in the UK, the BBC.

Of course, I understand the article was about "print" journalism as distinct from Broadcasting. But in this multi-media world that is increasingly a distinction without a difference.

Secondly, while I recognised many of the characteristics of the people who succeed in the business, it surprised me to learn that many newsrooms could not function without interns. These are people who work for no pay or expenses, doing jobs which were previously paid roles, trying to survive in London, all to gain the experience they hope will eventually gain them paid employment. That's tough.

The third surprise form this dubiously honourable profession? This article appeared in the very newspaper which recently announced it planned to close almost all it's operation in Scotland. Still want to be a journalist?

Loch Linnhe

I'd forgotten how nice a simple, short kayak trip can be.

Five of us went out yesterday. In itself, that's unusual for us, as Liz and I almost always paddle together with no one else.

Two were relative beginners, but there was little wind and we picked a lovely section of Loch Linnhe. With four different types of kayak to choose from, it gave them a chance to see that suited them.

The P&H Cetus proved particularly popular. With three people facing long car trips we were off the water by 2:30 having covered very little distance. but that wasn't the point.

We'd seen a familiar coast through fresh eyes and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

New Cabin Roof

I spent most of yesterday helping my friend Allister from Valley Building Services put a new roof on a remote cabin.

We've seen this place many times from the water on one of our favourite paddles. If I showed you the front, many people would know instantly where it is.

Ali has known the owner for a while. Together with Ross, Allister was fixing the new roof while I helped to strip off some of the old.

I'm not really a manual labourer - a bit ham fisted - but I enjoyed ripping off the old roof. More news of building work coming soon, this itme involving our own wee house.

Thieves Steal Kayak During British Circumnavigation Attempt

Padlocked to steel railings in Trefor, Wales. Yet thieves with bolt cutters stole James Bonell's kayak and a lot of kit that was stored inside.

It has now made the BBC News website, so hopefully no-one will be able to sell it.

It's also an issue on the UK Forum, where more information might be posted.

The pair started their trip on 22nd April.

Sea Kayakers in North East England

Please come and say "hello". I'll be giving a two-part talk on Tuesday evening (18th May) at the Adam & Eve Pub, Low Prudhoe for the Tyne Valley Canoe Club. There is no entrance charge and there will be finger buffet from 19:00.

Part one will be about The Scottish Sea Kayak Trail. Part two will be about filming the DVD Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown, showing some scenes which did not make the final cut. The video below gives you an idea what to expect.

Incidentally, good luck to two kayakers from Austria who I understand are three days into kayaking "the trail", having come here specifically to tackle the route.

EMS To Stock DVD

Breaking into a market the size of the USA is not at all easy. Just ask Robbie Williams.

Our DVD Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown has just received a huge boost. Eastern Mountain Sports has "picked it up", as they say in the business.

Which means they'll be offering it for sale in their stores and online. And a lot more people visit the EMS website than visit ours.

It's not there yet, as the DVDs are still being shipped, but it should be soon.

A huge vote of thanks therefore goes to our distributors at The Heliconia Press.

Shooting 3D Video with 2 GoPro HD Cameras?

I grabbed this still frame from the video below. I've prevously recommended Philip Bloom's excellent blog for those interested in video, especially shooting DSLR.

Here he's mixing with the big boys at Lucas Film.

But there's a short sequence which shows how relatively cheap cameras like the GoPro HD can be adapted with a little creativity.

I'd like to see the results!

Sea Eagles Kill Very Few Lambs - New Study

Long blamed by some people for killing lambs, a new study has found sea eagles "not guilty".

Well, almost.

They're wonderfuly majestic birds, and you can read the full story on Rob Edwards' excellent environmental news website. (Which is where I found the photo).

If you'd like to listen to a Podcast with sea eagle expert Justin Grant, you can download it free on this link.

Arisaig For Lunch

On a lovely day like today, the Arisaig skerries must be one of the nicest places to eat lunch, with uninterupted, crystal cleR views to Ardnamurchan, Muck, Eigg, Rum, and the south of Skye. Plus we have the wind behind us going back. [edit: I spoke too soon - the wind backed to the west! It was on our beam all the way.]

Episode Two of Kayak Web-TV Programme

By Rapid Media TV it includes a review of the GoPro HD video & stills camera. Next 'webisode' is going to be recorded at a couple of kayak events, the Canadian Canoe Symposium and National Sea Kayak Symposium. Tell them what you think of it. They'd appreciate your feedback. Episode One is here.

Kayak Camping and Midges - a Strategy for Scotland's West Coast

The female Culicoides Impunctatus has the power to remind you of your place in the food chain, but she should not stop you exploring the delights of kayak camping on Scotland's west coast.

If you find this useful, please click a few of the advert links, it really does help keep the site running.  Thank you!

This explains how to avoid their worst effects. First, know your enemy.

The Highland Midge is the scourge of the Scottish summer, active from the end of May until September.

This tiny creature hunts in packs, swarming into eyes, mouth and nose and can turn the hardiest camper into a screaming, arm-wailing mass of beast-swatting rage.

If one or two squeeze into your tent you may not see or hear them and only become aware of their presence when you wake covered in small, red, itchy boils. Some people have an even more violent allergic reaction.

Midges love still, damp, overcast or shady conditions and are most active around sunrise and sunset, just the time you will be landing or launching. They can't cope with wind or heavy rain, so perversely, you might find yourself hoping for bad weather.

Most kayak campers have anti-midge strategies. As outlined in my guidebook to The Scottish Sea Kayak Trail, this is ours.

Requirements - don't go kayak camping in Scotland in summer without this kit
* midge-proof head nets which are kept in PFD pocket or close to hand
* tent with midge-proof netting like our Terra Nova Ultra Quasar Tent
* midge repellant of choice - and here you just have to experiment. High concentration DEET used to be the only thing which worked for me, but now I find Avon Skin So Soft offers some protection so I rarely use DEET.

Funny how this has changed, and I don't understand why!

When landing: Aim to find a campsite with a breeze, ideally on a headland or with some wind exposure. If you set this as your goal, chances are you'll find somewhere.

As you land, if the midges are active, get your head net on immediately.

Set up the tent first, but don't open the inner door.

Light an anti-midge smoke coil (or three!) and put them in the vestibule, ideally in a coil holder which you can hang it relatively safely without the risk of setting fire to a nylon tent.

Bring the rest of the kit up from the kayaks. By now the tent vestibule is full of smoke and there are no midges in the immediate area. Get changed, cook etc. all in the midge-free environment of the tent. Be aware, these coils add a certain aroma to the tent, but it's not unpleasant.

If you want to go out to watch the sun-set or generally explore, then either use the head net or apply the midge repellant sparingly on face and hands, especally under watch strap.

I remove my watch.

If using DEET, don't get it on the walls or floor of the tent as it can melt them.

Once you return from your walkabout, whip out the baby-wipes and clean the repellant off your face and hands as it's awful to sleep in.

This sounds like a lot of fuss, but you quickly get into the routine. When we kayaked the route of The Scottish Sea Kayak Trail we rarely needed DEET or any repellant. By picking a site with a breeze and always using coils we were usually midge free.

Before going to bed, line up some anti-midge coils in the vestibule ready for lighting first thing in the morning.

Get them going when you wake, and you'll be able to cook midge-free.

Get dressed, put your head-net on, and strike camp, making sure all smouldering midge coils are extinguished.

They're a pest but nothing more, and certainly should not prevent you enjoying this world-class sea kayaking area.

Music on Monty Halls' TV Programme

Through the useful tool that is the BBC iPlayer, we watched episode three of Monty Halls' Great Hebridean Escape last night. (The iPlayer only works in the UK).

I was delighted to hear one of my favourite tunes used twice in the programme, and I suspect it will crop up again.

From the utterly superb album Farrar by Duncan Chisholm the track is The Farley Bridge. I highly recommend you buy this album!

And see if you can catch Duncan live (we missed him - arrgh!) He is currently touring the UK and then heading to Denmark with Ivan Drever.

South Coast of Mull

So here's what that trip looked like. There's more info at Scroll down for the map of all our Scottish routes on that site.

View Scottish Routes in a larger map

Follow Mull Trip on Twitter

See that red box to the right of this blog? It's my Twitter feed. I'm
using a new program (or at least trying to!) to track our Mull trip.
Ok it's not a major expedition, but this is a good time to test the
system. Click the link attached to the Tweet and you should be taken
to a map and photo of the location from where it was sent. When we get
home we'll discover whether it all worked.

Kayaking Mull

As you read this, Liz and I are heading to the start of kayak trip around the south end of the Isle of Mull.

I now have a different kayak, different PFD, different dry suit and different paddle. Still the same crap paddler though...

We'll launch on Loch Spelve and once we're out in the sound, we'll head west. After a couple of days, when we reach Iona, we'll decide whether to turn back east into Loch Scridain or swing north and aim for Calgary.

It all depends up the weather and how we are feeling. I'll try to Tweet and add the occasional post from our paddle.

Eckla Sea Kayak Trolley

This is how the larger, Atlantic 260 sea kayak trolley from Eckla comes.

Two wheels and an aluminium frame which folds out. The sea kayak or canoe is strapped ontop.

It's too early to say whether it's any good. We used on in Greece this summer and it seemed to work OK on fairly rough roads.

I read so many reviews of different trolleys before buying I utterly confused myself.

[edit: The best, as usual, was by Douglas Wilcox - it's worth reading his helpful comment below. Clearly we still have a lot to learn about using a trolley.]

I went for this one because we'd used it in anger, and also because it's imported by System X, who're also agents for Werner Paddles.

The key thing I learnt when testing it today was to push the thing.

This is counter intuitive.

Instinctively, you want to pull the kayak and trolley behind you, but this gradually eases the strap further down the hull. S

ince the hull narrows, the strap becomes slacker and the trolley starts to twist.

By pushing the trolley, you keep the strap tight.

How this works in practice, only time will tell!

Photos - Maggies Monster Bike and Hike 2010

You'll find a lot of the photos on the Sunart Media Flickr site. If you took part, feel free to download any you like. If you just want a feel for the event, take a look at these.

Mark Beaumont Lecture

Sunday night and we're heading to Inverness in the campervan.

We're going to a lecture by Mark Beaumont, the chap who cycled around the world and recently cycled the length of the Americas, climbing Denali and Aconcagua along the way. Other tour dates here.

I'm particularly interested as he filmed both rides himself. Both were turned into BBC TV programmes.
I've spoken to some former BBC colleagues who worked on the subsequent TV programme and I hope to learn quite a bit.

However, as I'm starting to get itchy feet to tackle another big trip myself, I suspect this will do nothing to calm that desire. Quite the reverse.