New Podcast - Traditional Kayaks

This is Anders Thygesen. He brough a superb collection of traditional kayaks from Norway to last year’s Scottish Symposium on Skye.

What's more, Anders made them all and runs courses during which people can build their own boat. Go on holiday, come back with a fabulous traditional kayak. His business is Kajakkspesialisten and his website is also in English.

Listen and subscribe free here or download directly from the Podcast Library. And I apologise in advance for my ignorance of traditional kayaks. Forgive me.

The Best and Worst Companies to Deal With

Werner Paddles are (almost) celebrating fourth place in a list of the best companies to do business with. What's surprising is how important paddle-sports have become.

This is a US survey so many European names won't be included. The "best" suppliers to do business with were Patagonia (13.4%), North West River Supplies (12%) Cascade Designs (10%) and Werner a creditable 9% in fourth place. It's not enough for some...

Danny Mongno, who you'll meet on the Werner stand at Canoe Expo (and with whom I hope to record a podcast) tells me, "We are not happy with 4th place, so be sure to look out for when we knock Patagonia off that top spot in 2008". Competitive as ever.

I've personally had a good relationship with Patagonia Europe for quite a few years. I find them easy to deal with, even with my limited French. Their kit can seem pricey but it lasts for years.

Cascade Designs are a very friendly crowd. They sponsored our Pacific Crest Trail hike with some MSR food and showed us around their Seattle factory after we hiked the Pacific Crest Trail. There I discovered Thermarest RidgeRests, which we slept on for five months, are made in the world's largest waffle machine.

The survey by SNEWS, part of GearTrends.com notes that the top ten "best" companies to deal withy include four who predominantly serve the paddlesports market.

If you work in a bricks-and-mortar Outdoor Store then you can subscribe free to their website, or you pay $3.75 per week.

Their's is certainly a site to watch, especially for folk interested in the outdoor business.

Applecross Kayaking Video

How hard can it be to make a kayaking video? Phew, now I know! Shot in September, this was my first attempt using a video camera. I found it difficult to hold the shot steady while the boat was moving and I was also acutely aware of the banality of the content.

This was also the first time I've edited anything reasonably complex. I used Final Cut Express which I bought a couple of weeks ago and have been attempting to teach myself. I now have even greater respect for Justine Curgenven, Patrick Winterton and Bryan Smith. I've learnt a lot and I'm keen to try again. Oh, it's about 6mins long.

Keeping Hands Warm - The Replies

I must say a huge thank you to everyone who took the trouble to answer my question about how to keep hands warm. I've aggregated the replies here.

Daveo suggested Reed Chillcheater gauntlet-style elbow length glove with lobster fingers. He also finds wool a better insulator than fleece.

Michael recommends LevelSix neoprene mitts saying "They have smooth neoprene outside so don't cool down like the nylon ones which retain moisture on the surface. Inside there is a fleecy lining. When really cold I add some thin poly gloves and have never been cold."

Alan used to windsurf during the winter and had large dry gloves with wool or fleece under. "These dry gloves were like kitchen gloves but came futher up your wrist and sealed."

Douglas' suggestion were Gul palmless gloves but they've disappeared from their website. In addition he liked the 1.5mm neoprene O'Neil gloves (look in the Winter Products section). "Thick gloves give me cramp." says Douglas.

Kokatat pogies are also suggested, but I have some good ones. And I struggle with pogies.

Corgiamas came up with Crazycreek thermabands. "Might work if inside a dry mitt or glove....they are great for Reynauds disease/syndrome.....they work great because they are heating up the inner wrist arteries and blood vessels....". Unfortunately their website didn't work for me.

Maurizio uses GlacierGloves. They're designed for hunting and fishing but in Italy he finds they work well.

So a huge thanks for all these suggestions. Now Liz has to decide and get out the credit card.

Mountain Abuse?

Is this mountain abuse, a worthwhile charity event in the great outdoors, or a bit of both? It’s been a growing issue for years (2002 article).

Again we’re seeing headlines about the impact Three Peak Challengers have on the communities through which they pass and the hills they climb. Now the Glen Nevis Visitor Centre urges all would-be challengers to book their event with them and to use the Centre as the starting point for the Ben Nevis stage of the Challenge.

As someone who has scoffed at the regulation and permit system in US National Parks, I have mixed feelings.

3P challengers aim to climb Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon in 24 hours. I'm told the typical itinerary is to start on the Ben late evening, which means reaching Wasdale in the Lake District around 5am. There are reports from disgruntled locals (especially the Wasdale Head Inn publican) of Challenger’s and their vehicles clogging up lanes, slamming car doors and, since they climb regardless of the weather, causing even more erosion than normal.

The people who monitor such charitable activities, the Fundraising Standards Board together with the Glen Nevis Visitor Centre are urging charities and fundraising organisations involved with the Three Peaks Challenge event during 2008 to carefully observe all the relevant codes of practice for this event. It doesn’t happen on one weekend like a mountain marathon, but is spread across the summer.

Jim Milligan, Manager of Glen Nevis Visitor Centre says "The majority of charities taking part in the Three Peaks Challenge already leave from the Visitor Centre as it is the ideal starting point offering good parking and toilet facilities. But we can only accommodate limited numbers and it is vital that groups contact the Centre to book their climb with us to avoid clashing with other organised activity and busy periods".

I don't like the idea of booking a place on a hill walk, but then I'm no great fan of these charity events either. I only hope the visitor centre keeps some places for people who want to climb the Ben in daylight. And that some serious money is raised.

If this Google search is anything to go by, 2008 will be a busy year.

3rd Busiest Year Ever for Scottish Lifeboats

Last year was the third busiest for Scotland’s RNLI lifeboats since records began. They launched 1,028 times and 1,631 hours at sea. Busiest was Kinghorn inshore RNLI lifeboat launching a total of 69 times and rescuing 39 people, the 20th busiest in the UK and Ireland. The photo is from the RNLI website.

The next busiest were:
Broughty Ferry (launched 66 times rescuing 36 people)
Oban (launched 57 times rescuing 47 people)
Anstruther (launched 52 times rescuing 48 people)
Troon (launched 50 times rescuing 41 people
)

Friday is their annual fundraiser, with even skiers helping as Nevis Range in Fort William, will donate £1 for every person who skis or snowboards in a kilt this Burns Day. Details of events here or call 0845 121 4999.

Tower lifeboat station on the River Thames was the busiest RNLI lifeboat station, launching 265 times and rescuing 92 people. Around the coast, busy stations included Torbay lifeboat station, which launched 131 times, rescuing 137 people, and the RNLI's Southend lifeboat station launched 126 times and rescued 109 people.

Website Refresh

I've refreshed the look of two of my websites and added a third.

SeaKayakRoutes.com (and .co.uk) is still the main front page for Podcasts. The left box updates automatically when I add content. The banner links to the left give easier access to the other sites. There's also a direct link to SeaKayakPodcasts.com.

And if you're looking for sea kayak books, then I'd certainly appreciate you buying through my store as the pennies it generates might help pay for the bandwidth.

I've added a new site, SeaKayakExplorer.com which in time will be an access point for other media, such as sellingthe CDs of The Canoe Boys. Mid you, I'm not convinced anyone will want to buy them! This site is also home to the larger Mountain and Kayak Book Stores.

Published articles remain on SimonWillis.co.uk.

Again I've refreshed the front page so there's direct access to many more articles and easier navigation.

The front page is in an entirely new place, so people may have to change bookmarks, but not if they've linked directly to articles. the articles remain in their existing places.

There's also a Mountain book store.

Why all this activity? Liz was at a Yoga workshop most of Sunday. Left alone in the city this was my surrogate for paddling.




Lithium Batteries in Luggage

For most of us, this won't be a problem. But anyone heading off on a long expedition using pro-video cameras or laptop sized coms with external batteries ought to be aware.
The US Department of Transportation will allow only two of lithium batteries on aircraft if they weigh 8g-25g, and then only in cabin-baggage. Over 25g are not allowed at all.
It's to cut the fire risk. Anything with a lithium battery inside it and weighing under 8g is fine. So normal camera, mobile phones etc. are OK if they're installed. They're not allowed loose in checked baggage.

How Do You Keep Hands Warm?

Liz gets cold hands. Really cold. In Alaska her down mits were huge. It looked like she had a Marmot on the end of each arm.

She's tried several ways of keeping her hands warm including these washing-up gloves with fleece underneath. None work.

Pogies are best, but fiddly. Neoprene gloves are cold when wet in wind.

Any suggestions? EDIT - Thanks from Liz for all the great ideas!

First of 2008

What a wonderful weekend, reminding us why we love living in Scotland.

Friday - snow on the hills, F5 south westerly, decent swell - all in all a rather exciting first paddle for the year, even if it was just 20km.

The shoulder still isn't right but it's improving... slowly. Launched at Glenuig, across the head of Loch Ailort, around the last island and then into Loch nan Umah, which I'm told is pronounced Loch Na Noo. This is where Charles Edward Stewart left for France after the failed Jacobite rebellion of 1745.

Saturday - stepping over the small fence behind our house, we hiked up Ben Resipol our favourite local hill. The views back to the panorama of Scottish mountains start superb and just get better. Clearing the final summit reveals a breathtaking seascape, from the Skye Cullin, across Rum and Eigg and the Sound of Mull.

OK, so Sunday was wet. So I put together my Norway presentation for Canoe Expo while Liz worked on planking out the loft.

Sustainable Expeditions

This is Tom "The Haggis" Pendry who we met a couple of years ago on the Isle of Barra. He occasionally works with Clearwater Paddling from whom we hired boats for these trips. 1, 2 3.

Tom has set up SustainableExpeditions.org and plans to kayak 150 miles around Scotland's Outer Hebrides. With big surf rolling in from the Atlantic that's quite an undertaking.

Tom hopes to persuade a friendly Sea Kayak Manufacturer to donate a boat for the journey - could it be you?

As Tom wrote on the UK Forum "On the trip I’ll be doing things in as many environmentally friendly ways as possible. For example, I’ll be cooking on driftwood and heather, catching fish, sleeping in a Bivvy under a tarp, staying in local hostels when available, will have a solar panel to charge GPS/VHF/phone, will be using Sphagnum moss and a trowel for sanitary issues, and wil be buying food from local suppliers, amongst other things".

Check out his site. And if you import or manufacture expedition kayaks Tom "The Haggis" would love to hear from you tom.pendreyATgmail.com

Canoe Expo - 2 Presentations

Having clearly been mistaken for someone who knows what he's talking about, I've been asked to give two presentations at CanoeExpo near Coventry next month.

The Canoe Boys presentation is about the BBC web, radio and TV programmes regular readers have heard a lot about and which I gave at Paddle 07 in Perth. For this we used P&H Sea Kayaks, and it's through them that I've been invited.

I'm also giving a presentation called Across The Arctic Circle about sea kayaking in the Helgeland area of Norway. I wrote an article about for this for Ocean Paddler Magazine. This is an excellent destination for those seeking the solitude of a mini-expedition in relatively sheltered waters.

Looking at the list of speakers made me take a big gulp. I'm in rather illustrious company. I'll try not to feel too much of a fraud.

Feed The Birds

Our paddling plans this weekend were put on hold. This was now because of the snow. Although we were kept rather busy feeding all the birds in the garden (and the Pine Martens).

The reason we didn't go kayaking can be blamed on an over-energetic badminton session on Friday evening. It was our first for several years, and while we felt fine after, the following morning we were walking around like crocks!

So we still haven't been in the kayaks this year. Next weekend perhaps.

Last paddle of 2007

It was short but good. A quiet corner of Loch Linnhe, starting in sun and ending in a hail storm.

Winter paddling at its best. Much more along Scotland's west coast is the plan for 2008.