Scotland - Coldest Recorded Recember & January

I suspect this will be in the newspapers tomorrow, Monday.

I've just learnt that this December and January were the coldest in Scotland since records began in 1914.

Do People Still Buy DVDs?

He posted a few days ago, and if you haven't commented yet I'd urge you to contribute your thoughts. I'm fascinated to hear the conclusions!

Derrick asks: Are we video’d out and so far buried in the Youtube glut that we no longer value professional work? Are we less apt to pay for something we perceive we can get for free elsewhere? Maybe it’s oppositely true that we’re more apt to buy something because all the free junk makes us well aware of the good stuff? Maybe there is still so few of us who live online, that we won’t effect the outcome either way.. What are your thoughts on the state of media today?

Bear in mind Bryan Smith, creator of Eastern Horizons and Pacific Horizons, has decided to make his next release, The Season, available as a 22 episode download through iTunes.

I have absolutely no idea how Bryan can make money from this. Advertsing sponsorship? I hope he shares the secret!

NOT The iPad

I'm filming in north Scotland for a couple of days. I got back to the B&B, logged in, and amongst all the iPad hype, I found this from 2006.

Canoeing is Boring

Or then again, maybe not... not when it looks like this! Pre-order This Is Canoeing, the new DVD from Justine Curgenven, on her new-look website. I've seen some longer sequences from this DVD and it had me itching to pick up a single bladed paddle.

The Season - Video Trailer

New from Bryan Smith.... this.

To subscribe via iTunes visit Coming very soon.

The Season is a 22 episode, web TV series following five athletes through the course of a single season. A veteran climber invents a new piece of gear. A pro snowboarder searches for a way to return to the roots of his sport. A boulderer returns from a series of injuries with new perspective. A family man goes to Whistler to test himself against the mountain biking’s elite. A young sea kayaker with a troubled past sets out to reinvent his sport.

What A Musician

This is Alex Cornish and, in my humble opinion, he is going to be a very, very successful musician.

The 'next big thing'.

Superb song writing, a great ear for a melody line, an excellent voice, and an ability to play almost any instrument put in front of him. Not to mention good looking and skinny too.

Thirty of us were preveleged to hear him play at Watercolour Music's new studio in Ardgour. Alex had been recording some of his second album there with Nick Turner and Mary Ann Kennedy on Clarsach.

I bought Alex's first album Until the Traffic Stops and it's excellent! Sadly it doesn't have his cover version of the Guns 'n' Roses classic 'Sweet Child Of Mine', but you can find that on his MySpace page.

To watch him use an amazing piece of kit called a 'Loop Pedal' on one of his orginal songs, watch the video below. We saw this live and it is outstanding.

Outdoor Clothing e-bay Sale Ends Wednesday

This GoLite Windshirt is a classic piece of kit, almost historic.

It and the other pieces below are for sale by auction on e-bay. It's Medium size.

The sale ends Wednesday morning. I can only ship to the UK, sorry.

At the moment they're all going for less than £5.

If you're not sure how to get the best from e-bay I've put a little advice at the bottom of this post.

This windshirt is made to the design of ultralight hiking guru Ray Jardine. He drew the design in
Two other items.

I once did some photography work for Calange and had my pick of their catalogue. The jacket below was my favourite top. A windproof shell over a smooth fleece liner. It's a sperb piece of kit to have in your emergency bag as it can be worn next to the skin or over other clothing.

There's a long front zip and long side zips to allow ventilation and a big, usful front bib pocket. It's a great belay jacket when climbing too. (why the heck am I selling this....?)

This Berghaus Valkyrie fleece below is snuggly warm and in great condition. I've used it more as a 'pub-top' although it's goon on the hill too with a warm 'tunnel' hand pocket. It's sized Medium, but it's more like a Large.

When you see something you want to buy on e-bay, I recommend you work out in your own mind how much you're willing to pay for it. Then bid that amount, plus perhaps 50p so it's not a round fingure. Your bid will not leap to that amount, you've just set the maximum you're prepared to pay. Your bid will actually rise by only a few pounds. Unless, of course, someone else has also set a maximum. If your maximum is higher, then the bid will rise to a few quid over the defeated maximum and you'll still be winning. Try it. It's easy, as long as you stick to your maximum.

'Ferry Crisis' Becomes 'Ferry Rebellion'

The proposed loss of our Corran Ferry for 4-6 weeks this summer has brought the folk of Ardnamurchan Peninsular together like nothing else. (Previous posts).

All the Community Councils have come together, and sought expert opinion. The conclusion - the ferry doesn't have to be taken off at all. (Also reported in the Lochaber News.)

We're heading to a house concert at Watercolour Music's new studio today. I know Mary Ann and Nick are very concerned at the impact the ferry loss will have on their business.

In between the excellent music from Alex Cornish, I suspect the ferry will be the hot topic of conversaton.

Any Translators In Scandinavia?

We cannot pay you, but we will give you whatever support we can.

We would very much like to make translations available in other languages too.

Most European copies of the DVD have sold to Scandinavia, particularly Norway and Denmark.

If anyone in Scandinavia or anywhere else!) would like to do a similar translation we'd gladly give you all the support we can and credit your work. My email address is under my profile picture.

And no, I don't need a Geordie translation - I can do that myself!

Transcript Of Gordon Brown's Coaching Sessions

We hope this will be a helpful resource to sea kayakers.

There is also a Spanish translation.

These download as .PDF files, with each session as a separate document.

From the feedback we've already received, these look like they will be a popular addition to the DVD. And much easier to take onto the water for reference!

Blue Peter Presenter to Kayak the Amazon

The 2010 mile distance is rather appropriate given the year.

That's how far Blue Peter presenter Helen Skelton will kayak down the Amazon River, according to this report on BBC Newsround.

The site also claims she'll set a world record for the longest solo journey by kayak.

Err, how about Freya's Australian circumnavigaton? That was 8565 miles.

Dolphin vv Kayak

A dolphin which hangs around New Zealand is making headlines in Scotland. It seems Moko is rather boisterous and has been known to flip kayaks. According to the Aberdeen based Press and Journal newspaper, police are investigating an alleged 'attack' on Moko by a disgruntled canoeist. Seems nice enough in this video.

'Revolutionary' Kayak Paddle Blade Design (?)

This is the Raptor kayak paddle from Backwater Paddles. You might like to read the comments below!

That hook and saw-tooth design is not for hydrodynamic, although the company insist these don't suffer.

The unusual design is to allow paddlers to 'push off' or 'grab onto' objects.

In their Press Release they say The “hook” on the top of the radically designed blades affords the paddler the opportunity to grab onto lines, docks, trees, boats, swimmers, floating gear, or anything you can possibly snag. The “teeth” on the outside blade edge provide positive contact during any pushing evolution with the paddles.

Previously the company produced hand paddles with similar features. You can see on in use below.

10 Years of Adventure Kayak Magazine

It started early in 2001. It says, "Ever since then we've been able to count our birthdays by the numbers on the calendar. "

Really? Surely it's first birthday would be in 2002?

I'm splitting hairs. Happy 10th birthday when it happens and well done fo surviving so long in a difficult market.

Utterly Superb Footage

This sequence shows the sort of footage Bryan Smith and Matt Maddaloni's new 'cable cam' can produce. For a video maker, this is absolutely mind blowing with one of the highest 'how the f*** did they do that" factor I've seen in ages. Seriously, seriously impressive.

In the summer of 2009, Reel Water Productions teamed up with expert rigger and engineer Matt Maddaloni to design a remote control cable cam. Complete with pan/tilt/roll, zoom and focus control, and a motor that drives the thing at over 60kph we had an amazing year in the field.

Divided By A Common Language

We're making available a written transcript of the coaching sessions in the DVD Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown.

One or two American customers have told me they've struggled to comprehend certain parts of the coaching due to Gordon's Scottish accent.

Now, I had tested this with friends in Spain and Norway, all of whom found they could 'tune in' to Gordon's way of speaking. Because they could understand him, I did not anticipate the need for subtitles in the US.

No matter. Customers can now download PDF transcripts of the coaching sessions, including a Spanish translation by Wenley. Links will soon be on the main DVD website too.

Live Webcast

This was my view of the small studio in Inverness where I recently presented two live 'Webcasts'.

I've been presenting TV programmes for more than thirty years, but this was a first. A live, interactive programme for business users.

The chap in shot is a top accountant who was there to answer questions submitted in real time by the viewers. I was there to hold the thing together.

It's starting small but has the potential to be an excellent communications tool.

Ferry News Becomes 'Ferry Crisis'!

The Leader of Highland Council now reportedly describes the situation with our Corran Ferry as a 'Real crisis'.

That's quite a ramping up. Last week this was discussed at a public meeting. Yesterday it was on a newspaper front page. Today, The Press And Journal newspaper has followed up the story.

It's the story you've read here before with two extra points.

Firstly, all the diverted traffic would go past the end of the Council Leader's drive.

Secondly, he make the point there's a 'clear risk of sudden and serious failure' of the ferry jetty. So is it safe to keep in service now?

At least he's insisting other options are investigated, such as night-time only working and/or a temporary slipway. There will be more to come!

Free Composite Sea Kayak with Every DVD

Or perhaps the other way around....

Each composite sea kayak they sell in 2010 will come with a free copy of our DVD Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown. Precisely how they package the DVD into the kayaks they're working on now.

Pete was very supportive when he saw the rough cut of part of the DVD last May at the Scottish Sea Kayak Symposium on Skye. As a result of that conversation, I proposed this partnership to him and Jason.

I'm delighted with their appraisal of the DVD, "It is undoubtably the most exciting sea kayaking DVD release of 2010 and Valley is very proud to be associated with it".

Valley are one of Gordon's sponsors which is why we used Valley sea kayaks throughout the filming. (Except for Jim who liked his NDK Explorer too much to switch).

We have done a special pressing of the DVD for Valley to distinguish their promotional copies from the retail versions. Their copies are NTSC format, so they'll work on newer European DVD players (which play PAL and NTSC) and also on North American players (which tend to be NTSC only). The content, however, is the same.

Ferry News = Front Page News

Two days after it was on this blog, of course. Then I wrote in the Comments, 'I'm sure we haven't heard the last of this'.

David Ross is a respected journalist and he immediately identifies the key issue.

He writes, "Some of the most westerly communities in the British mainland are predicting weeks of gridlock when the Corran Ferry is suspended, meaning round trips to Fort William will increased by almost 75 miles."

Exactly. This is not the issue Highland Council would like to address. Their representatives prefer to argue, 'the work must be done so the ferry must be shut'. That's not the point.

Can the work be done in a different way to reduce the closure duration? They don't know.
What alternatives have been considered, such using the small ferry to one of the Ballachulish slipways? Don't know.

How will they manage the huge traffic flow around tiny roads? Not only had they not spoken to the Police until just before last week's public meeting, they have not done a risk assesment on the road diversion.

Yes, we will hear more of this.

Hill Day

We have a couple of cracking Corbett mountains right on our doorstep. Pull on the boots and just go.
Normally, approaches are boggy. When the peat is frozen it's superb conditions in which to walk these hills.

With the sun above the hillside for only six hours, we didn't have enough time to get all the way up Sgurr Dhomhnuill. We came back to the mines and crossed over the ridge which divides one valley from the other where we live.

It looks lovely, but there was a biting wind higher up yesterday.

And In Ferry News....

Our local Corran Ferry might be out of action for four-five weeks May-June.

It could play havoc with the tourist industry here, not to mention other businesses as we might all have to drive around Loch Eil to leave the peninsular.

The work must be done. A metal eating bacteria (!!!) is attacking the steel that supports the concrete slipway and it could fail.

Highland Council held a public meeting in the village school last week (we didn't know it was happening !) but the officials had remarkably few answers to people's questions regarding alternative arrangements.

They have timetabled the work so the ferry will be off from towards the end of May until early June. If (when?!) the programme slips, this could mean no ferry at the height of the tourist season.

With only £650,000 to spend, the work is timetabled for the best weather so it takes the least amount of time and saves Highland Council money. However, that timetable might cost local businesses more money. Had a cost / benefit analysis for the timing been done? Apparently not from what I've been told.

The alternative route around the loch involves an hour's drive on very small, single track roads.

Large logging lorries use the ferry. If two of them met while driving around the loch the road could easily be blocked.

Add in a caravan or two and the result could be chaos. There was apparently talk of setting up a vast one-way system for larger vehicles, following the route we recently cycled, all 80 miles of it. Some diversion!

There's talk of increasing the frequency of the small Camasnangaul passenger ferry, but there's very little parking where it berths so that's not an option for commuters to Fort William. So could a different passenger ferry be brought in to serve the Corran route, so people can leave cars on the Nether Lochaber side and use the bus this side? I don't know.

Astonishingly, this seems to be the first thing most people knew about the plans to cancel the lifeline service for several weeks. I'm told the ferry-workers didn't know. What's more, it was also a surprise to Sheil Busses, who run a service that uses the ferry. What alternative arrangements have been made for public transport? I don't know.

All I can find in this Press Release and a pile of council minutes. Who trawls through them on a routine basis?

Our solution is simple. That's when we'll take the campervan to Orkney and Shetland to go kayaking.

Hundreds Gather to Protest Against Global Warming

This Snowy Week

Everyone has a story in conditions like these.

For those of you reading from outside the UK, our country is gripped by snow fever.

If you believe the stories from my previous industry then road-salt is running out, heating gas is running out, electricity is... you get the idea.

We prepare for the average winter, which in recent years has been mild, and consequently can't cope when it turns out to be a particularly severe winter, -22.3 Celcius on Thursday night in Altnahara.

This NASA satellite image was on almost every front page yesterday; the BBC ran a TV 'Snow Special' and its online site is dominated by snow stories; and everywhere people are coping as best they can.

We've been back in Scotland for a week now. As I wrote at the start of this week, very little snow has fallen here on the west coast since before Christmas, but what's on the ground is like concrete and going nowhere.

Look carefully at that NASA image. (Large file here).

Zoom in on Scotland's west coast, and I'm sure the white isn't as blanket a covering there.

Once we knew our neighbours were ok, we've concentrated on feeding the birds who visit our garden. How they survive these temperatures is astonishing.

Our local Pine Marten, (video) who we haven't seen much of this year, is also visiting again. If it's a 'she' then she's probably pregnant now. The kits will not appear until the spring.

And it comes to something when the sea is warmer than the air!

Loch Linnhe looked like it was steaming yesterday morning, with cloud hanging over it all the way from the south of Lismore to Fort William.

We had to venture there to stock up on food for all our dependent animals and ourselves.

Everywhere, people have snow stories.

The outdoor equipment store Blacks looked like it had a burst pipe, with the lights off in part of the store. All coffee machines in the supermarket cafe had failed. And much more.

But folk were coping. Folk always do.

The queues in the supermarket were longer than before Christmas.

Possibly because there were fewer staff on the tills (Liz's theory).

Or because customers were stocking up in order to make fewer shopping trips in the bad weather (my theory).

Still no signs of shortage.

And it seems the UK is far from being alone. We like to think that other countries cope well in the snow while the UK doesn't.

Well, it seems this cold snap it rather exceptional around Europe and indeed, around the world.

Friends in Norway are experiencing much the same with exceptionally cold temperatures near the coast and staggeringly low temperatures inland.

In this photo, a woman throws a cup of boiling water into the air then watches it fall to the ground as snow! You can watch it on video.

In the Lillehammer area and further north it's -45C.

So I guess we have no reason to complain just yet.

Stolen Kayak Kit

If anyone offers you some cheap kayak kit - check this list. It might be stolen!

A huge amount of gear was stolen over Christmas from a locked store at Glasgow University. Some of it was privately owned kit, some belonged to the Glasgow University Canoe Club.

On the downloadable PDF list there are telephone numbers to call if you're offered anything or can help with information.

Update 11/1/10. It looks like almost all the kit has been recovered after an attempt to sell some of it on ebay.

Ever Wondered What 1500 DVDs Looks Like?

Solo Circumnavigation of South Georgia

Hayley Shephard is trying to solo kayak around South Georgia. Here's some recently recorded unedited news shots of her in Alert Bay. She is required by British law to have a support vessel, but she insists it is not there for support. It is there for search and rescue if she fails.

It looks like she will be in touch with the outside world. She is posting Audio updates on her blog and there's a documentary film-maker with her so we can follow her progress which starts on 22nd January.

Hayley calls her expedition Kayaking To Save The Albatross. Her website says it's believed longline fishing is the main culprit, with hundreds of thousands of seabirds caught on baited hooks.

Here's some info about Hayley:

Being born and raised in New Zealand, having owned, operated and lived on a 31ft sailboat and now residing on an island in the northern regions of Vancouver Island, it seems Hayley has spent her entire life surrounded by the sea.

Her profession as a teacher extended gradually into the wilderness and as a guide and naturalist, Hayley has lead people of all ages into the world’s richest natural environments on wilderness expeditions and nature tours.

She spends her winters in the far south on the frozen coastal edge of the Antarctic continent; her summers include exploring the Northwest Passage, Baffin Island and various other islands and regions of the Canadian High Arctic as well as piloting vessels in the remote, northern inlets of the Pacific Northwest.

Here she guides people on excursions in grizzly and black bear habitat, and leads marine tours in the waterways where killer whales and humpback whales are frequently sighted.

In Hayley’s earlier guiding career she lead 7-10 day kayaking expeditions in the coastal paradise of Baja in Mexico, and the inside passage of British Columbia, Canada.

If you'd like to hear what it's like to kayak around South Georgia as part of a team, listen to Jeff Allen's Podcast - (Direct link to MP3 file).

Go Kayak Now! reviews Sea Kayak With Gordon Brown

A knowledgable and well argued review of our DVD, Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown has appeared on GoKayakNow!

I find such constructive criticism really helpful as we're now at a stage where we're thnking about Volume 2 of the DVD.

The main critical observation is, and I paraphrase, 'what level of paddler is this aimed at'? I've added a comment to GoKayakNow! to try to explain this key point.

We can ALL learn.

The review also remaks on Gordon's singing, which I shot as we floated into a cave. Apparently, this is considered SO good it is worth the price of the DVD alone!

Eastern USA Circumnavigation. Eh?

A kayaker called Jacob Stachovak has recently set out to kayak the route in this map. It's 5,000 mile a circumnavigation of the eastern part of the USA.

It's a backyard adventure to prove exciting times can be had anywhere. By passing through small towns, all linked by water, Jake hopes to show how we are all linked.

Nice idea. But.... Read this blog entry.

After just 27 days he is having a tough time. Not with the kayaking. "My problem seems to be with towns and the people therein", he says.

Like being sprayed in the eyes for a prank. Like subsequently receiving little help when he was clearly in distress. Not nice idea.

When we hiked the Pacific Crest Trail (our journal) the people we met turned out to be the highlight of our trip, but in a good way. I can only hope things take a turn for the better for Jake.

Coup Attempt at Scottish Canoe Association?

I'm honestly not sure what's going on at the Scottish Canoe Association - hence the question mark in the title above.

But it looks like a coup attempt.

This statement from the SCA Board to all SCA Members (PDF) shows how acerbic things have become. The board accuses 25 members, who have requested a General Meeting, of making statements which are untrue. Close to calling them liars. Why?

The 25 members have called a General Meeting on 24th January. Their names (I don't know any of them) are listed in the Calling Notice (PDF) as are the three items they wish discussed. Two involve fees, while the third, and seemingly most important item, requests a review of coaching and the UKCC Awards in Scotland.

Some very specific terms are set out for this review. In particular, the SCA members who conduct the review should not be SCA officers, officials, technical or other committee or board members.

To me, that's the bit which sounds like a coup attempt.

This whole issue is like an iceberg with much more below the surface. It has a long history too, growing in size and frigidity over the years. There's also the constant threat of topping over and wrecking all around. I wonder - is that the objective?

The response document from the SCA Board (PDF), in formal language, requests all members to vote against all three resolutions. Either turn up in person, they say, or return the voting form giving authority to the Chair of the meeting. The voting paper, Calling Notice and Board Response, was mailed to every SCA Member. I'd recommend reading them and voting.

Notice what's missing? The 'other side' of the argument. Shouldn't the mail-shot have included an un-moderated statement from the gang of 25?

If the 25 send a statement to me I'll reproduce it in full.

According to a contribution on this Forum thread, the 25 signatories apparently did not take up the opportunity to meet and discuss the wording of what was being sent out. I suspect it might be more complicated than that.

Members should vote the way they feel is correct. But vote. For more discussion, check out this Forum Thread.

Amazing Whale Photos from a Kayak

This phenomenal shot of humpback whales in a feeding frenzy was taken from a sea kayak off Alaska.

I spotted the article about Devon born Duncan Murrell in the Mail Online where there are more of his truly astonishing shots. They're all copyright Barcroft Media.

You can see more of Duncan's photos and buy copies here. Also in The Guardian.

Not Good Weather for Ducks

Ducks can look grumpy. Especially when their pond is frozen.
They don't ice skate - after all, it is pretty tricky with those webbed feet.

And while they might be capeable of displaying very few emotions, 'grumpy' is one they most definitely 'do'.

A 13 hour drive brought us back to Strontian on Saturday. Sunday was spent getting everything dug out or gritted or warmed-up.

It was -10c overnight. Some readers in snowy North America or Scandinavia may scoff at such balmy temperatures. But here, we are simply no longer accustomed to such a long, big freeze.

It hasn't (hardly) snowed since we left. But that dump of snow before Christmas has gone through the destructive metamorphosis cycle of freeze-thaw. The result is as hard as concrete.

For our crofter friends, it means struggling up and down the hill with supplies of water for their cows, pigs, geese and chickens. And, of course, breaking the ice on the duck pond.

Yesterday's Scotland On Sunday forecast this cold spell was set to last for another two weeks. The ducks are going to be grumpy for some time yet.