Karakorum Fresh Water Project in Hushe

This is a cut-down of a film I made back in 1996. The previous year I led a trek from Hushe village in the Karakorum to climb Gondoro Peak. There's a great summit view. Organised by KE Adventure Travel it was the TGO Readers Trek.

I then went back to make a film for the BBC about tourism. As a side-line we made this 10min film about the clean water project and the appeal to raise money for hydro electricity. I haven't been to Hushe since. But when clearing out my Mum's house in Spain I stumbled upon the VHS of this film. What a location!

How to Pick a Paddle

This is Danny Mongno of Werner Paddles, UK distributor SystemX.

Danny flies all around the world, visiting symposiums and stores, helping kayakers pick the paddle that's right for them. The right length, blade shape, shaft size, bent or straight. Shafts, that is.

In the latest Podcast Danny explains how to begin the process. It's only ten minutes long and really, really useful. Just don't expect it to answer every question.

There are now 44 interviews about sea kayaking in the Podcast Library.

Campervan for Kayaking Pt3

Another Friday, another campervan.

We're getting close to a decision, so not too many more of these posts. Promise.

Robert is a fellow sea paddler who just happens to run KiraRentals, one of the biggest campervan rental businesses in Scotland. After his comment on the first of these posts, when we began our search, we had to check out his Go-Pod vans. They're based near Glasgow airport.

Robert set out to make the most basic campervan. It's aimed at sporty people who's fill it with muddy boots, bikes and wet kayak kit. There's no pop up roof, the facilities are basic and "It's basically bombproof", Robert reckons. Just what you want for a rental.

But to buy? We're not so sure.

This is going to be our only vehicle. While I usually prefer simple and basic, this felt a little too basic. And as I told Robert, that fake wood is revolting.

But - and it's a big but - this one is a 2006 VW T4 van with 31,500 miles and it's for sale for £20k. It sounds a good price to me, but I'm a newbie at this campervan lark.

Is it? I promised I'd pass on all comments.

The Guardian article - Sea Kayaking Skye

I missed this article first time around.

Ed Douglas wrote it for The Guardian about sea kayaking on Skye. He was out with Gordon Brown of Skyak Adventure (of course).

Ed has a great turn of phrase. "We also had a laugh at two pairs of eider ducks, a bird whose collective noun ought to be a Frankie Howerd, from the camp cackle they make. "

Listen to Gordon Brown talk about his favourite routes on Skye. Download MP3 file here or go to Podcast Library.

Ireland Uncorked

Jim Kenedy of Atlantic Sea kayaking should be pleased with this article in National Geograophic Adventure.

It describes Jim as "a thickly built 52-year-old former flat-water kayaking champion and amateur poet"

Once you've read it, and want to know more about kayaking in the west of Ireland, check out Jim's Podcast.

Download the MP3 file here or find it, along with many more, in the Podcast Library of SeaKayakRoutes.com

What size a Paddle?

What size of paddles are right for us? I've heard so much now, I'm confused.

I've just finished editing an excellent Podcast with Danny Mongno of Werner Paddles. He explains exactly how to pick the right blade. It'll go live on 1st April - please don't miss it. But don't expect it to answer ALL your questions (or mine!)

To precis: a smaller blade typically suits a lower, more relaxed style of paddling, so a longer shaft would be used; alarger blade typically suits a higher, more racing style of paddling, so a shorter shaft would be used.

Fine. But at the weekend we found precisely the opposite worked for us!

The big blade was a 215, normal diameter shaft. The smaller blade was a 210 small diameter shaft. That's the opposite of what we'd expect. Yet both felt great in different conditions. How come?

We're hope to do a lot of paddling this summer, including a solid six weeks. That's another story coming soon.

Our splits are awful. We planned to pull on the stocking masks, raid the bank, then buy two sets of Werner paddles each. One big blade for when we're feeling strong, one smaller size to use when the arms get tired.

But what length? What shaft size? Do we go with the sizes we've used? Or take the gamble that combining characteristics Danny recommends (big blade, shorter length, smaller diameter shaft) might be even better?

Any suggestions? Sorry - you have to register to comment as some damn spammer was hitting the blog.

Nick at System-X just e-mailed with the following: "I would suggest that you just switch blade size when tired and keep length and shaft size unchanged. So an Ikelos and Cyprus both on 215cm or 210cm, and both with the same shaft diameter."

New Look Scottish Routes Galleries

If you're paddling in Scotland and want to check out some good routes on the west coast, the Scottish Routes galleries have been refreshed.

The pictures are the same, but those which had mysteriously disappeared have returned brighter and better.

The website has a new thumbnails viewer, which appears once you click on any photo.

If all goes to plan, I'll add extensively to these galleries this summer.


“Like paddling with an iron bar”, was how it felt going back to our old paddles after using the Werner’s this weekend.

We were spending Easter with friends on Skye. Gordon & Morag Brown, who live down the road, leant us an Ikelos, with regular shaft, and Cyprus with a smaller shaft.

It is not ideal paddling conditions when you have to scrape snow off the kayaks. With high winds we didn’t get out of the bay but we were please that the paddles did not feel like they were about to blow out of our grasp. The positive buoyancy of the foam cores made the paddles exquisite to us. “Oh yes”, said Liz after just three strokes.

A couple of (freezing!) hours were spent trying to decide whether we liked the larger or smaller blade size. Liz likes the Cyprus, I prefer the larger Ikelos. Actually, when trying to brace into a leaning turn using the Cyprus I went over! However, at the end of a long day, tired arms would far sooner pull the smaller blade.

We really need one of each! It’s not such a daft idea to switch paddles for different conditions, keeping the ones not in use as splits. Although it’s expensive to set up.

Before we came off the water, Liz suggested we swap back to our old paddles. Oh dear. We’ve been spoiled.

Free Our Data - close?

This article in Guardian Technolgy suggests the day may be drawing closer when mapping and hydrographic data is free in the UK.

It says a study, published alongside last week's budget, considered the government's six largest 'trading funds', which sell their products and services to public and private sectors. they are, the Met Office, Ordnance Survey, UK Hydrographic Office, land registry of England & Wales, Companies House and the Driver and Vehicle Licenseing Agency.

The full 154page report is a clearly argued case for making raw data available free. The case for pricing basic data at no more than the marginal cost of a copy (digital=0 cost) is "strong".

Free OS maps ahead?

New Podcast - Chris Reed, Chillcheater

What does James Bond wear under his tuxedo? By the way, that's not 007.

Chris Reed is the man behind the Chillcheater clothing range and I wondered how someone could go from scratch to a major force in the kayaking world in less than ten years.

Listen and subscribe free here or download directly from the new look Podcast Library. (Where the photos are fixed).

Chris doesn’t even seem to mind me calling it “gimp-wear”.

One of Our Engines Isn't Working

When the Captain said one of the two engines on our easyJet flight tonight wouldn't start, quite a few passengers did not want the other one to start either - they wanted off!

Seems they're bump-started. The engines, I mean, not the passengers who eventually sat down again. A high pressure jet of air sets the blades spinning. It was this jet which didn't work, so the engine wouldn't start.

Of course, not starting is an easier fault to deal with than suddenly stopping.

TideRace Kayak in Norway

A Norwegian friend has just ordered a new Xplore TideRace sea kayak. He stresses (somewhat emphaticaly) this is not him paddling!
The photo comes with full credit from the website of Thomas Nicholson, the Norwegian importer, who has many more impressive shots online.
The photos are all the work of top professional photographer HÃ¥kon Bonafede.
Apparently it was shot on the western side of the Outer Oslofjord, south of the city Larvik.
See video of a static TideRace kayak at Perth Paddle 07 event and download MP3 Podcast with designer Aled Williams.

Missing Photos

My photos have gone AWOL.
It was drawn to my attention last night that many of the photos on the Scottish Routes section of SeaKayakRoutes.com are missing.
I looked under the computer. They're not there. Infact, they are still on my computer, on the iWeb program which ought to mirror exactly what's on the website. But it doesn't.
.Mac suggested a version of "switch it off and back on again", which involves me attempting to re-publish all the images. That is going to have to wait until the weekend.
Computers. Eh!

Campervan for Kayaking (Again)

Oh dear. I'm starting to get comfy in this VW campervan and we haven't found the money to pay for it yet.

The conversions we like are done by Jerba Campervans, a small, family run business on a little industrial estate in North Berwick.

All the comments to the previous entry were REALLY useful - gave me lots of questions to ask and I sounded like I knew what I was talking about. Thanks guys.

And I see what you mean about space being a constant issue. Still, it's bigger than the car we sleep in.

We haven't been paddling since early January and I have cabin fever. Still, a lot has been happening. I'm off to Spain this week to try to sell my Mum's house.

Squeek Squeek Splat

"It' not a hamster, it's a rat!" (copyright J.Cleese Esq). But not for long I fear.

Calmly strolling across four lanes of rush-hour traffic on one of Glasgow's busiest bridges, this badly photographed rodent displayed a truly alarming degree of misplaced confidence.

Or was he ontop of his game? Was this sport? I had to admire the deft way he allowed tyres to skim past his tail within millimeters, yet neither his composure or fur was ruffled. This was the sort of elan I would wish to display in a F6 breaking sea. But don't.

I received more stares than ratty. Dressed in my winter running kit (lycra tights & top, not nice) with rucksack, standing in the road, brandishing a phone. Towards a road-rat.

I'd like to think he does this every day. A ratty toreador in a Corrida with the bull-bars and rubber of Glasgow's four-wheeled opponents. I'd like to think he'll be there tomorrow, doing his death-dance.

But by now I suspect he's a stain on the tarmac.

Campervan for Kayaking

Is it the first sign of old age? We're looking to buy a campervan.

My company car will go at the end of this year and we want a vehicle which we can use day-to-day as well as for longer kayak trips. We've only just started looking, but the Tiree conversion from Jerba Campervans looks promising. Delivery time is five months.

Jerba are part sponsors of my favourite mountain marathon, the OMM (which always clashes with the SCA Perth show!). That's where I first saw their vans.

It has a pop-up roof. When closed it'll carry 120 kilos, more than enough for two kayaks, but they have to be removed for the roof to stay up. The rack and cradles can stay on. But the fuel consumption looks severe, around 35mpg on mixed cycle compared to 57mpg for my Peugeot.

Anyone have experience of using a VW campervan to go kayaking, or using it day-to-day? Advice / comments / suggestions greatly appreciated.

The Talking Seal

One of the best parts of my job is that I can read a wide variety of publications, looking for story ideas and background, and call it work.
New Scientist had a piece about whether humans are the only animals who appreciate music. (Subscriber content). I followed a few links and ended up on this page about Hoover, a talking seal.
Before he died in 1985 he spoke English. No, really. Listen to this file and if that's not enough this file.

The next time a round head surfaces near your kayak try saying, "Hello there". You might recieve a reply.

Ultra-ultra-light Shelter

Now this is a good looking ultra-light shelter. 539g including stuff sack, ground-sheet and pegs. Excluding trekking poles.

It comes from my old friend Glen Van Peski, the founder and guru of Gossamer Gear, and man who set Liz and I on the right track when we hiked the Pacific Crest Trail. Glen also managed our Online Journal and helped keep us supplied with fuel and kit. I wrote a profile of Glen for TGO Magazine.

The star of the show is the dog, Buddy. He has a few more grey hairs than when we played with him on Glen's lawn in 2002. But then, so do I.

Gossamer Gear The One from Gossamer Gear on Vimeo.