New Podcast - Howard Jeffs

This is Howard Jeffs. I highly recommend a listen to his podcast, either here, by free RSS subscription or by download directly from the Podcast Library.

I was trying to work out how to describe him when I put his podcast live, and I really struggled. I could start with "boat designer extraordinaire" or "top coach" but that doesn't really do justice to the inventiveness and sheer enthusiasm of the bloke.

I've been to a couple of sessions with him at symposiums and found his so full of ideas, some are bound to spill over.

Cetus for Scottish Kayak Trail

Much as I love my Nordkapp we've been offered the loan of two P&H Cetus for our research trip along the Scottish Kayak Trail.

I tried an early model last summer for the Canoe Boys programmes (when I could get Cailean out of it!). Since we'll be carrying quite a lot of camera gear, Liz is particularly looking forward to using the bigger boat. With luck, they'll arrive next week.

And I spent £25 on those graphics...

New Aquapack Camera Case

Now this looks good.

Aquapack has put a hard "end" on their camera cases. Previous cases, which purported to allow cameras to shoot through plastic, were not up to the task.

This one will take a lot of wiping clean but looks useful. At £80 it should be, and there are others in the range.

However, if you're serious about protecting the camera without going for a full underwater housing, I'm advised EWA-Marine bags are the business.

Stay Warm in Camp - Sleep in a Mask?

There are some pretty wacky ideas out there for ultra-light camping techniques. This one is particularly strange.

TGO Magazine's new contributor Eddy Meechan is experimenting with wearing a dust mask while sleeping to reduce the amount of warm air that's lost. Eddy writes:

All cold climate mammals are equipped with long snouts and enlarged nasal cavities and sinuses.
The larger the surface area of the nasal cavity and sinuses, the greater the capacity for preventing heat and moisture loss. It's been suggested that this is why our cold weather cousin Neanderthal man had such a huge conk compared with ours.

I'm not endorsing his approach, just reporting it. Read the whole article and judge for yourself.

Hear the Author describe the Best Routes

Read the book and listen to the author. And if you haven't yet bought the book, please buy it here now.

Mark Rainsley has raised the standard for guidebooks. This is an excellent sea kayakers guide to south west England. I suspect it will receive a positive review in Ocean Paddler Magazine soon.

You can listen to Mark describe three of the top routes in the book in a Podcast already live at

High & Dry

Blue skies, fluffy clouds, bright sun. So where are we going? London.

A family wedding calls us south for a long weekend and we'll have a good time I'm sure. But already I can't wait to get back and on the water.

Video - New Superlite Quasar

I nearly wrote "first erection attempt" as the title but decided it might show up in some odd Google searches. Terra-Nova Equipment has leant us a tent for the summer. How easy is it to, ahem, erect?

Kayaker WebMaster

Despite running a few websites, I'm no boffin.

So huge thanks to fellow sea-kayaker Duncan for hosting and, more importantly, advising me how to add pages using iWeb. Not bad for a spare-time business.

Any kayakers look for a web presence can consider highly recommended,

New Midge Repellent

If you are kayak-camping on Scotland's west coast during the summer, these are the enemy.

Highland midges exist to remind man of his place in the food chain. I one hour, a swam can inflict three thousand bites on an unprotected arm.

Now a new type of repellent claims to act as an invisibility cloak, masking we humans so the midges can't find us. The BBC is writing about it as is The Scotsman.

We're going to be using these Anti-Midge patches during the summer which seem to work for us in a similar way.

Video - Celtic Extremities. An Astonishing 300km Open Crossing

Patrick Winterton is off on his paddles again shortly. He specialises in huge crossings, and this one is heart-stopping. He's going from South Wales, around the west coast of Ireland, across to Scotland and up the west coast to the tip of Lewis. Then he'll tackle the 300km open water crossing to the Faroes. At 6 kph that's 50 hrs paddling. He thinks it has never been kayaked before. Patrick will use a TideRace kayak, and after watching this short video with him, download the podcast of him talking about the previous Scottish Extremities expedition.

Kayaking Inn-to-Inn along Scotland's West Coast

It's meant to be more upmarket than a pub crawl of course.

Steve MacFarlane has run the Glenuig Inn for just four months and already he's turning it into a base for sea kayakers. Working with guides and group operators from around the UK and the USA he gives folk a base on the west coast of Scotland.

He also uses his trailer to shuttle kayakers, kayaks and kit for people doing point-to-point trips rather than circular routes.

Now Steve is working with places like the Old Forge in Knoydart to create a mini-trail which folk can kayak between and receive a warm welcome. He'll be sure to have a place in the Scottish Kayak Trail guide.

Sent from a small island off Arisaig

The end of a lovely day. Wind F4-5 we first crossed the Sound of Mull to eat fish & chips in Tobermory. The best fish & chips in Scotland are served from a van on the harbour.

Crossing back against the wind, Liz decided it would be nice to camp somewhere. So we whizzed home, grabbed the camping kit, drove to Rhu and paddled out to the islands and skerries off Arisaig.

As the sun sank, the islands rose from the retreating tide. A full moon is casting a bright glow across the loch. Magical.

The tent is a brand new Superlight Quasar which Terra-Nova Equipment has kindly leant us for the summer while we paddle the Scottish Kayak Trail. This is its first outing and is seems great. For kayaking I might replace the titanium pegs with something more substantial.

Off moon watching...

No Way to Name a Boat

Liz wasn't too impressed with me asking her to put these graphics on my boat. She's good at this sort of stuff.

But she's a believer in a kayak having a name. Her boat is called 'Sea Whisper' whereas mine is going to shout like an advertising hoarding. I've assured her Scottish Kayak Trail .com is not the boat's name and it will not remain on for very long.

Actually, the graphics came in larger than I thought they would so it is embarrassingly large. I don't know. It's a bit loud and enthusiastically bouncy. I kind of like it.

New Toy - But It's Not Waterproof...

I swore I'd never buy a video camera.

It would be too much of a 'busman's holiday', spending my spare time doing what I do for work.

By the end of the year I won't have a regular day-job, and I don't want to loose touch with media production altogether. So I put together this little package around a Sony HDV-A1E.

I will try it on the water, but not just yet. Perhaps in June/July when we paddle the Scottish Kayak Trail.

The Scottish Kayak Trail - Initial Feedback

I spend a lot of time with politicians. In their world, new ideas are either marvellous or rubbish. It depends whether they're in the same political party as you.

I honestly expected a 50:50 response to the idea for a Scottish Kayak Trail. Some people might like it, others would monster me. But no.

There has been some criticsm on the forum, but the idea for the UK's first long distance 'trail' for sea-kayakers is not proving as controversial as I anticipated. Not yet. Give it time.

I received some nice e-mails and there are some decent responses on that thread too (feel free to add to it or comment here). Cailean wrote about it on his blog, which shows great restraint as he has known about it for ages. In fact, I was paddling with him, recording the BBC programmes about The Canoe Boys, when I had the idea for the trail. It was the story of the 1934 voyage by Alastair Dunnett and Seumas Adam which inspired me.

I recently mentioned the idea to Dunnett's son Ninian who replied "What a great ploy", as Dad would have said.

The Scottish Kayak Trail

A slight refresh to the look of the blog.

I hope it'll blend more closely with a new site which is an unashamed attempt to drum up some publicity for a book I'm writing for Pesda Press.

Not another guide book? This one is different. well, I would say that, wouldn't I?

The book will describe what I'm calling the UK's first long-distance 'trail' for sea-kayakers.

I'm deeply grateful to Duncan at, a keen paddler and Podcast listener, for help in setting up the new website.

Much of the book is already written since we've kayaked about two-thirds of the route. However, through June and some of July we hope to paddle the entire route, blogging about it here.

Of course, I'll also continue to write the usual ramblings as well.

Our Friends in Loch Teacus

You know you're being watched in this quiet corner of Loch Sunart.

The seals are used to boats, so they don't all slip off the rocks into the sea as the kayak glides past. Some just stare, making sure you're no threat.

A new otter hide has been built between Carna and the mainland, and we did see a couple of otters - but not here.

Full route with tidal stream info and more photos in the Scottish Routes section of

Bertie had an even closer seal encounter here.

A Blogger who Makes Money Blogging

I spotted this in today's media Guardian and it's interesting reading, especially for bloggers. Jeff Jarvis gave up his "day job" with big media and now earns a (modest?) six figure salary. Not all through blogging, but his blog got him the work.

Jeff writes, "If I add all that up over the past five years and the five to come, to me the blog is worth a few million (dollars, not pounds, sadly). "

Podcast Glitch

Subscribers to podcasts at may have found the Fiji & Antarctia Podcast in your PodReader as a .MOV file. For an MP3 player, this is useless. I don't know why it happened, but I have re-published the file. So wait 24hrs please and refresh your feed. The new one should arrive, hopefully as MP3.

Fiji and Antarctica in One Podcast

This is Al Bakker. He has the tough job of organising sea kayak holidays to exotic destinations all over the world.

The link between Fiji and Antarctica is that both are difficult for independent kayakers to reach.

Here Al explains how the really determined kayaker can do it, while others can consider one of his trips with Southern sea Ventures or H2O Paddle.

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

Mystery Object - What Is This?

I spotted this stone on the side of Loch Linnhe.

Sorry there's nothing to judge scale alongside. It's about eighteen inches diameter. So what do we think?

A mill stone? Suggestions welcome. Off kayaking this weekend. More Monday.

Rubbish on Beaches pt2

Last night's blog post turned into todays news story. Here are the download links from the Marine Conservation Society.
Full report. Executive Summary. Regional variations map. Beachwatch website.

Rubbish on Beaches

Plastic litter on the UK coastline has increased 126% since 1994 according to the Marine Conservation Society's report. The largest single source of litter was visitors and recreation on the coast (35.3%) followed by fishing litter (13.7%). The problem exacerbated as more products are now made of plastic.

Scotland has the highest level of litter density, up 30.4% in a year.
Northern Ireland's beaches litter density increased 60% in a year.
South West England had the highest level of rubbish per kilometer.

Made me think of a video I posted almost a year ago...

Where's That Ship? Marine Traffic in Real Time

Now this is a cool website. I'll quote the site.

A group of ShipPlotter enthusiasts bring you live vessel movements from around the Irish Sea (and further!) derived from AIS data. Click on the map to see the individual ships, their statistics and photos.

It looks like real-time ship movements around the UK.

I picked the map for the Sound of Mull and took a screenshot.

You can see the four CalMac vessels. The Hebridean Princess off Tobermory; the Clansman in mid-Sound heading to the Western Isles, dodging the Loch Fyne which sails from Lochaline to Fishnish; and the Isle of Mull going to Craignure. The green vessel is moored at Glensanda Quarry.

Lomo - Value Kayak Kit from New Home

We've known the Lomo lads since they had a shop just yards from our flat in Glasgow.

Twice they've moved, and this is their new home. It's just off my running route to work.

Inside they have much more space for their excellent drysuits, dry bags and wetsuits. Especially their tapered dry bags for £16.

New decks and paddle bags, which I'm after, are in a container at sea and should be here sometime in May.

Those Penguins Again

The previous post, about how the made the penguins fly (for 1st April promo), linked to the BBC iPlayer which is only available in the UK. So here it is for everyone else.


We'd been worried about a Rowan tree in our garden.
Traditionally, they're planted to ward off bad magic. Our looked like its trunk was suffering in some way. Then was saw this tree!
While paddling on Loch Linnhe, we stopped and took a walk along the shore. It's not completely clear from the photo, but the trunk looks like it split, then almost turned itself inside out.
There's no way something like this could actually be alive. Could it? I tried to snap a small twig and it bent, pliable with rising sap. Alive.
There's a message in here. Somewhere. I'll keep looking.

Video - Werner Paddles First Impressions

We don't have much experience with different types of paddles. Recently we've used Lendal glass-fibre blades on carbon shafts and before that, plastic Lendal blades. We've loved them, but wanted to step-up to carbon blades and thought we'd try Werner Paddles. After two short trips this weekend I thought I'd make a few comparisons to our plastic bladed Lendal and pass some comments on video.

Obviously, no-one spends a lot of money then admits, "I bought a load of crap", so I'm going to like these, aren't I? Well, I like them so much, I've bought a second pair with a slightly smaller blade to have as splits. That wimpering noise you just heard was my bank manager weeping.

How They Made Those Penguins Fly

Remember this April Fool joke? Now watch how they did it.

Assistant to Greek God of Dreams

A large cardboard box has arrived at work.

Inside, two Werner paddles. An Ikelos for me, a Cyprus for Liz. Our first carbon paddles. Ordered from System X. Mmmmmm...

Flying Penguins

This was posted earlier today.

Kayak Video Camera Mount

I'm trying to make one from a strange collection of items.

So far I have a suction clamp for moving glass (£5.95 B&Q); a telescopic mop (£5.98 Sainsurys); and a quil stem for a bike (£19.00 Gear Bikes). More to come.

There's a tradition in bodging these things. I've taken advice from Simon Osbourne who used a mount similar to the one I'm trying to put together.

I've also spoken to Olly Sanders who made the camera mount used in his latest Rough Water handling DVD from a tile clamp and tent poles.

When I get hold of the camera I'll work on the business end of the mount.