Relay Kayaking Cyprus to Israel - The Movie

The text below accompanies the movie - it's nothing to do with me! But it looks a lot warmer than here.

All those who have sat in a kayak and paddled westward from Israel’s shores have asked themselves the same question: How can one paddle 180 nautical miles (some 350 km) from Cyprus to Israel? This challenge of crossing sea area Crusade had been the dream of many, but had so far been unfulfilled.

During the summer of 2010 a decision was taken: It was time to realize the dream.

After discussing various options and scenarios, we decided we’d make the crossing in two kayaks, each paddled by three people, accompanied by a yacht for safety and rest. The paddlers chosen were all instructors at Terra Santa, the first sea kayak club to open in Israel.

Omer Singer, one of the paddlers and one of Terra Santa's founders, had shot this video with a small waterproof HD camera.

Report of Following the Scottish Sea Kayak Trail

Last summer, Gael Auffret used my guidebook to The Scottish Sea Kayak Trail to paddle Scotland's west coast.


At the start he refers to it a lot, but as he becxomes more familiar with the coast, the book crops up less frequently in his description. Which is good.

When I checked it was OK to link to his report, Gael told me, "The most interesting feature of your book is that there are at least 3 books in one. The first is the one you read before going when you don't know anything about the place you intend to paddle. The second is the one you read along the trail, when you prepare next day's navigation or reflect upon the paddle of the day. The third one is the one you read later, once you' ve returned to your regular life."

I'll be honest - I'm rather chuffed with that analysis. Thank you.

Another Scottish Expedition Being Planned

When it's cold and snowy outside, and the last thing you want to do is climb in a damp kayak, then its time to start planning for next Spring.

Chris Seals is doing just that, planning a solo circumnavigation of the Isle of Skye to raise money for Help For Heroes. He has done similar things in the past.


However, in this case, 'planning' also means training, something he's recording on his blog which Chris will also update during the expedition.

So that's Chris and Bruce, both planning 'local' expeditions, in that they're not to some far flung corner of the globe. Makes me want to get the maps out.

See Snow Conditions on Scotland's Roads

If you're heading to Scotland this winter you might find it useful to see snow conditions on the roads in real time.

The Traffic Scotland website has a series of webcams dotted around the country. The one alongside shows the A82 not far from where we live.

Admittedly, not all work all of the time, especially in really bad weather.

But people who drive around the country a lot tell me it's particularly helpful to eyeball the road on which you might be driving.

Another part of the website shows current travel incidents, from breakdowns and delays to complete snow closures.

Coastguard Station Closures - Have Your Say

Scotland will have just one 24 hour coastguard station, in Aberdeen.

Concerns about this were dismissed by a UK Government Minister, with breathtaking arrogance, as "scare mongering". He is wrong.

This is reserved issue. It's not devolved to the Scottish Parliament or Government. But it will be a big issue and might influence the Scottish elections in May.

It is noticeable how fast Scottish Liberal democrats are moving to distance themselves by decisions taken by their colleagues in the Westminster Coalition Government. Tavish Scott is quoted in this BBC story.

[Edit: A campaign is underway at Holyrood and in the Outer Hebrides]

Sea Kayak Podcasts .com Updated

If you're a subscriber to SeaKayakPodcasts.com, you might notice a few old Podcasts have appeared in your iTunes reader.

A series of recent changes to Apple's MobileMe system mean I've had to re-work the website. Not once, but twice!

I'm currently re-publishing several podcasts, which were released earlier this year, so new subscribers can find them in iTunes.

So no, you're not in a time warp. I am.

Next real update will be early January and will feature an interview with Commander Eric Soares of the Tsunami Rangers.

The video below shows the sort of sea kayaking they enjoy.

+++ Coastguard Stations Slashed - Just 3 To Work 24hrs

18 stations cut to just 8 with only 3 of them providing 24 hour cover.

Giving just one private company all UK Search and Rescue Helicopter operations has been delayed, because a foreign company is part of the favoured consortium Soteria, as we reported yesterday.

UK Search and Rescue has a part military function, which is why the RAF and Royal Navy have their own teams.

The government says a "possible issue" has arisen with a "foreign" consortium's bid to take over the running of the fleet from the RAF. This possible issue had arisen in the last 48 hours, so the decision is postponed pending clarification.

Sea Kayaking UK and Lendal Working on DVD - Video

'Sea Kayaking UK and Lendal are working on a new DVD over the following year, filming sea kayaking in its most extreme conditions.' It's being made by Romany Productions.

Last Post Before Christmas

We got it in the ground before the snow came.

We're building a covered seat / bird hide in the garden.

What?


How Long Before Rescues Require Insurance?

Several factors are combining to make rescue insurance for sea kayakers and hill walkers seem a distinct possibility. I sincerely hope not. I'll try to summarise what's happening.

The fear is, casualties will have to pay for rescues. Yesterday a Government spokesman attempted to reassure us this is not the case, but gave newspapers this very un-reassuring quote.

"There are no plans to introduce charges".

Note the "there are no plans..." form of words. That's exactly the same, transparent rhetorical device used on many previous occasions.

For example, to suggest they wouldn't increase VAT after the election. On gaining power, they promptly announced VAT would rise. (Read this if you don't remember).

A more reassuring promise comes, in the same article, from Alfie Ingram, Scottish Mountain Rescue Committee Chairman. He is quoted as saying, "It's not going to happen - not in our lifetime".

Phew! That's that then? Well, maybe not.

The same article reports 'Cairngorm MRT Leader Willie Anderson feared Scotland could
become like the Alps, where skiers and climbers are advised to take out insurance cover' ... and the same rules could apply to anyone else involved in a rescue.

There's no direct quote from him to express this, but the sentiment seems clear.

Having to pay for rescues is an idea which keeps cropping up, and is dismissed as a non-story. So what's changed? In my view, it's the timing of three developments, two of which have been well publicised.

Firstly, the Search and Rescue Helicopters (SAR-H) will be outsourced to a private operator using a Private Finance Initiative contract. The favourite is a consortium called Soteria. (Their powerpoint 'pitch' is downloadable here).

Soteria includes RBS and Thales, and since you ask, is the name of the Greek goddess of safety, deliverance and preservation from harm.

The stated aim is to create a harmonised SAR Service operated by one provider, rather than the current mix of RAF, Royal Navy and civilian rescue helicopters working for the MCA.

The service is part 'privatised' now, as a company called CHC already operates an 'interim' service for the coastguard, including Shetland and Stornoway.

Incidentally, CHC is the largest global supplier of civilian helicopters and is part of the Soteria consortium.

Secondly, the Department for Transport is expected to propose cutting the number of coastguard stations in Britain from 19 to 8, losing 250 jobs and saving £7.5m a year.

That photo shows the Channel 16 desk and ops room at Clyde Coastguard.

Those two issues are enough to start people thinking that perhaps, just perhaps, we might end up paying for rescues. But there's one more little niggle.

There may be a change in the way Scottish teams are part-funded by the Scottish Government.

I still need to check this out further, but I'm told more call-outs will mean more money. Given the quiet teams need a base level of money to maintain training, while busy teams actually get more experience, this is not as sensible a notion as it might at first sound. It's all to easy to envisage a range of possibilities arising from this situations.

On a much smaller scale, don't forget what's happened regarding the disposal of flares. We used to be able to do this at Coastguard stations. Now this service is highly limited, so many of us have ended up paying for disposal.

So let's hope this 'paying for rescues' is a non-story and, once again, the idea of requiring insurance goes away. At least for a while. Here's Stoteria's promo video.


Winter Safety Lectures - Full List

21 free winter safety lectures, by 12 speakers at 6 events across Scotland have been organised by the Mountaineering Council of Scotland.

Each starts at 8pm, lasts about 45 minutes and the expert advice is well worth listening to if you're near any of these places.

Glencoe, Aviemore, Perth, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness.

The full calendar with dates, location and name of speaker is as follows:

The Clachaig Inn, Glencoe. (Tuesday evenings)

1st & 8th February. Roger Wild

15th & 22nd February. Adele Pennington

1st & 8th March. Tom Gilchrist

The Mountain Café, Aviemore. (Wednesday evenings)

12th & 26th January. Nick Carter

2nd & 23rd February. Simon Steer

9th February. Cameron McNeish

16th February & 2nd March. George McEwan

9th March. David “Heavy” Whalley BEM MBE

Tiso Stores. (Thursday evenings)

27th January. Stuart Johnston. Perth

3rd February. Tamsin Gay. Edinburgh

10th February. Rosie Goolden. Glasgow

17th February. Di Gilbert. Inverness

24th February. Stuart Johnston. Perth

3rd March. Stuart Johnston. Edinburgh

10th March. Stuart Johnston. Glasgow

West Coast Kayak Challenge - an Adventure to Follow

Expeditions don't have to be to the world's far off places. There's plenty of excitement to be found much nearer home.

So meet Bruce - someone who has set himself just such a challenge in aid of a special cause.

I met Bruce on 5 star training at Skyak Adventures, and together we puzzled over the planning of a tidal crossing to Orkney. Having done some practical work with him on the water too, I have no hesitation in admitting he's a much better sea kayaker than me.

Bruce wants to use whatever publicity he can generate about his West Coast Challenge to help raise a serious amount of money for some good causes.

My advice was to start blogging early. Already you can read about his training and preparation for his voyage. He has managed a test entry from the water, so he can update readers while the challenge is underway.

So what is this challenge? And what are these good causes? I bet you already know what I'm going to say. You can find out everything on his blog:


Even with a voyage close to home like this one, there's a heck of a lot can go wrong, especially during the planning and preparation.

When it does, that's when Bruce has to force himself to the computer and write a blog entry, because those are the moments which will be among the most interesting for his readers.

Good luck!

So Farewell Off Beat Bikes

Yesterday one of our two local independent bike shops closed.

I'll be honest, I have mixed feelings. I prefered the service and stock at Nevis Cycles where we bought both our mountain bikes.

And now they will face some stiff competition.

Alpine Bikes has bought the Off Beat Bikes shop. They're a much bigger business, ninteen years old with seven stores around Scotland. So the team at Nevis Cycles face a challenge.

At least it's not another empty shop on the Fort William high street. And if it drives up the standard of kit and service on offer in the Outdoor Capital of the UK, then that has to be a good thing.

Tierra Del Fuego

By now you probably know Justine Curgenven and Barry Shaw are heading off to paddle around the tip of Tierra Del Fuego.

They're leaving 1st January - good luck!


How hard is it? Well, Marcus Demuth tried it and had an... em, epic.

West vv East

Oh boy - there's much more snow and ice on the east side of Scotland than the west coast.

I've just looked at the blog written by my friend Ian.

Commuting In The Snow

Crikey it's a struggle.


I have to go through the door on the right. Walk all the way to the door on the left. Then go through that. Phew. Exhausting.

In a week when hundreds of motorists were stuck in their vehicles overnight on motorways and main roads in Scotland, and the Army was called in to help, I feel rather fortunate.

My current work is editing a film for the John Muir Trust.


Build A Baidarka DVD - £10

Traditional kayak builder Bill Samson, who I mentioned yesterday, features in a half-hour long DVD about building a Baidarka. It's made by Daphne Barbieri and costs £10. Contact her by e-mail: daphnebarbieri AT tiscali DOT co DOT uk . Here's the promo for her DVD.

New Scottish Sea Kayak Symposium 2011

The first MidWest Sea Kayak Symposium will be 30th April to 2 May 2010.

It's organised by the good folk of Kari-Tek, and will be based around the village hall in Tayvallich.

It may be welcomed by many paddlers as there's to be no Scottish Sea Kayak Symposium on Skye in 2011.

Beginners cost £210. Novices/improvers cost £160.
These fees do not cover accommodation or meals


Rather annoyingly I'm already booked to film another event that weekend.

A Christmas Present for Your Sea Kayaker - and a Polo Mint for the Horse

Our DVD, Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown continues to sell well this Christmas.


Working from home, I'm able to fulfill orders within 24 hours.

Your DVD will be in the post and on its way to you within 24 hours of ordering.

That is important, when much of the UK is struggling to cope with the snow.

So what's with the horse? That's Storm, a rather unlikely name for such a cute pony. Liz and I pass him every time we hike down the hill to the post box.

Here's the deal. For every DVD we post, Storm gets a Polo mint. How could you resist such an offer?

West Greenland Kayak Building Course

Build your own custom-fitted West Greenland Kayak and make a paddle using traditional methods.

The course is run in July 2011 in Lyme Regis by the Boat Building Academy.

It costs just under £2000, but that includes all food (organic), accommodation and all the materials for paddle and kayak. So for the money you get a holiday and a kayak.

Seems like quite a good deal to me, and nice to think about summer holidays in all this snow.

Tomorrow - a new DVD goes on sale about building a Baidarka.

I was alerted to all this by Bill Samson, who you might remember from the Podcast I recorded with him ages ago (Traditional Kayaks 2 on this page, right hand side). We also shot a brief video about an Alaskan kayak Bill had built.

And So It Snows...

Unlike most of Scotland, our part of the west coast had avoided the worst of the snow. Until this morning. Liz took some photos in the fields behind out cottage while I cleared the drive.


Fancy Working as a Kayak Guide?

Sea Kayak Oban is hiring for next Spring.

Tidal Power Scheme in Prime Sea Kayaking Area

Kylerhea is the narrow gap between the Isle of Skye and the mainland near Glenelg. It's a great sea kayaking area as the tide rips through here at 8kn.

Now it seems two separate companies want to install their own type of tidal power generation units.

The latest is MCT which, according to the BBC website, wants to place four units, like the one in this picture, in Kylerhea by 2013. They'll put a public exhibition in Glenelg before finalising their planning application.

This is in addition to Pulse Tidal, which announced in May that they want to put a device on the seabed, which would be fully submerged at all times.

Kylerhea could get to be an even busier place.

Drying Kayak Kit in a Very Small House

Our cottage is tiny with low ceilings.

Wet kit freezes outside, so I came up with this way of drying our wet kit over the bath.

Two pieces of white painted wood, screwed into the ceiling joists, into which two white, fairly strong, hooks are screwed.

I passed a length of clothes-line through two white metal tubes, normally used as clothes rails, which I bought in B&Q hardware store.

The rails are self levelling and simply unhook when not needed. If cags, PFDs etc are hung on hangers, I can get alot on this rig.

Taking a bath or shower with them still in place is a little tricky!