House Concert with Laura Cortese

This is Laura Cortese, a wonderful musician from New England who is currently touring Scotland and England.

This afternoon she and her band were playing at a friend's house.

I say 'house' but actually it's a recording studio, Watercolour Music in Ardgour, here on the Ardnamurchan peninnsular. It's run by Mary Ann Kennedy and her husband Nick Turner who in the last few months have become friends of ours.

They had the idea to start 'house concerts', something I believe is popular among musos in the US. If they have a big house.

With just eighteen invited friends it was a cosy, intimate affair. Had we been able to predict the weather it could even have been held outdoors.

As it was, the sound was superb and the music first class. We left with a CD from Laura and one by guitarist Jefferson Hamer.

With their first house concert, Mary and Nick have set a high standard which will be a challenge to beat. IFuture events will be hosted in their new studio, currently being built in Cona Glen.

I hope we're invited to more!

It makes living here in 'the wilds', as some people see them, all the more special when such creative people come to share their gifts.

Waterproof Video Camera

I recently bought a small Sanyo CA9 video camera and devised a very simple rig which screws into deck fittings.
This is a VERY rough video, showing the shot I could achieve with the camera mounted on the furthest most fittings and the nearest.  As you'll see, the big problem is the lens just isn't wide-angle enough for what I'm trying to achieve.  Nor is the small lens very good quality.  For fast video in HD it's great, but not for a boat mount I fear.


Finally my Nordkapp has a name.
Suggested by Erling when we were skiing earlier this year, it's Njord, the Norwegian God whose domain is the sea.  Njord is not unlike Neptune.

The boat spent its first few years of life with 'Scottish Kayak Trail' down one side. It was demeaning, Liz insisted, to use a fine boat as an advertising hoarding.

Then Pesda Press changed the name of the book to Scottish Sea Kayak Trail, and P&H loaned us two excellent Cetus to paddle the route, so the sticker had to go.

Scottish Sea Kayak Symposium Photos

This is Turner Wilson who, with his partner Cheri Perry, took Greenland skills and rolling classes each day.  Turner had also run a week-long kayak building workshop. 

There'll be a podcast with each sometime in the future.  

For now, take a look at some photos from this years symposium.

Scotland to Faroes - A Second Attempt

Patrick Winterton and Mick Berwick are to make a second attempt to paddle from Stornoway to the Faroe Islands.  Celtic Tiderace 2.

Their last attempt was described by one newspaper as 'The Mount Everest of Kayaking'. However, it ended abruptly with a lifeboat rescue after they drank bad water on North Rona.  This time around they're raising money for the RNLI and will soon have a great competition live on their website.

Patrick will briefly talk about the attempt on Saturday night at the Scottish Sea Kayak Symposium on Skye.  Then they'll embark on a 48 hour kayak around Skye, sleeping in their boats, practicing for the Faroes crossing.

I'll not now blog the symposium.  I've been booked by The Adventure Show to video Patrick and Mick while on Skye then spend some time with them in June on the Western Isles, hopefully following them to the Faroes.  Not in a kayak.

Liz and I were going kayaking around the Western Isles for our summer holiday.  Now I'm not sure she's too happy it has turned into 'work'....

Scotish Sea Kayak Symposium

It doesn't look a great forecast for Saturday, the first day of the Scottish Sea Kayak Symposium.  I hope to be blogging the event if I can find the time.

I have copies of the draft programmes.  There will be an excellent variety of water and land based practical sessions; full day-trips with quality coaches, such as a crossing to Rum with Kevin Mansell & Nigel Dennis (weather permitting); plus class-room seminars and slide-shows.

My guess is most over-subscribed will be Turner Wilson and Cheri Perry. They're going to stay wet all weekend! They have 'Greeland Skills' sessions Saturday and Sunday morning, then 'Greenland Rolling 1' sessions, both afternoons and all day Monday.

Jim Kennedy and Donald Thomson will do a full day of forward paddling Saturday (Podcasts with both in the Library), with Les Kirkpatrick taking over on the Sunday morning.

Photographers should be well pleased.  On Sunday morning, Justine Curgenven will teach a full morning seminar on 'Video Technique', while on Monday morning Douglas Wilcox will take a practical session on 'Taking Better Pictures'.  Bring your cameras.  Again, Podcasts with both.

I've just mentioned thirteen sessions.  There are seventy five sessions in total.  Plus demo kayaks.  Plus Trevor Potts giving the evening talk on Saturday, 'In the Wake and Footsteps of Shackleton'.

And on Sunday night, the talk is 'Scotland's Inside Passage' by some bloke called Willis.  Sounds like a blatant book advert.

My First Triathlon. Done.

Goodness they have nice facilities at Eton College! 400m open water swim in the lake where David Cameron may have practiced his skulling. I'm a poor swimmer and surprised myself by finishing that leg around mid-pack.
Cycling was going to be my thing. I dropped onto the big chainring and just went for it. 20km is the distance of our usual training ride, a climb to the cattlegrid in Glen Tarbert. This 20km was flat, but with a killer headwind down the long back straight. Still, 4 laps of the rowing lake flew past and felt like relatively easy riding compared to Ardnamurchan's hills.
My transitions went remarkably well considering I'd never done this before but the 5km run felt tough. Two laps of an out-and-back course up the side of the rowing lake. A much shorter distance than I normally run but at a faster pace.
No results are published yet, and I didn't have a watch, but I'm guessing I was around 1hr 18min. If Liz counted correctly I was 7th out of T2 for my age group, and I think I was overtaken twice by my age group runners. We'll see how I fared against the other "super vets".
edit - my timing chip seems to have failed - I'm not in the results!
Would I do it again? Possibly. But right now I'm keen to do more sea kayaking and don't want training to get in the way. The programme for the Skye Symposium came through this morning- more on that later.
It was fun though...

Is This The Right Yard For An Argument?

Well I told you once.... This is in Whitby, part of our tour,
gradually heading south. Yesterday a great ride across the causeway to
Lindisfarne as part of a longer ride. Then we drove to the North York
Moors National Park for today's trip to Dracula-land. After doing the
tourist-thing we headed a little further south to just outside York. I
did an lovely evening ride in fantastic light, just to keep the legs
working, and tomorrow we'll go into York itself. If the good weather
ends we'll jump on the motorway and drive through the night to where
we're really heading.

Northumberland Cycling

I'm back on home territory in Northumberland. We're taking a week to drive 'doon sooth' (as we say in these parts) for next weekend's Tri event. No sea kayaks with us, just the road bikes. So after a quick  blast with Alister and Jo today we headed to the coast and parked the  campervan in a layby where we're watching a lovely sunset. 

Another ride tomorrow down the coast then we're heading to North Yorkshore Moors.

Podcast - First Kayak Crossing of Bering Strait 1989

Trevor Potts will be the Saturday night keynote speaker at the Scottish Sea Kayak Symposium in two weeks.

Trevor hasn't yet decided which presentation to give. He has a few to choose from. He spends four months each year lecturing on cruise ships in the Antarctic.

He recreated Shackleton's voyage from Elephant Island to South Georgia in 1984. He also crossed South Georgia on foot. He might tell that tale, which will be the subject of a future podcast.

Trevor was also one of the team which first kayaked from Alaska to the former Soviet Union in 1989. This Bering Strait story is the subject of a special one hour podcast just published at It's an astonishing tale, including nearly getting shot three times, being imprissoned by Soviet troops after Trevor discovered one of his group worked for the CIA, and nearly being run down by an icebreaker. 

Listen to the interview - you won't be disappointed.

However, the publishing system I use now turns the Podcasts into m4a files (whether I like it or not) which will be dragged automatically onto your machine if you subscribe. If you have a problem playing m4a, then you can download the mp3 version of the file directly from the Podcast Library.

Subscribe free to ensure you don't miss the updates.

Ghost Bikes

I drive past this memorial to Jason MacIntyre every time I head north through Fort William.
Yesterday I decided to stop and take a closer look. That's how I discovered

From the website: Ghost Bikes are small and somber memorials for bicyclists who are killed or hit on the street.

A bicycle is painted all white and locked to a street sign near the crash site, accompanied by a small plaque. They serve as reminders of the tragedy that took place on an otherwise anonymous street corner, and as quiet statements in support of cyclists' right to safe travel.

The first ghost bikes were created in St. Louis, Missouri in 2003, and they have since appeared in over 80 cities throughout the world. For those who create and install the memorials, the death of a fellow bicyclist hits home. We all travel the same unsafe streets and face the same risks; it could just as easily be any one of us.

Each time we say we hope to never have to do it again -- but we remain committed to making these memorials as long as they are needed.

Open Water Swim. 5th May. Scottish Loch. Oh Dear.

It had to be done.  
My new wetsuit, bought specifically for my first triathlon in twelve days time, has been sitting in a kit box, silently urging me to try it out.  

So I did.  Boy is that water cold!

But not on the places covered by the suit.  My feet and hands, covered in kayaking neoprene kit, and my uncovered neck were by far the coldest parts of my body.  I hesitate to say the rest of me was warm, but I could manage a short swim.

Liz has decided we should start each day with an open water swim to get me accustomed to the experience.  I'm less convinced that this is a healthy pursuit.  

It's the first time I've done this and it's always exciting to try new things.  But honestly, at my age, perhaps I ought to know better.

Christening Gary

Last weekend we christened Scotty.  Having tried him, Liz realised mountian bikes have improved somewhat in the last thirteen years since she bought hers.  So we splashed some more cash onto the Visa card, and she brought home a lovely Gary Fisher Tassajara from Nevis Cycles.  We christened him on a short ride above Loch Teacus, one of our regular kayaking locations.

Why all the biking?  I'm in the Eton Super-Sprint Triathlon in two weekends so I need to keep the legs working.  After that, it'll be back in the kayak for the summer.