Ride To The Lighthouse

There was a hint of winter in the air as I set out early on this 75 mile ride on Sunday.

A powerful north west wind was in my face all the way out. Then it swung north east and was in my face all the way back.

The wind-blown white horses, that had been galloping up Loch Sunart, were in full retreat on my return.

The wind kept my average speed at a pitiful 10+ mph, well below normal. I have excuses; this is a hilly run; it's rough, single track road; that wind; I lost a screw in an SPD; oh, and the dog ate my homework.

My new Asseos cycle shorts, recommended by FionaOutdoors, were given their first test. At £155 (yes, I know... for shorts!) they are staggeringly expensive, but seem to work.

My nether regions did not resemble saddle shaped steak tartare after this ride, so worth every penny.

The route is good but hilly and exposed to wind from every direction.

Tea stops at Ardnamurchan Lighthouse cafe, Sonachan Hotel, several in Kilchoan, and the Glenborrodale Natural History Centre.

Try to leave time to walk up to the top of the lighthouse, as it's a superb viewpoint. This artwork greets all visitors who enter.


At a weekend I try to write about something other than kayaking. The Labels (or Tags) for such idle weekend posts include the word 'weekender'.

Often it's video which caught my eye. I figure you'll be out paddling, so you'll whizz through the blogs, and won't read anything in depth.

I certainly don't want to write much! But today it's personal.

That picture is our living room. For three months we've been 'camped' in that room, cooking on a backpacking stove, while builders knocked down, and rebuilt, the end of our house.

Thismorning, after leaving his base at 02:30am and driving through the dawn, a delivery man brought our new kitchen units which we lugged into the lounge. So all living space disappeared. We have retreated upstairs. In a bungalow.

That's where I'll be watching The Great Climb this afternoon - will Dave MacLeod manage a major new route, live on TV, with a busted up ankle?

We intended to spend August on Shetland. So it's a little painful to read Mark Rainsley's blog, as he is having such a good time there. Next year perhaps.

So now I invite you to waste fifty two seconds of your weekend.

Oban Sea Kayak Race - A Week Tomorrow

This race around the island of Kererra is a week on Saturday, that's 4th September. Route.

It's the first time this race has been run, and it has received a lot of positive press locally, such as this article.

Like so many events, it will be as serious as you want to make it.

Some people will arrive in racing boats and paddle flat-out. Others will pootle around, enjoying the view and not really worrying about the 'race' aspect of such things.

It will be nice simply to have so many kayakers in a town which is rapidly becoming the centre for the sport on this part of Scotland's west coast.

Oban - Sea Kayak Capital of the UK? I wonder...

I'm still not sure whether I'll be there, but Pesda Press has given some copies of my book to donate as prizes, and my business Sunart Media has contributed some DVDs, Sea Kayak With Gordon Brown. While I suspect the winners won't need either, it does mean Sunart Media is officially listed as a sponsor.

As someone who normally seeks sponsorship, that feels rather odd.

TV Great Climb Climber Injured - Stitches in Ankle

Dave MacLeod is reporting on his excellent blog that he has been injured while preparing for the televised live climb on Saturday.

The photo is from his website, but look - he's smiling. After that gash in his ankle revealed his bone he wrote: "After making the most of the rare opportunity to inspect my own skeleton, I abseiled down and started to hurt. 5 stitches later, I’m in less than perfect shape for climbing, or indeed anything right now."

Since then, Dave has been writing about what it's like to sit with his feet up while a team of 55 people work hard to prepare for Saturday's live HD Outside Broadcast.

There's a revealing interview with Dave in Scotland on Sunday. Their journalist Peter Ross visited a few weeks ago and shared the same wee B&B with us while we were filming.

DVD Volume 2 - Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown

Occasionally I receive a nice e-mail asking when DVD Volume 2 of Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown will appear.

The short answer is always the same; 'when we think the material is good enough'. The long answer is more involved.

We discussed content of DVD2 ages ago, but we have not yet shot a single frame. Why?

Partly, it's because I found myself completely unable to visualise how it would look on the screen. I stared at my notes, time and again, but the mental pictures refused to appear. I couldn't work out why.

The reason hit me two weeks ago.

When Gordon had explained the content he wanted in DVD1, I immediately understood what it would look like, because he had coached me using the exact same techniques you see on the DVD.

I could see the pictures in my head, because I'd already watched them on the water in real life.

But Gordon's coaching of me stopped short of the content he wants to put into DVD2, which he describes as "Five star, and beyond".

I need to know how Gordon teaches these things; weather, navigation, advance boat handling skills, rescues and much more.

So I've signed on to his Five Star training course. It runs 7-10 September and costs £320, a curious but legitimate business expense.

I am absolutely not a five star paddler, and have no intention of seeking assessment. This is the best way I can think of to understand the content Gordon wants to put into DVD2.

Should we have done this earlier? Well, yes, obviously. But life intervened.

Since last year, Gordon and family have been building a new house.

For the last three months, Liz and I have been building a new extension.

And we've all been running our businesses, Skyak Adventures and Sunart Media. But DVD2 will happen. Provided I survive the five star training...

Paddle the Tay - Then Watch The Video

This might just be the most difficult film I've ever made.

On 23rd October the SCA is staging a mass descent of the River Tay - part race, part tour, with three start points. It will be a lot of fun.

My job is to capture the spirit of the event on video. So far, so normal.

However, I must have a fully edited and sound mixed version ready to show to all those who took part at noon the very next day!

It's part of the new-look Paddle 2010 event at Perth. The organisers hope people will make a weekend of it, paddling on the Saturday and coming to the show on the Sunday.

I've booked a room in the Trevelodge which I'll convert into an edit suite and work through Saturday night. If you're coming on Sunday, you'll recognise me as the grumpy git with matchsticks holding open his eyelids!

In the meantime, take a look at the promo film. I didn't make this, but it's good and shows a little of what will be in store for you if you take part.

Traditional Kayak Meeting - Scotland

This from the organisers of the event.

This is a completely informal event and will take place over the weekend of 2nd/3rd October at Tayvallich, near Lochgilphead in Argyll, Scotland. There's a good campsite as well as a pub and a small shop.

There are no formal plans, and no registration or fees: just turn up and see what happens. The main activities will be drinking, eating and talking. For the real kayakers, there is some wonderful paddling around Tayvallich, too.

All are welcome, so please pass this message on to anyone you think would be interested in skin-on-frame kayaks. Folding kayaks welcome too, (as are any other type, come to think of it).

Podcasts from The Kamchatka Project

OK, I'm a bit late getting onto this. But it's well worth a mention.

Film-maker and kayaker Bryan Smith is undertaking an expedition mixed with enviornmental research in Kamchatka.

Inuit Singer Protests Against Oil Drilling off Greenland

Simon Lynge is reportedly the first Inuit singer with a major recording contract.

He's in Glasgow Thursday playing King Tut's Wah Wah Hut.

According to The Sunday Herald, he opposes drilling for oil off Greenland, begun last month by Scottish oil company Cairn Energy.

The Association of Paddlers / Coaches - New Organisation

Now this could stir things up. A new organisation for L5 coaches. It's still taking shape, but you can read about it on the new APC website.

'The A.P.C is a collaboration of Level 5 coaches across disciplines that provide the highest level of coaching and the training and assessment of NGB awards. These coaches are also active paddlers having their own adventures in their spare time, be it in the UK, Europe or on expedition.'

It is being formed by Olly Sanders of Rock and Sea Adventures and Rock and Sea Productions.

We've all seen the adverts by operators who advertise 'fully qualified coaches' with no explanation of what that means. Now look at that distinctive logo.

The new site says, 'A clear and simple way of helping people identify the highest standard of coaching in the UK. Seeing the logo, you can guarantee you will be coached by somebody who not only holds the highest qualification, but is also an active paddler passionate about his/her sport.'

Live Rock Climbing on BBC This Saturday

The photo is from Dave Macleod's excellent blog, and shows the team discussing rigging logistics for an epic climbing TV programme.
Make a date - 13:35-19:15 this Saturday 28th August, BBC-2 Scotland. You can watch it live on the iPlayer too, and in HD.

Dave & Tim Emmett will attempt the live climb of a hard new route on Sron Ulladale, a mind-blowingly massive cliff on the Isle of Harris.

A similar event was attempted 2 years ago in the Cairngorms but the how was rained off before it could go live. Now it looks like the weather Gods are conspiring again. This from Dave's latest entry yesterday:

"The forecast, as ever, is diabolical. Yesterday, I was on the line myself. The upper two pitches had waterfalls coming down them and Brian and Rory were almost blown off their feet in the unseasonal storm force wind on the top of the wall. A helicopter is due to take all the outside broadcast equipment into the broadcast base camp. But the chances of the chopper being able to fly in the next two days is about big fat 0%. So it’ll all need to be carried instead. Ouch! ... The team have no option but to rig tomorrow even though they’ll have to do it in a waterfall. All the ropes have to be in place by Wednesday for the 5 climbing cameramen to get on the ropes and start sussing their shots for Saturday."

The producer is my good friend Richard Else of Triple Echo. I suspect he'll not be too calm right now. I directed some pre-recorded feature inserts and would dearly like to be out there right now, regardless of the weather.

Digital Ocean Paddler - With Multimedia Extras

Ocean Paddler Magazine is venturing into a new mutli-media world. I'm pleased to help by providing some content.

There's now a digital version of the magazine. In time, I suspect it will come loaded with extras. It might even help to change what we consider a magazine to be.

Issue 21, currently free online, gives a glimpse of what's possible. For example, on Page 6 there's a yellow circle alongside a news article about SeaKayakPodcasts.com. (Give it time to buffer and load). Click it, and you'll hear one of those podcasts - about how to pick a paddle.

On Page 64, alongside an advert for our DVD Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown, another yellow circle lets you watch video edited for the magazine.

Issue 22, currently available to subscribers only, takes all this a step further, integrating audio and text. After you've read the review of the new Outer Hebrides guidebook, click the yellow circle and listen to a 30 minute interview with the authors.

OK, this isn't much yet. But you can see the potential.

To begin with, you might read the mag at home, pick what interests you, then download the digital version to enjoy the additional video or audio content of whatever interests you most. Subscribers to the paper issue also have free access to the digital version, but they have to request it - although to be honest, there are still a lot of bugs to work out on the delivery.

But that's just the start.

When many of us have an iPad, or similar tablet computer, a 'magazine' becomes an entirely different product.

You will read / listen / watch the entire magazine on one device. A journalist contributing an article will have to provide, not only photos, but also audio and video.

Advertisers can provide video demonstrating their kayak or other product in action.

Rupert Murdoch believes this is part of the way we'll consume media and is investing heavily. He may, of course, be wrong. Liz says she will never read a book or magazine off a screen.

Initially I was highly sceptical of OP's digital issue. I found it difficult to read on my desktop computer screen.

Now I believe it is a major development for what some bloggers dismissively call 'the dead tree press'. Oh, and the iPad software for OP is due in September.

OP Editor Richard Parkin has been helped in all this by my friend Duncan Smith of WideBlueYonder and Solent Sea Kayaking. Duncan and his extensive team built the SeaKayakWithGordonBrown.com website, regularly help me with onlne stuff, and built a site for FionaOutdoors.co.uk, an eclectic outdoorsy-blog with a female perspective.

If you're looking for web development help, WideBlueYonder comes highly recommended.

Full Circle Ride

I've been building up to this ride.

82 miles is the longest I've ridden, but more important is the shape of this ride. A full circle of the main, fairly hilly roads on this part of the peninsula.

Last summer Liz and I rode this route over two days, starting near Glenfinnan and overnighting at home.

Today I did it in 5hrs 35 minutes, so I'm pleased.

And in a rush of enthusiasm I entered next year's Etape Caledonia, May 2011. Great music on this video.


It's fascinating to watch big companies, and their ad agencies, include viral video in their marketing mix. This (probably faked trickshot) has been watched over 3 millions times, and Gillette is only mentioned in the title. I guess I'm guilty of doing their work for them.

I prefer the Bounty Kitchen Paper ad below it....

Cheap Crushproof Waterproof Glasses Case

When I saw Cailean MacLeod using somethng like this, I thought 'what a good idea'.

It keeps your glasses and/or sun glasses dry inside your day hatch, while preventing them from being crushed by the other stuff in there.

Lakeland Plastic no longer sells this shape containers, but I was delighted to see Morrisons supermarket had a 2 for 1 offer.

When I returned to our local branch yesterday they had sold out, so they are popular.

Worth keeping a look out though. [Edit: Although the comment from Marcus below suggests this design might not be so good.]

Me And My Shark - Video

The astonishing thing about this video is that Chuck Patterson saw the great white shark, and went back the next day with his camera to deliberately get close to this predator. His dscription is below.

Me my Shark and I from Chuck Patterson on Vimeo.

the day before I shot this video, i was SUP surfing with a couple friends and 2 sharks circled us for about 15 minutes. the next day, i decided to go back out at around the same time and take my GO PRO HD HERO camera (http://www.gopro.com) mounted on a 10 ft pole and do some exploring.

Sure enough within 5 minutes a 9 ft shark came out of no where and circled twice and slapped his tail on my board before disappearing. then a minute later a 7 ft young juvenile Great White swam circles around me for 12 minutes. It was an unreal experience that I will cherish forever. chuckpattersonsports.com

The Bit I Don't Like

Does anyone actually enjoy cleaning kit after kayaking?

It took an hour to dunk all the salty gear in fresh water after our weekend on Colonsay. Then the rain came, and it is taking ages to dry.

Thinking about it, it's not the cleaning I mind, it's that there is so much stuff to deal with. I've tried to rationalise what we carry. But so much of it is safety gear.

Perhaps I need a re-think...?

Colonsay Kayaking

A rather nice weekend circumnavigating this lovely Hebridean island. There's a little more info at Sea Kayak Routes.com.

However, I have removed all Outer Hebrides routes from the site. As there is now a very good guidebook I don't want to contribute towards overuse of an area. As other guidebooks are published, so the sections of routes will disappear from SeaKayakRoutes.com.

New Podcast - Marcus Demuth, Round Britain and More...

This is the first of two Podcasts with New York based kayaker Marcus Demuth who has gone from novice sea kayaker to expedition paddler in just seven years.

There's a lot in this recording. We talk about how he started paddling; there's some really useful, practcal advice about travelling to far flung destinations with the three-piece Valley Nordkapp; and finally Marcus shares some stories from his 2010 solo circumnavigation of mainland Britain.

I'll release his second Podcast on 1st September and it will feature stories from his expeditions to Patagonia, Tierra Del Fuego and the Falkland Islands, along with really useful information for anyone considering kayaking these places.

All at SeaKayakPodcasts.com

'Pub Paddles' on Radio 4's Excess Baggage programme Saturday

Radio Four's travel programme, Excess Baggage, presented by Sandy Toksvig, features the book 'Pub Paddles' by Pete Knowles.

You can buy it from Amazon by clicking the link below. And take a look at the reviews too. It features 'twenty seven stretches of water where you can serenely paddle through lovely countryside and end up at a pub'. So says the BBC website.

Listen live on Saturday at 10am or on the BBC iPlayer.

Shoot Stunning Climbing Photos & Video

From Nikon Australia, a short master-class with Simon Carter.

Oban and Sea Kayaking on BBC TV and Radio

Scottish sea kayaking, and in the Oban area in particular, got a good showing on Reporting Scotland last night.

I'm a little miffed the Scottish Sea Kayak Trail, the initial reason for doing the entire story and why I gave up my time, did not receive a mention. I asked for my name caption to read: "Author- Scottish Sea Kayak Trail". You can see the truncated version which appeared above. Oh well, it doesn't matter too much.

I'm pleased Stuart Wagstaff of the National Kayak School and Sea Kayak Oban fared better with his business name given in full.

Perhaps it's worth knowing, just in case a TV crew come knocking on your door - agree in advance what you'll get out of it before you give up your time to take part.

Meanwhile, I'm thinking back to all those people I interviewed over the years... oops.

It was fun to do and I'm happy to promote the sport I love so much. Hopefully it helped the companies which gave us some kit for the trail, with fleeting appearances of my P&H Cetus, Werner Ikelos paddles and Palm Caspian cag and Kiakoura PFD.

What do you mean, you blinked?

At least I got a mention of the book on yesterday's live radio interview for Good Morning Scotland.

They couldn't cut that out. Ha! First answer!

With reporter Cameron Buttle, Stuart and I were stood on the slipway in Oban harbour, with the mini satellite dish on the promenade.

BBC News Films for Scottish Sea Kayak Trail

I spent yesterday being filmed for a BBC News report about the booming popularity of Scottish sea kayaking. My book The Scottish Sea Kayak Trail prompted the report. Most of the filming will feature a group with Stuart Wagstaff from Sea Kayak Oban. I'll be a quick clip.

Today it may run on BBC Online and various TV outlets including Reporting Scotland. I won't know until tonght. I have to be back in Oban for a live radio interview (08:10-08:30) on Good Morning Scotland. It will be on listen again. Then I'm in Glasgow until late.

I still find it really strange being the one answering the questions, rather than asking them.

The Scottish Sea Kayak Trail has been getting quite a lot of media attention. There was the lovely package on Radio Scotland's Out Of Doors programme - which you can still hear. So why now? Because it's August, universally regarded by journalists as the 'silly season'. So the perfect time to pitch this sort of story to a newsdesk.

I shot some footage for the BBC using my GoPro Hero HD Cam clamped to the bow of my P&H Cetus - you can see a rough edit below. Perhaps one shot may appear in the final report?

Kayak Film-maker Makes Top Climbing Film

Now this looks very good. Bryan Smith (Pacific Horizons, Eastern Horizons) and Fitz Cahall (Dirtbag Diaries), and who together made the excellent web-series The Season, have done this for LaSportiva and Patagonia. It's excellent and I can't wait to see the rest.

New Ballachulish Cycleway

This 60 mile ride gave me a great work out yesterday.

Thanks to the new cycleway past Ballachulish, I was only on the busy A82 for 2 miles in either direction, between Corran and North Ballachulish.

My loop picks up the cycleway at Glencoe village and travels alongside the A82 all the way to the Ballachulish bridge. The rest of the time, the ride is on relatively quiet roads which are a joy to cycle, the views being so spectacular.

The cycleway is part of a Sustrans route which swings south, currently going to Kentallen, but which in time should run all the way between Fort William and Oban.

That will make a huge difference to riding around here, especially for the hundreds of cycle tourists who take their life in their panniers each year and ride through Glen Coe and the Great Glen.

Teva's Survival 'Expert'

Expert? Remember an 'ex' is a has-been and a 'spurt' is a drip under pressure. Interesting advert series.

Arisaig Sea Kayaking & Skye Road Cycling on BBC-2

In other words, my kind of programme.

I helped to shoot the road cycling feature on the Skye Mor Sportive, but not the paddling.

The kayaking featured a team from Glemore Lodge.

The programme is The Adventure Show, and it's worth a look if you live in the UK and can watch the BBC iPlayer. Hopefully it will be there by the tie you read this.

BIG Tay River Descent Race/Tour as Part of Paddle 2010

The Scottish Canoe Association's annual weekend gathering in Perth is always a blast.

Last year the launch of our DVD, Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown, broke all records for attendance, and packed 250 people into the hall first thing on the Saturday morning.

This year, the organisers plan something different. They hope people will make a whole weekend of their visit and spend on day kayaking.

So Saturday will feature a descent of the RiverTay. There are three start points and the option to either race or 'tour' (ie not race).

People who take part in that, it's hoped, will then come into the hall for the workshops, talks and trade stands on the Sunday.

There may be one more 'attraction'. (I use the word loosely),

A small team of us may film the Tay Descent, edit through the night, and then show the finished item at noon on the Sunday.

Here's an early warning - watching me edit while suffering sleep deprivation will not be pretty.

I did not make the promotional film for the event, but I think it looks smashing and gives a clear idea of what's involved.

Alex The Lobster - No More

He is the King of the Tank, at the Sea Life Centre in Tobermory on Mull. Or rather, he was.

When I first told Alex's story, he had recently undergone a metamorphosis.

From being a no-clawed lobster who was bullied by the crabs, he emerged from his shell-shedding with a shiny, new, single claw. Alex was tooled up. He took the crown by force.

Sadly, I must now report, Alex is no more.

Staff came in to work one morning to find Alex dead in the tank. There were rumour of regicide, but the crabs stayed silent. His shell casts are now proudly displayed for all to see.

Yet his story remains untold. There are no interpretation boards or interactive displays chronicling his rise to power and untimely demise.

Indeed, the staff look rather surprised when a visitor asks, "Hi, where's Alex". I know. I've asked.

So next time you're in Tobermory, call into the Sea Life Centre in the corner of the big car park.

Take a look in the tank, where a new, as yet un-named lobster, is settling in. (That's him on the left).

Then spare a thought for his predecessor.

Hang On... I Know That Music!

We're going to build a patio ourselves. We were recommended a wee gadget called a 'Bricky' to help lay the block work. Liz looked it up online and watched the video. Then screamed!

The same music she heard coming out of my office day after day, while I edited Sea Kayak With Gordon Brown, is used in the Bricky promo video. Hear for yourself - it starts after 28 seconds.

Will This Boat, "Turn Traditional Sea Kayaking On Its Head"?

Rapid Media TV is at Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City, Utah and is posting videos on its YouTube channel. Trade shows are dreadful so I rather like being a virtual visitor.
For example, this video shows P&H's new sea kayak which is going for a whole new market sector, promising to "knock the Tilley hat right off your head".

Kayaking French Coast - Ash Jeyes Set To Finish Today

Congratulations to Ash Jeyes has paddled the Atlantic coastline of France. He reached Spain yesterday and should reach his finish in Bilbao today.

Read his blog and you'll see it has been quite ajourney. Poor bloke sounds done in. He has been raising money for Help For Heroes.

One of his sponsors has been posting videos, although they're well out of date. The latest (below) is Day 8 whereas today, the last day, is day 39 of his trip.

Scottish Summer Cycling

An old mountaineer shared a secret with me. In the quest to become a successful Scottish winter climber, one specific tallent is essential. That is the tollerance, first thing in the morning, to dress yourself in yesterday's soaking wet kit. "Acquire this ability", he confided, "and you'll more than double the amount of time you'll climb".

The same is true of Scottish winter cycling. When I commuted by bike, I regularly had to force my body, fresh from a cozy duvet, into soggy lycra. Winter is like that.

But summer? Ahh... Summer is different.

It's bare legs, short sleeves, sunscreen and finding places to replensh your water bottle. Err, no.

When I came back from last Saturday's long ride I swear I found webbing evolving between my toes. 75 miles in just over 5 hours is good for me, although my target is to cover 100 miles in that time. Being able to see through my glasses might have helped. I need windscreen wipers.

On Sunday morning I needed a 'recovery ride'. Nothing big, just an hour's climb and descent to stop everything seizing up. My kit was still soaking wet, so I was back to that winter sensation of forcing the body into damp... everything.

This is a wet summer. Just like the last one in fact. And the one before it. The rainfall figures came out on Monday, showing this July had double the monthly average. Double!

Marcus Demuth

What a nice chap. Some paddler too.

Marcus Demuth has just paddled solo around mainland Britain. Not bad for someone who has been kayaking for just seven years. Same as me in fact...

In that time he has undertaken expeditions to (deep breath) Nova Scotia, Patagonia, Wales, Australia, Ireland (circumnavigation), Iceland, Falklands (first circumnavigation), and Tierra del Fuego.

I spent an enjoyable day with Marcus yesterday, recording two Podcasts about his extraordinary adventures.

The first will go live around 16th August at SeaKayakPodcasts.com with the second one coming at the start of September.

Walk USA - Video

First the video. Then below, the video of how they made it. This stuff fascinates me.

New Podcast - The Outer Hebrides

The Outer Hebrides

Please buy the book from us by clicking the image above - thanks.

Tim Pickering and Mike Sullivan, two of the three authors of this excellent guidebook describe the different types of sea kayaking to be experienced on the different islands.

They share their knowledge of the best places to paddle and give a little insight into preparing the guidebook.

Find the Podcast at SeaKayakPodcasts.com or search iTunes for 'Sea Kayak Podcasts'.

I've also tweaked the page layout slightly.