Tuesday, October 31, 2006


SKoogle is a really excellent new sea kayaking search tool from Graeme Burton. Not only can you search for key words, it has a clickable map section. This will highlight many other sites with web pages that include photos, narrative, information, audio and video about places to paddle. Many European countries are already covered.

I used it to search my own site, the Scottish Sea Kayaking Photo Gallery, to find the above photo of Loch Caolisport.
I have been developing an index for the SSPG. Now I do not need to bother. Thank you Graeme!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Friends reunited at a coo palace.

I had been unwell since the summer and had not been on the water. Neither had my beloved Nordkapp LV as she had developed a leak in the rear compartment. Mike Thomson from Scottish Paddler Supplies whisked her off to Valley for repair. She was only away for three days but ill health kept us apart till this lovely October day on the Solway Firth. I went for a solo paddle out across Fleet Bay and past Murray's Isles then Ardwall Island.

The sands of Barlocco beach made a welcome landfall. Mine were the only footprints on the pristine sands. I sat by the old fort and watched the low October sun sink towards the horizon. The fort is actually a folly or a "coo (cow) palace" in Gallovidian vernacular.

Life is very, very good I thought to myself. There was no point in saying it out loud as I was completely alone. As I departed, the flood tide erased all trace of my steps and transitory prescence. I paddled home in the gathering chill of dusk, feeling at one with the Nordkapp LV....and the sea.

It is good to be back on the water.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Paddle '06 exhibition, Perth

It was great to see so many friends and drool over all the nice shiny new kit at the Scottish Canoe Association Paddle '06 exhibition in Perth. Thanks to all at SCA!

Mike gets busy with the polish on the Valley and Scottish Paddler Supply stand. (Does your wife know that you know what to do with one of those dustery things, Mike?) Jason told me that Valley have now taken over North Shore sea kayaks and have already started manufacturing updated models with Valley fittings. In addition to the delectable glass Nordkapp LV, the polyethylene Nordkapp RM attracted a lot of deserved interest. Can you imagine if holiday hire companies had boats this good?

I left the SPS stand with more gear to test: an Advanced Elements 1/2 man convertible inflatable kayak. I have already tested the one man version. This is quality kit and is not a toy.

Fresh from dealing with floods in my old home town of Dingwall, Cailean was manning the Coastguard stand and looked very smart in his new uniform! Unfortunately I was waylaid by so many people that I did not get to Cailean's rescue workshop but I heard very good reports.

On the Rockpool/Knoydart stand I met Mike (above) Aled and Rob. The glitter in the stars was actually made up of lots and lots of tiny stars! How cool is that? Mike and Aled showed me their new lightweight plastic bulkeads. These are dished at the edges and have a layer of foam between the edge and the hull and deck. On the cockpit side, there is an additional Sikaflex seal. These bulkheads cut 0.75kg weight and should also solve the problem of gel coat cracking which can plague many older boats (from all manufacturers) with traditional bulkheads.

What's this?? A skeg on a Rockpool? Yes! now it is just like mine which uses Hydroskeg technology from Karitek.

Karitek's Jeff Turner had built this comparator rig to let you test hydro, wire and rope skegs. The alloy pedal controls a rotating skeg, the "hydro rudder". It is really well engineered, I can't wait to try it on the water.

Bruce and the Lomo team had their gear on sale at their regular but super low prices. Value for money oozes out of every Lomo box! Their dive boots are the perfect sea kayaking footwear.

Paul on the Palm stand extolled the finer points of their new Aleutian sea kayaking dry suit. I liked the articulating design of the hood. I particularly liked the reinforced bootees which look much more robust than the lightweight items on my Kokatat suit. These are showing wear after only 10 days use. He also showed me a prototype of their new sea PFD. The attention to detail and design was excellent.

On the P&H stand ,a very well finished Quest LV had nice new cockpit adjustable footrests with decent sized pedals. I was never a fan of the previous Yakima alloy tracks which tended to jam with sand.

Point 65 kayaks showed this new rolled edge to the cockpit rim. A nice touch.

I had a great chat with Franco and Gordon on the Pesda Press/ Skyak stand. Franco really has built up a fine collection of kayaking books; with more exciting sea kayaking volumes in the pipeline. The first of these is Gordon's new book Sea kayak for intermediate to advanced paddlers. Gordon told me about a bold and secret open water route through the Corryvreckan on flood. It takes you on a narrow conveyor belt of flat (sic) water within spitting distance of 20 foot standing waves on one side and on the other, a counter eddy speeding the other way. I can't wait to give it a go.........really! Sounds like northshore seakayaing!

There were lots of retail stands from the likes of Brookbanks, Tiso, Kyak Byre etc. I heard several people complaining there were no bargains but there were many 10% to 20% discount offers and the chance to compare so many different brands' latest kit was excellent. I found it much easier to do this at Perth than at the Birmingham show which was just too crowded.

Unfortunately, I had to leave before Duncan Winnings's talk, The History & Development of Scottish Sea Kayaking. There is no one more knowledgable than Duncan and I am sure it would have been a fascinating insight.

Lastly, thanks to all who braved my talk, Scottish sea kayaking: a photo tour. Your response was really appreciated.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Autumn days.

It has been a lovely autumn here in the south west of Scotland. This fungus was growing under some birch and hawthorn trees just behind the beach on the Solway. The air was full of robin's autumn territorial song.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Night time paddling

Well the clocks go back this weekend, bringing darker evening once again. No doubt we will have a few more night time epic returns as winter paddles run out of daylight. At least I had a nice full moon to illuminate my return on this solo paddle on the Solway.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

P&H Quest LV

I have just written up a long term test of the P&H Quest LV for UK Paddles magazine. It will be published in the December issue which hits the shops at the beginning of November. The Quest LV is a superb all round sea kayak. It is just as fast as the Quest but is much more manouverable and responsive to edging. The finish on the test boat was faultless. Unlike my favourite day trip boat, the Valley Nordkapp LV, there is plenty of room for campers who are not minimalists! It covers a wide range of user weights and all but the biggest and heaviest of paddlers should consider the Quest LV before the Quest. My one reservation is the padded plastic seat which is mounted very high in the boat. A no cost GRP option is mounted much lower and gives much more stability when paddling unloaded.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

More Lewisean gneiss

This rock arch is on the west coast of Lewis. On our July trip we were lucky to get a calm day to explore the many rock features of this amazing coastline.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Summer past.

This compass jelly fish had made it as far north as Lewis by the 3rd week of July 2006. They are more commonly seen much further south in the English Channel, is this another sign of global warming? I think so as I am seldom able to paddle up to my knees in the far north west, never mind go snorkelling with a camera.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Frustrating day off!

Yesterday we got a long view to the Gulf of Corryvreckan (of whirlpool fame) from the top of Fire Tower mountain bike trail near Lochgilphead. I had arranged to go sea kayaking today with my daughter and Jim Wallis. A forecast of clear skies light wind and slack water in the Gulf at 11:10am today had me planning a trip out through the Gulf and back round Scarba and Lunga.
Unfortunately another mountain bike run beckoned. On the way home we stopped at Arrochar and climbed high into the hills below Ben Ime before several breakneck descents (almost literally) to Glen Loin and back to Arrochar.

Battered and bruised, I had to cancel our sea kayaking trip. So I will just need to savour our first trip through the Corryvreckan in May 2006.

I have only been out mountain biking 5 times this year. I have lost count of the number of spills. I have hurt my shoulder twice and have decided to invest in some body armour. Perhaps I should stick to sea kayaking instead!

What a lovely day to clean my bike.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Autumn nights.

With the autumn nights drawing in, I thought it might be nice to look back at a midsummer sunset taken on the west coast of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. The marvellous ringed boulders in the foreground are Lewisian gneiss. These are some of the oldest rocks on the planet. Posted by Picasa