Tay Descent 2010 - Watch & Download Video Here

Download a free copy of this 18 minute video from my Vimeo page or click here and it will download as a .mov file. Please embed the video in other websites and share with friends who took part in this excellent event. There's also a 10 minute version of the video. And a YouTube version. If you enjoyed this, please click on a few adverts - it really does help!

Tay Descent Video

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Tay Descent Edit In Travelodge

Room 208 of Perth Travelodge was my mobile edit suite. Working SD allowed me to use the old iMac rather than the new MacPro big beast.

Six of us were shooting yesterday. I captured their material on the laptop while editing on the iMac. I finished the edit and sound mix (albeit a fairly rough one) and fell into bed at 02:10 this morning.

I've exported and watched the finished version. At eighteen minutes long, it's ideal for those who took part. I hope quite a few of them will be at the Paddle 2010 Canoe Show where it will be shown on the big screen at 12:30.

I'll upload it tomorrow and get it on this blog as soon as possible.

Loch Moidart Paddle

We recently took two of our crofter friends out kayaking for the first time.

Naturally, we picked our favourite local paddle (see SeaKayakRoutes.com).

Starting at Dorlin, the location of Castle Tioram, we explored various parts of Loch Moidart.

Loch Moidart is certainly no secret paddling destination and is frequetly used by groups.

Launching at high water, we could have circumnavigated Eilean Shona.

However, I was slightly worried about swell on the outside of the island, this being the first time in a sea kayak for our friends.

Instead we went around Riska Island, out the south channel to some skerries, and back the way we came.

But not before we stopped for lunch at the superb lagoon at the entrance to the north channel.

Here we spent ages lazing about on the grass.

This was not a full-on kayak trip!

First Snow

Yesterday we woke to frozen car windscreens and door locks.

On the north slopes of the hills above Loch Sunart there was a slight dusting of snow, the first of this winter season.

The forecast is for warmer, westerly weather on Saturday. Nevertheless, we could be in for a chilly Tay Descent.

Kayaking Corran

We took a trip up to the Corran narrows at slack water, neaps to see the work on repairing the slipway. It all looks very different from a kayak than from the car when we're on board the small ferry. A good paddle on a good day too...

Giving Greater Protection to Wild Land

I filmed recently with the Chairman of the John Muir Trust, John Hutchison. We chatted as we hiked the Allt a' Mhuillin track towards the CIC hut on Ben Nevis.

Tomorrow they launch their Wild Land and Wild Places campaign in Edinburgh. The aim is to give greater protection to 'wild land'.

Obviously, a definition is needed, and that's what they've produced, along with a map of the UK's wild areas.

I'm delighted to see we live in one of the wildest areas, and long may it stay that way.

John also dropped in an intersting 'fact', taken from a publication by Scottish Natural Heritage and repeated on the JMT campaign page. "the amount of land in Scotland unaffected by visual intrusion from built development was cut from 41% to 31% between 2002 and 2008".

Again definitions are needed, and I'm less clear on this.

Does it mean wind turbines, phone masts, roads and fences? Or is it a more subtle classification? John thought the figures came from this (download) SNH report, but I can't find them.

Perhaps we'll learn more tomorrow? [Edit: Link to the JMT Publication]

Tay Descent - New Start Times

All expectations have been exceeded as around 400 people in almost 300 boats have entered the Tay Descent next Saturday.

93 boats want to paddle the long route from Dunkeld, so new start times have been added here and Burnmouth from where 103 boats will leave. 87 will depart Luncarty on the short course.

You may notice the film I'm making of the descent is scheduled for an hour-long slot. However, the film itself is likely to be under ten minutes as it also has to work for YouTube. I've offered to give a short presentation on how we shot Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown, including some fun footage that is not on the DVD.

After editing through the night to produce the Tay descent video, that presentation could be hilarious, for some of the right and some of the wrong reasons!

The Greedy (Guilty) Generation

I'd write more about this subject, except someone who writes much better than me has already done so.

Sarah Dunant, presenter of A Point Of View on BBC Radio Four, owns up to being a member of 'the greediest generation'.

If you're over forty years old, I urge you to listen and, perhaps, blush.

If you're under forty, I definitely recommend you listen, but try not to seeth.

This WIll Be A Big Event

Noon today, Friday 15th October, is the deadline to enter next weekend's Tay Descent. If you're a canoeist or kayaker in the UK, you'll be in great company, so please come.

Entry numbers have have rocketed! When I last spoke to Stuart at the SCA there were more than 250 people planning to descent the Tay in one sort of craft or another. Some even in sea kayaks!

If you have entered, try to register on the Friday night as this will be much less hassle for you. Whatever you do, make sure you come to the indoor bit of the Paddle 2010 Show at the Bell's Sport centre on Sunday before noon. Technology permitting, you will then be able to watch a film of yourself and all the others, paddling down the Tay.

Six of us are going to be filming the Saturday descent; Anna, Ali, Dan, Ian, Liz and Me. I'll be editing their work through the night, so you can enjoy the results on Sunday. See you there!

No Mid-Month Podcast. Site Links Re-built

The way direct downloads work at SeaKayakPodcasts.com has changed.

Subscribers will see no change - you'll automatically receive each update as it happens.

However, if you pick your podcasts directly from the website pages, then you will no longer right click and save the .mp3 file to your desktop.

Clicking the link should automatically start the download process.

Under the new system, the URL for the download link is generated automatically, so I can't specify the name of the location.

My apologies to anyone expecting the usual mid-month update to the website with a new podcast. I've been too busy moving every podcast to a new location and re-linking it.

The next update will be early November.

Like Very Expensive Jelly Babies

On a recent ride of over four hours I tried my first PowerBar Ride Shots . I'm impressed.

On a long ride I aim for 60g of carbs an hour. Initially I take solid food, like a small pita bread and humus, supplemented with SIS PSP22 Drink.

Then I switch to energy bars. My long standing favourites have been SIS Go Sports Bars although I'm starting to enjoy the sweeter PowerBar Natural Energy Bars.

After that, my stomach doesn't tolerate solids, so I turn to Gels. SIS Go-Gel is the best I've found, but even that has problems.

What if I don't want a whole Gel in one go? They're impossible to keep from spilling once open. So I gulp it all down, and I have to stuff a sticky foil wrapper and tear-off top somewhere in my shirt.

Worst of all is the texture. Someone suggested Gels were designed by a woman to demonstrate to men how awful it is to be asked to swallow a quantity of icky, sticky goo.

The PowerBar Ride Shots are like solid, Gel pastels. 'Jube-jubes' my old Gran would call them.

One pack has roughly double the carbs of a Gel, but you can eat them slowly across the hour, regulating your intake. And there's no mess to scrape out of your pocket when you get home.

I'm not sponsored by them or anything commercial like that. I was just impressed and thought I'd share. But they'll never replace the magic of jelly babies for that last burst of sugar fueled energy.

Which Dry Suits Last Longest?

If you have had a leaky drysuit then the chances are you send it to this bloke for repair. Chris Steele runs Rubberman and has a good reputation for fast, reliable repairs.

We chatted on the phone last week and I thook the opportunity to ask Chris, "which drysuits do you see most for leak repairs?" Answer - "Palm, closely followed by Lomo".

So obvious second question, "Which of the breathable drysuits do you see least". Answer - "Kokatat".

This does not necessarily indicate reliability.

There are probably an awful lot more Palm and Lomo drysuits out there than Kokatat. The sheer number of them will mean there are more leaks needing repairs.

However, Chris takes the view that non-breathable drysuits last longest as they don't delaminate. Regular readers will know Liz and I have gone through quite a few Palm drysuits due to this problem. However, my current version of the Stikine is still going strong, keeping me dry.

Naturally, Chris insists the drysuits he makes and sells last longest. Well he would, wouldn't he?

I. Hate. Shopping.

Especially in the city.

Especially when it's for stuff like chairs, tables and rugs.


Scottish Access Problem? Report It Here.

Faced with a Mr or Mrs Angry screaming "gerrorf moy laannd", most of us will quietly slip away. We don't seek confrontation when sea kayaking.

A fascinating thread is running on the UK Guidebook Community Pages, based around access problems at one place on Iona. I'd urge you to join the community and read it, along with many other excellent conversations.

Paul Cromey, from the Scottish Canoe Association has contributed some very helpful advice which could benefit all kayakers in Scotland. I've slightly shortened his words.

'... can I make a general plea. I know that when we are out enjoying ourselves, keeping notes and reporting an unplesant incident can feel like it is detracting from having a good time. However it is a huge help, indeed essential, for the SCA Access Officer to have accurate facts that can be presented to the relevant authorities, who will then investigate. The more reports the better.

We are lucky in Scotland to have agreed machinery in place to follow through reports - e.g. using Local Authority Access Officers, who investigate problems in their own patch. But it does need to be used. Lack of information will delay a resolution.

...if any paddler (from anywhere) has any access issue/problem, the agreed procedure is for the on-line Access Incident Form to be completed on the SCA website. Please encourage your friends to do so as well.

If you're ever planning to kayak in Scotland, that has to be worth bookmarking.

Review - Discover Kayak Fishing

To buy a copy, please click the small image below.

Discover Kayak Fishing

Published by Pesda Press £11.99

Kayak fishing is big business in the United State of America. There are books, magazines, DVDs and even web-based TV channels.

While still a long way behind the US, the sport is growing here and Discover Kayak Fishing by Andy Benham is a major contribution. However, it seems aimed more at the angler wanting to leave the safety of the shore, rather than the kayaker wanting to start fishing. Why do I say that? Because in its 135 pages this book only starts talking fishing technique on page 92.

Many things initially seem the same, yet on closer inspection, are revealed as being very different. One minute you’re flicking through familiar material about PFDs, whistles and paddle leashes, and then on the turn of a page you’re confronted by RAM mounts, bait choice and anchors.

That GPS is actually a fish-finder which, rather oddly, does not find fish. Rather it shows the shape of the seabed so you can deduce where the fish will be. Oh, and you can kayak without a paddle as they now sell them with pedals.

The author clearly knows his stuff, although Andy Benham freely admits his sport is so new ‘the rules have still to be written’. Andy is a journalist whose by-line has appeared in Angling Times, Sea Angler, Trout & Salmon, Boat Angler and Improve your Coarse Fishing. He also worked for the BBC’s Countryfile before heading to South Devon to spend more time fishing from his kayak, where he’s now Sea Angler’s regular kayak fishing correspondent.

Since this review is appearing in a sea kayaking blog, rather than a blog for anglers, is there anything here for us? The answer is yes, but only with careful filleting of the contents. If you only want to cast a line from your existing sea kayak, then those first ninety-two pages are wasted. However, when the fishing sections start they are genuinely fascinating.

You can learn about down tiding and up tiding; how to fit, deploy and recover an anchor (from a kayak!); different types of rod, reel and tackle.

And then there are the fish. I’ve only ever caught mackerel, an obligingly suicidal species that searches the sea for an angler’s hook and then struggles to impale itself. Not a tough catch. For me, it was fresh and new to read about hard and soft lures, and I was delighted to read sensible policies on leaving no trace and sustainable fishing. I wanted more.

Most readers of this blog will probably know more about the kayaking aspect than the fishing, and while there’s less for them in this book, it’s probably worth taking a look at a copy before deciding whether or not to buy. However, for an angler seeking a fresh challenge, this book could help open up a whole new world. It’s probably pitched correctly, because I suspect there are more anglers keen to try kayaking than there are kayakers wanting to fish seriously.

Which is why the end of this book is either slightly depressing. I’ll quote the author: ‘On an Anglers Afloat training day I attended in September 2009, the instructor sadly announced that it was to be the last such day that the course could run. The dreaded health and safety concerns had made running any more of these free events too risky.’

Now this is something I really did want to know more about. Does this mean there are no formal training sessions around? Why is the sport so dangerous? And if the right person is reading, could this open up a business opportunity?

Finally, here's a trailer for that DVD listed above.

Head First Towards a Buzzard's Bum

Clearly, he had not been taught the highway code. He launched himself into space, from a height of about twelve feet, and only as he sank towards the road did he glance to his right.

We made eye contact. Him battling against gravity to generate lift under his wing. Me assisted by gravity, hurtling down the hill into Glenfinnan on my road bike.

This was a race I did not want to win. My face was less than a metre from his tail feathers and getting closer, fast. I could see every detail in his fanned out tail, every fold in the crinkled yellow of his legs, even a glint from the dull shine of his talons.

My God they looked big. My acceleration might lead to a laceration.

Suddenly, he found the lift he needed. He rose to the right and wheeled away. I rolled into the Scottish National Trust cafe and ordered a coffee to help me through the shock, glad I hadn't ended up like this guy.

We see and hear lots of buzzards around our house, particularly in the spring. They're nicknamed 'tourist eagles', and I've always thought them quite small compared to the Golden Eagles and Sea Eagles we see. "Oh it's just a buzzard", we'll say.

Having seen one in flight, so staggeringly close up, I have a much greater respect for this bird of prey.

Werner Paddles - My Choice

Paddle choice is hugely personal. I'm not a coach. I have no special knowledge of how to pick a paddle.
For that, I'd recommend listening to the How To Pick A Paddle Podcast on this page. Oh, and check out the comments at the end - there are some helpful contributions. (Arguably more helpful than mine!)

I've been using various Werner paddles for three years, and I'm fairly clear what works for me and Liz. And it's not what we first assumed.

I was recently asked about this by someone who'd been on the five star training with me and who'd borrowed my Shuna's. I believe he found my reply helpful, so I thought I'd post it here in case you do too.

In the interests of full disclosure - I've had two 'free' paddles from Werner in exchange for lots of photos. I've also bought four paddles from them at discount.

So - where to begin with the Werner range? This is how I broke it down in my e-mail to my friend.

Shaft - Carbon, no question. The fibreglass shafts (or whatever the other type is made of) is just way too heavy. Personally, I like cranked.

Blade material - Three choices, fibreglass (orangy red) or carbon or carbon with foam core. The carbon are lovely, and the foam core is amazing when rolling (like a paddle float!) but both types of carbon are much stiffer than glass.

I have a dodgy shoulder, so for longer trips, I've switched my main paddles away from the carbon to the glass because I feel these put less strain on my shoulder. Liz still uses the carbon foam core as do many other people with no ill effects.

Blade size - this is where we should get into names - but I'm going to ignore them, as they change depending upon whether they're carbon foam core or glass. Think Small, Medium and Large.

The small are for low angle paddling and are what Mick and Patrick used in part on the Faroes trip - 'Athena'.

For most sea kayakers it's a choice of Large or Medium. We bought one of each for the six weeks we spent kayaking the Scottish Sea Kayak Trail but use them in entirely the opposite way to which I expected!

We thought I'd use Large most and switch to Medium when tired. We don't.

The Medium are, by a long way, the most useful size for us for day paddling. They simply work. The miles slip by, the strain is not too great, and the support is there when needed.

That said, the Large are absolutely superb when practicing strokes, or in the case of a coach, demonstrating strokes, as they give so much effect.

In a big sea they're very reassuring as they give so much support when bracing.

So for slightly unexpected reasons, we really like having one pair of each. But if I had to pick one set it would be the Medium. So depending upon the material that's:

Shuna (fibreglass)
Shuna Carbon (carbon)
Cycprus (carbon foam core)

I ought to be clear, none of this is official Werner policy. Neither has this been 'approved' by their marketing department - it would be much slicker if it had!

These conclusions are not even the product of extensive, comparative testing by someone who has paddled for years. This is just my personal thoughts and experience, taken from an e-mail which I sent to a friend who'd borrowed my Shunas and liked them.

If you find this useful - great.

New Podcast - Cedar Strip Kayaks

I met Mike Bell when he came to Scotland on holiday earlier this year.

We looked around his lovely cedar stip kayak on the grass outside his cottage, and Mike explained how it was built.

I thought it was (sort of) appropriate to hang onto this one until the weekend of the traditional kayak meeting this weekend.