New Podcast - Nigel Dennis

He started sea kayaking at the age of 23 and within a couple of years Nigel Dennis had circumnavigated Great Britain.

Listen and subscribe free here or download directly from the Podcast Library.

He set up a kayak school, which is still going strong. He designed and produced his own range of boats which continue to be market leaders in the UK and USA.

Here, one of Britain’s most accomplished sea kayakers reflects on his total kayaking career.

This Podcast was meant to go live on Monday but I've just installed a new software package and, in the process of setting it up, put this one live a few days early.

Paddling Across the Arctic Circle

Sincere apologies to those who've checked this site for updates. I'd been filing photos and text almost daily using the Flickr mail-in service. But nothing appeared! What a waste of time and effort all around. I've yet to investigate what went wrong, but I'm not pleased.

Anyway here, in order of their being sent, are my posts from our Norway trip, with only slight editing from the originals.

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In Norway
I'd always imagined that starting the holiday with a long ferry crossing, rather than a plane ride, would set a relaxed pace. Rather than frantically mucking about in crowded airports, we'd just drive to the quay at Newcastle and.... sit in the baking sun for two and a half hours.

The boat was late. But the captain has made up time on the overnight crossing. We saw several oil platforms pass by the window. I asked Liz at breakfast, "Is this better than air-travel?" "I'd like it to be", she replied, "but I'm not sure. Depends upon how much time you have".

This is a very popular route. Consequently, there was a bit of a crowd on board. But since everyone has a cabin, we could retreat to there. I'd been worried the thrum of the engine might keep us awake, but we had no problems there. The cabins are spartan but very comfy.

Everything is priced in Norwegian Kroner (NOK) and while not cheap, it's not completely exorbitant either. Last night, an All You Can Eat buffet (so beloved when we were Pacific Crest Trail Hikers) with two small bottles of mineral water cost £46. But then a meal for two in Glasgow costs that much, and we're a captive market. That said, the duty free shop costs more than our local supermarket.

Kayakers considering this trip would be advised to go for a cabin with a window if at all within price range. It's only about £15 more than a windowless box. Unless you're going to spend the entire trip in the bar (unlikely when a bottle of beer is £4) the cabin-and-view is a nice place into which you can retreat.

Save some cash by bringing all food and drinks on board - we wish we'd brought more than one cool bag. On the return we'll have the stove & tea bags too. Oh, breakfast tea was awful but the coffee is OK. The boat has called at Stavanger and Haugesund before we leave it in Bergen.

Then we begin 1,115km long drive north to Nesna where we'll start the paddle. Depending upon the number of stops we make for tea-drinking (own brews), we expect to get there either late Sunday or early Monday.

At The Start
So this is it. My God that was along drive. And so slow.

Twenty four and a half hours after driving off the DFDS ferry we were waiting for the small ferry to take us to Nesna and the start of our trip. My eyes are a bit bleary, so please excuse the typos!

I'd been warned Norwegian police liked their radar traps and handed out steep fines. And the speed limits are very low. Motorway speed is below 60mph and open road even less. So getting around takes ages.

We were through customs and driving at 5pm yesterday and, with a swift stop for salad dinner, kept going until about 22.30. We slept in the back of the car, rather badly actually. At 05.30 we were driving again, passing through Trondheim around 11.00. So that was five and a half hours yesterday, twelve hours today.

The character of the drive is interesting and changed constantly, but after a while you've seen almost every combination of tree, rock and water that's possible. But the driving is very easy and we've shared the load. The only down side is we have it all to do in reverse in about ten days.

I doubt we'll get on the water until later tomorrow as we've things to do in Nesna. But frankly, I can't wait to start paddling. This evening I paid a visit to Magne with whom I'd been in touch before coming and who'd copied me a huge stash of charts. He runs trips from here and also rents kayaks and kits.

Three German paddlers are also here with exactly the same plans as us, so I suspect we'll see a lot of them.

They've had a great summer here but the tourist season is winding down now. The low cloud hides the mountain tops and there's a feeling like autumn is coming.

Day 1 & 2 Tomma & Lovund
The cliffs would be teeming with puffins had we been here a few weeks ago. As it is, we've just seen the occasional straggler on the water, the others having left to spend winter at sea. High above our heads, occasional groups of small birds with a fast wing-beat still head to and from the cliffs. Perhaps they're not all at sea yet.

The scenery here is utterly superb. Distant islands rise from the horizon, either dome shaped or fractured into splintered peaks. We've been through a maze of five thousand tiny islands which makes Arisaig look like a beginner. It's been very useful to have the GPS loaded with Norway topos (thanks Erling!).

We started slow yesterday taking two hours to pack and not leaving until 14.00, which meant we caught the tide. 17.7 km later we pulled into a bay on the south end of Tomma just as the sky was darkening. We had the tent up and gear inside just in time. The wind rose and the rain followed. It didn't stop until some time in th early hours.

We started under heavy cloud, and I made a few navigations errors, switching between GPS, maps and charts all on different scales and often with different names for the same places!

By afternoon the sun was out and we crossed flat calm water to Lovund. The maze of islands acts as a huge natural breakwater, so we saw now swell until we were on the very outer edge, the west side of Tomma. 36.7 km today. Here we found a bay and set up camp. Three German kayakers pulled into the bay shortly after. We met them in Nesna and seem ok.

Day 3 - Luroya
The elegance of a sea kayakers' campsite!

We'd just hung out the washing on this isolated island, stripped naked and washed off four days of paddling sweat and salt, when a fast ferry zoomed by. We'd dived into the tent before they were flashed.

Back through the island maze today. Great view of the glacier in the distance. We might get underneath that soon. Well, not literally.

Tough head-wind all day so slower progress but still managed 36km. It also made the sea a little more interesting which was good. Our German friends were just getting up as we left, and they didn't plan to paddle as far. Picked up two bad cuts on index and second fingers of right hand where I tore them on barnacles.

Looking back we've covered a lot of water from Lovund to here. Tomorrow we might give ourselves an easier day. Erling is texting us weather reports and it looks more settled after tonight, gusting F6. Apparently we're getting the best weather in Norway.

Day 4 Kvitingen (Arctic Monkeys)
Liz has just been out fishing from my more stable Quest. She can see lots of crab and fish through the beautiful clear water, but they're not interested in her lures. The water here is astonishingly clear, meaning the bottom is visible, even at some depth.

Two porpoises played around her boat, unusually gregarious, while se drifted.

A short 18.5km day today, mainly due to a late start. A bit of first aid on my cut hands was required with electrical tape keeping everything in place. Got on the water at 12.25 but only planned a short paddle. I though there was a monument at the Arctic Circle en-route, but it's on an island much nearer the mainland. And it's not on the actual circle. Fancy that.

There was no wind, but we rode the stonr north going tide all day.

After lunch at 14.30, just before slack water, we crossed 66d 33.380m and entered the Arctic, the first time for both of us. Which is surprising since we like cold places and met on expedition in Alaska.

We planned to spend the night on Hestemona but it was just 16.00 so crossed to this tiny island by 17.00. While I set up camp, Liz went out fishing. I better get the pasta out...

Day 5 & 6 Rodoy & Skarsfjord
Low on battery so no photo. Amongst many sea eagles yesterday and this morning. Aborted first crossing to mainland in rough sea but made it second attempt.

Fjords not as great as islands, so planning to head for ferry port at Gronoy and back to car tomorrow, then off to find even more islands around Sandesjoen.

We caught the fast boat on which the kayaks were stored precariously. Back in Nesna we were passed on to some friends of friends in Sandersjoen, then out onto some superb islands.

But that's another story.

2 Podcasts - Brian Wilson & Doug Cooper

Two cracking good podcasts have just gone live. Both are authors, but neither has a book to promote.

Listen and subscribe free or download directly from the Podcast Library.

After writing about Scotland's best 50 kayak routes, Doug Cooper picks the top three.

After writing the two best books about sea kayak expeditions, Brian Wilson talks about life, the universe and kayaking. And his third book.

Both are well worth a listen.

Off to Norway tomorrow!

Solar Charger for Phone/Palm

I'll be interested to see whether this 'Free Loader' charges my mobile phone and Palm computer while we paddle.

It works in two ways. It either charges up its own internal battery, which can then be used to power the devices, or it can charge them directly. Sounds good.

It's meant to fully charge itself in six hours. However, I put it in our window on Friday and the red lights have yet to turn green. Hmmm.

The wide range of attachments for different piece of kit looks good, but it's no use if it doesn't charge. I'll report back.

It's the second solar charger we're carrying. The other one will charge our AA batteries for use in the GPS.

Packing Sea Kayaks

We test-packed everything into the kayaks on Saturday. But how to ensure we'd be able to get everything in again once we reach Norway?

Liz made a careful note of where everything fit and I typed it up as a list. "That's not clear enough", she told me, and disappeared with some pens.

The child-like drawings alongside are the result. Not exactly sea-kayak shape, but they show us exactly where different bags of different colours fit.

It looks a little daft - neuroticaly organised even. But anyone who has tried loading a boat on a rocky beach in a hurry, with waves breaking over the bow, will appreciare the clarity of what Liz has done here.

I laminated the drawings and will keep them on the back of the map case.

Four days to go.

Two Podcasts 9th August - Doug Cooper & Brian Wilson

Two Podcasts will go live on the same day next week at

Doug Cooper, co-author of Scottish Sea Kayaking, 50 Great Sea Kayak Voyages, will pick the top three routes from his book. A tough choice!

Brian Wilson, author of the two greatest sea kayak books 'Blazing Paddles' and 'Dances with Waves' talks about life, the coastline and gives an exclusive insight to his next book.

Why two?

Normally the Podcasts go live on 1st, 10th and 20th of the month, but on 20th August we'll still be bobbing around the sea somewhere off the coast of Norway.

Test Pack

Amazingly, it all fits!

The four Lomo taper dry bags are superb. Each one holds four days food, then the rest can be squeezed around the skeg box.

How come, when you pack a kayak, it all only just fits? When we went out with these boats for two nights, it only just fit. Here we've a tent that's double the size, six times as much food, and more spare clothing. And it still just fits!

There's no room for all the battery chargers, but then , there's probably going to be no where to plug them in. I've come across a better solar system. More on that later.

Sorting Kit

Just about all the kit we're taking is in the back bedroom of our flat. How on earth it's going to fit into two sea kayaks I cannot begin to imagine! I suspect some of it might get left in the car at Nesna. Here's a PDF of our kit list and our approximate route.

Arctic Circle Ceremony

I was intrigued by Michael's comment on the previous post (thanks Michael). He wrote:

" in Canada there are 'little people' stationed every few meters along the line ready to toss a jug of ice water down your neck. Then you get a certificate which allows you to cross the line for the rest of your life without facing a similar ceremony! All very formal..."

So I Googled Arctic Circle Ceremony and it seems to vary from place to place, largely depending upon whether they want to take your money or not! Anyone else know how we should pay out respects to Neptune in his northerly waters?

Arctic Norway - one week to go

There's just one week to go until we head off on our first extended sea kayak trip. It's not a major expedition to some remote corner of the world. That will come later. The main objective of this trip is to discover what we don't know about living out of a boat for more than ten days. Oh, and to have a great time.

There is a physical objective too. I've always fancied a trip to the Arctic, and this is a chance to paddle across the Arctic Circle. Will there be a big line on the water? A rope we have to lift and slip underneath? Or just a special moment as the GPS registers latitude 66 degrees 32 minutes North.

Click the map above (or here) to see an interactive zoom-able map. The blue line is just one possible route, but take a look at all those tiny islands along the way. Some friendly Norwegian sea-kayakers recommended we visit this area, Helgeland. Several commercial organisations run trips along this route and I'll list them later.

I'll try blogging as we paddle, with occasional photos, but limited battery power might be a problem. I have a solar charger, but it'll just sort the GPS, not the phone, camera, VHF or Palm.

We're treating this seriously and taking all our food, even though this is not strictly necessary. Liz is something of an expert at dehydrating food and we're also taking some shop bought stuff I had left over in a cupboard. It's called "Real Exepedition Food" and ironically is made in Norway. Like taking coals to Newcastle...

We'll probably spend this weekend sorting kit and if it's not bucketing with rain, attempting to pack the boats on the back lawn. I imagine most of the coming blog entries will be about this trip as it's starting to dominate our thoughts.

Ocean Paddler Magazine - new offer

If you didn't subscribe, you missed one of the best deals you'll be offered this year.

In my review of issue one of Ocean Paddler magazine I explained why it had to be a "loss leader" deal.

Now the publishers have come up with the second best deal of the year. Instead of the cover price of £4.95 you pay £3.75. And 80p of that is postage. And you get this t-shirt. Bargain. Or you can just buy the shirt.

Overseas subscribers have an equally good deal too.