Last Minute Hassles

We start paddling on Monday and inevitably, there are a series of minor last minute panics.

We're videoing the trip but the tiny bullet-cam recorder has only just arrived, requires a PC to install software (I have a Mac), and I'm not certain all the connectors, err connect. The manual runs to 90 pages. It might get left behind.

Liz has a sore back and my shoulder is playing up.

I was fighting a bank to transfer some money (our damn money!) before tomorrow to make some payments. I failed and have to find another way.

I realised the car needs an MOT in the next six weeks while we're on the water.

None are obstacles, just niggles of varying dimensions. Back in 2002 we hit the Pacific Crest Trail, not for six weeks but for six months. Then we just put our small number of possessions into a storage unit, padlocked the door and headed off to the Mexican border. Simple. Now we seem to have acquired more 'stuff' (mortgages, car etc.) which only add to the complications.

That's why spending time in wild places is so important and renewing. It has a way of sifting the important from the trivial.

Mentally, I'm already half there. So I don't intend to worry about any of this.

New Podcast - Argonauts of the Western Isles

This is the last Podcast until mid-July because we're off soon, but it's one you really should hear.

It's a chat with the author of this classic of kayaking literature which is being republished next month with five new chapters. Definitely one for the bookshelf.

Listen here, by free RSS subscription or by download directly from the Podcast Library.

Robin Lloyd Jones is a fit 73 year old who kayaks every week, except during winter when he'll be mountaineering. The book covers almost five decades of sea kayaking off Scotland's coast.

So Here's The Plan

From now until mid-July, this blog will be devoted to our kayaking along Scotland's west coast, from Gigha to the Summer Isles, part of our project. We'd be delighted if you checked back occasionally to follow our progress.

We're carrying with us a Palm Tungsten E2, a folding keyboard and a mobile phone. So when we can get a signal, I'll post an update of our location, sometimes with a photo. However, I can't moderate comments from it, so they'll have to wait until we hit internet cafes. I can't add labels either.

With no internet access the Podcasts at will pause. However, do not miss the one which will go live tomorrow, with Robin Lloyd Jones, the author of Argonauts of the Western Isles which is being re-published with five new chapters. I've just finished reviewing the book, and it's one you will definitely want for your library.

The next Podcast won't go live until mid-July but it will have a video element to it as well as the usual MP3 file.

Please drop in as often as you can. We'll be glad of your company.

Our Flat Pack Shed

From intimidating pile of metal to not-very-impressive shed in eight long hours when we could have been on the water.

Point of Sleat

A superb paddle this weekend on the Isle of Skye with friends.

We had glorious weather, but I can't help feeling sorry for the folk who are at the Jersey symposium where I believe the blue skies are in short supply.

To See Ourselves as Others See Us

"O would some power the giftie gie us to see ourselves as others see us!" So wrote the Scottish bard, Robvert Burns in his ode "To a Louse".

A three-strong team from Italy is circumnavigating the Scottish Highlands and blogging about their adventure in exquisite Italnglish.

It's fascinating to read their (brief) observations as they pass through our home waters. Recent update: "We set our camp on Lismore Island with sheeps, ticks and wild gooses".

They've picked an ambitious route (pdf download) which will take them from Canna to South Uist, then back from North Uist to Skye. They'll also round Cape Wrath, Cailean did recently for his guide-book.

I hope we bump into them soon.

Don't Discharge an ICOM Battery

There was a time it was recommended that rechargeable batteries be fully discharged on occasions. Not now. Whoops!

I'd been regularly topping up my ICOM M71 marine VHF, but before our long trip, I thought I'd discharge it fully then charge it again from flat. Big mistake.

Now the battery won't hold any charge and I have to pay £50 for a replacement. Don't make the same mistake.

Kayak Garmin GPSmap76CSx Leak - update 3

OK, I'm impressed. A courier just delivered a brand new replacement GPS unit.

Note this UK repair number: 02380 524000

After just under a year, the USB connector was corroding and I was trying to get the unit repaired. I was alarmed when Garmin told me a unit sold as waterproof was only water-resistant. This provoked an exchange of e-mails.

My conclusion is the waterproof standard it satisfies sounds good to the layman, but means little in practical terms.

So in future, I will treat this unit as water resistant unit, not waterproof.

Now - how on earth do I get my BlueCharts installed on this when they're unlocked with a different key?

But contrast Garmin's approach with that of Field & Trek? Incidentally, a nice offer from AlpKit to help with the repair has just arrived - thanks Jim.

False Economy?

I thought I had a good deal when I bought a Stormlite inflatable mattress for £19.99 in March 2007. Now I'm realising the down-side.

When my £50 Thermarest sprang a leak I couldn't find (after almost a decade) Cascade Designs were happy to repair it.

When my £20 Stormlite sprang a leak I can't find (after just one year and two months) Field & Trek (the only retailers - I think it's their own brand) don't want to know. I asked them how I could organise a repair through Stormlite.

Unfortunately, with the product being purchased over a year ago, we are unable to exchange this item as the guarantee is no longer valid.
We would be unable to advise where you can take this item to be re-paired, and we do not offer a repair service on our products.
We apologise we can not be of any further assistance to you regarding this matter.
Kind Regards
Joanne Daykin
Customer Services

The inflatable mats seem to have disappeared from the F&T page. We're talking a product which retailed for £19.99 so perhaps I shouldn't expect the same standard of service as a product costing more than double. But in my view this is not good PR. It contrasts sharply with all other customer service I have received from the likes of Palm, Aquapak and Yak.

Sadly, it has soured me from buying from Field & Trek. Ontop of my GPS issues, which Garmin is now repairing, I'm going through a Mr Grumpy phase! It's as I gather and check all our kit before embarking on our research trip along the Scottish Kayak Trail.

Sea Birds on the Treshnish Isles


Who Are You?

Those watching my videos are male, aged 35-55, and in the USA or UK.

And the top two videos are Ken Lacey standing on the deck of a P&H Cetus and Sean Caven demonstrating forward paddling technique.

But you already knew that, didn't you?

Video - Treshnish Isles

Superb weekend...

Best Routes Aberdeenshire - New Podcast

This is Donald Thomson, member of the active North East Sea Kayakers and resident of Aberdeen.

If the Aberdeenshire coast is neglected in favour of the west coast, this podcast might help redress the balance as Donald describes three of the best routes in the area.

Listen to his podcast, either here, by free RSS subscription or by download directly from the Podcast Library.

Protected Polar Bears

The U.S Interior Department has decided to protect the polar bear as a threatened species because of the decline in Arctic sea ice from global warming.

According to Associated Press, it comes a day before a court-imposed deadline on deciding whether the bear should be put under the protection of the federal Endangered Species Act.

In deciding to list the bear as threatened, the department will cite studies by its own scientists that the decline of Arctic sea ice off Alaska and Canada could result in two-thirds of the polar bears disappearing by mid-century.

Eastern Horizons

Bryan Smith is shooting a follow-up to Pacific Horizons called Eastern Horizons. Quote:

Over the course of 2008, Bryan Smith and Lise-Anne Beyries will be producing the first ever adventure sea kayaking film which comprehensively explores North America's eastern sea board.

Documenting the entire length of the East Coast from Florida to Newfoundland, Eastern Horizons aims to blend the rich history and culture of the Atlantic with world class sea kayakers, idyllic destinations, incredible wildlife and compelling stories of people who's lives are deeply connected to the Atlantic Ocean.

From paddling the wildlife rich swamps and mangroves of the Carolinas to the icebergs of Newfoundland; from surfing the "zipper" at Tybee Island, Georgia to playing in the tidal flows around Nova Scotia's Bay of Fundy; and from capturing the iconic urban landscapes of New York City to the remote fishing villages of Quebec's north shore, Eastern Horizons will inspire paddlers and non-paddlers alike to get out and explore the ocean!

Kayak Garmin GPSmap76CSx Leak - update 3

Progress. The unit is waterproof but only on a flat sea. A sandwich bag could pas the test. Eh? read on...

Thank you for contacting Garmin International.Most Garmin GPS units are waterproof in accordance with IEC 529 IPX7.

IEC 529 is a European system of test specification standards for classifying the degrees of protection provided by the enclosures of electrical equipment. An IPX7 designation means the GPS case can withstand accidental immersion in one meter of still water for up to 30 minutes. However this does not include the unit withstanding moving or rushing water such as a current, wave or hard rain.

Oh, and then the kicker, considering I'd contacted them through the myGarmin site where the unit is registered and filled in my address three times!

I'm sorry however I was not aware that you were in Europe. You will need to contact our European Repair center at the phone # below.
Free 0808 238 0000 (within U.K.)
+44-870-8501242 (outside U.K.)

Some suggestions/warnings for using this unit appear on the UK Forum. I recommend none, and you follow at your own risk!

* Tape over rubber 'seals'
* Smear a tiny amount of vaselene on the terminals
* Always use a dry bag. Unless you feel it's going to 'pressure cook' condensation uinto your unit
* Use new silica gel sachets or some absorbent paper inside to help with condensation
* Rinse in fresh water (obviously, not running water, just dunk in a bucket)
* Dry with rubber plugs out in warm room

Anyone thinking IPX 7 is a good waterproof standard might heed Jim's words:
The IP rating is not explicitly about water resistance but a unit or enclosures ability from preventing things entering it. The X actually means that it has no rating for whether or not solids can enter, strange that this part cannot be determined yet water reistance (the 7) can be? As far as I'm concerned IPX7 is a mickey mouse rating, proper equipment would be IP67 or IP68 rated, like the glands and box I use for my pump electrical system. In fact I think I have an IP69 connector and level 9 doesn't even appear on most lists!

Or as Tom put it:
It is a static test at 1m in fresh water, which adds <1.5>
Edit: I now have a return authorisation number and the unit is on its way to Southampton Special Delivery

Stinky Whales

The grey whales of Siberia may be on cetacean version of the Atkins diet. (Photo credit)

This is one hypothesis put forward by News Scientist, which is reporting (subscription only) possible reasons why Grey Whales of Siberia are stinking. Read more about the phenomenon in National Geographic News, posted last summer.

Lee Cooper at the University of Maryland Centre for Environmental Science in Cambridge, reckons food shortage may have caused the whales to switch their diets, altering their metabolism and producing ketones. They may enter the state known as "ketosis" in which they burn fat for energy, which in people causes bad breath.

Scientists in Mexico are trying to collect samples of their breath (how?!) for gas chromatography, which is how they worked out why people on the Atkins diet stank.

Kayak Garmin GPSmap76CSx Leak - update 2

So the saga continues.

Dear Simon Willis, Thank you for contacting Garmin International. IPX7 designation means that the unit is not 100% waterprrof rather it is water resistant. We do not offer any units that are 100% waterproof. Water damage is not covered by warranty.

My reply:

"I'm honestly not being a nag or an awkward git about this, I'm just trying to understand how to use the product I've bought for sea kayaking (as have other kayakers around the world). I refer you to your website

"An IPX7 designation means the GPS case can withstand accidental immersion in one meter of water for up to 30 minutes" This is not water-resistant, which is a lower IPX standard.

Can you refer me to any published marketing information on the Garmin website which says Water resistant, and not Waterproof?

We'll see. Garmin have offered to repair it this time.

Kayak Garmin GPSmap76CSx Leak - update 1

Thanks for all the constructive comments on my first post about the corroding terminals on the back of this unit. I've had a reply from Garmin.

Thank you for contacting Garmin International. The unit is not waterproof, rather it is water resistant. We will honor a warranty repair this time however any future water damage will not be covered under warranty.

Not waterproof? Garmin's own website says: The card slot is located inside the waterproof battery compartment, so you don't have to worry about getting it wet."

And under the unit Specs it says Waterproof: Yes (IPX7) An IPX7 designation means the GPS case can withstand accidental immersion in one meter of water for up to 30 minutes.

Amazon's description from the manufacturer says: This waterproof device also floats in water. You can recover your device very easily if ever it slips overboard.

I've asked to take them up on their offer but also requested clrification. I'll keep you posted.

Thirty Five Years Apart. Roughly.

Celtic Tiderace Expedition - Started

After a slight delay waiting for his boat to arrive, Patrick Winterton's website says he has begun his latest expedition.

'Celtic Tiderace' (as this adventure is now called) will focus on the little known islands off the coast of Ireland and will follow the story of St Brendan the navigator, a 6th century Irish saint. After reaching the Butt of Lewis, the northern point of the Hebrides Patrick will attempt to be the first paddler to kayak across 300km of open ocean to the Faroe Isles in a standard Tiderace Xplore sea kayak.

Patrick estimates that the 2200 kilometre route will take nine to ten weeks. The first of a million strokes will help to raise money for the the Backup Trust, a charity arranging activity courses for people with spinal injuries. I posted a short video with Patrick here.

Scottish Kayak Trail in Magazines

Articles have begun appearing in magazines and websites about the Scottish Kayak Trail.

Ocean Paddler Magazine ran a fairly long piece in the News section of issue 010.  It's not online, but if you haven't read it, you can download it from the Media Resources page of the trail website. has also run a piece.  My thanks to the web-editor John Bolivar.  

I hope more of my press releases might  pop-up in kayak mags around the world.  

Scottish Kayak Trail T-Shirts

At twenty quid, these t-shirts are not cheap.  But they will be scarce.

I was mucking about on SpreadShirt today and came up with this t-shirt, a polo shirt and a cap.  All of which bear the Scottish Kayak Trail branding.  Initially I just wanted them for myself.

Then I thought, you never know.  Others might want a SKT t-shirt.  Twenty minutes later I'd set up a shop.  I've ordered their stuff before and they're top quality, if rather pricey.  

But they are printed to order.

Video - Forward Paddling

I just checked my YouTube account and discovered this video of Shaun Caven demonstrating forward paddling technique has been watched more than three thousand times! So here's a repeat.

Kayak Garmin Waterproof GPS - Leaks?

The back of my Garmin GPSmap76CSx tells a sorry tale.

Removing the waterproof plug for the UBS connector, to transfer a track to the computer, I noticed a green corrosion. Removing the larger external aerial plug, which I don't use, there was even more green corrosion.

This was registered on 7 May 2008. I look after my kit, keeping it in an Aquapack dry bag when just tracking a route and only leaving it exposed on deck to navigate with its maps. When home, the unit comes out of the Aquapack bag and dries in a warm room where it's stored.

So why the corrosion? And what will Garmin do to help? I e-mailed Monday night and they promise a reply within three days. Let's see.

Warning - Snakes

This sign above a beach might stop you exploring.

I've not seen an adder, Britain's only poisonous snake, while paddling in Scotland. But this would suggest they're around. Lurking.

Or is it a subtle ploy to keep visitors away? Should we read the sign as saying "Get off my land"?

Perhaps I'm being paranoid. However, I once worked with a cameraman who put "Live Snakes" stickers on his equipment boxes to discourage thieves from breaking into his car.

Anti-Rudolf Cream

It's not flattering, but it works!

Another glorious day on the west coast of Scotland. In these conditions, Liz doesn't so much tan as stroke.

And her nose turns so red Santa would pick her over Rudolph to lead the sleigh team.

We bought a small tub of zinc cream a while ago for high altitude mountaineering and after searching old kit bags, Liz found it. The cream was deployed today, with semi-geisha like effect.

Me? I'm just frazzled to a crisp.