I'm on GMT. She's on BST. It's confusing

If I have a meeting with you in the coming weeks, I apologise now for being late.  Or early.  

Liz has decided she wants to stay on British Summer Time. So when the clocks went back last Saturday night, hers didn't.  She feels it's more appropriate for where we live in north west Scotland.

I'm a very different sort of person. I lived my life to the ticking demands of television deadlines.  "You're on in three, two, one...".  Show up one minute late to read the news and you're fired.

Liz doesn't wear a watch - unthinkable to me.  She's the only person I know who could fall asleep in an airport and miss a transatlantic flight.  

So we have a situation where 'her' clocks (kitchen, her phone) are currently showing one hour ahead of 'my' clocks (watch, computers).  Our vehicle clocks are different too, and I can't remember which is on which time.  It's damn confusing.  

I made lunch and sat down yesterday to watch the One O'clock News only to find some stupid antiques programme on TV.  I was an hour early.  I wonder how long we'll keep this up? 

A new Sea Kayak Podcast goes live tomorrow morning.  At what time?  I've no idea.

Thanks For Coming to my Talk. Here's Your Photo

Look at the camera shake on this photo!  That shows how nervous I felt Sunday afternoon.  

It also shows, albeit somewhat blurred, the audience I was speaking to at the Edinburgh Mountain Film Festival.

I have been speaking into TV cameras since I was eighteen years old.

But even live television does not generate quite the buzz that you get when you stand infront of people. 

So my grateful thanks to everyone who turned up and particularly those who said such kind things afterwards.  And I hope to see some of you converts on the water.

A new Sea Kayak Podcast goes live on Thursday morning.

Edinburgh Mountain Film Festival Presentation

The last mention of this, I promise.

I'm giving a talk at the Edinburgh Mountain Film Festival on Sunday.  

That means I'll miss this year's SCA Paddle Event in Perth, which is a shame.

It's somewhat embarassing to read about yourself. "Expert"??!!

When I see that word I hear one of my old editors lecturing me, "An 'ex' is a has-been", he'd say, "while a 'spurt' is a drip under pressure".  A cliche perhaps.

But if you're going to stand up and draw attention to yourself (ie be a show-off.  And I am!) then you just have to accept it.

Android APP for Sea Kayak Podcasts

Our new App for Android is live.

Find it here.

As with the iPhone App I'm not too pleased that I am forced to charge $1.99 for it.

I would prefer it to be free, but the whole thing is run by Libsyn and this is the minimum charge they permit.

It is a pretty neat new way to access Sea Kayak Podcasts and also bonus content which I hope to start adding to new podcasts.

The next new podcast will go live on 1st November featuring Joe Leach who set a new record for sea kayaking around Britain.

Live the Eco-Self-Sufficient Dream in the Scottish Highlands

Due to health concerns, our good friends have reluctantly decided to sell their amazing croft.

[edit: It received a double-page feature in The Scotsman Property Section on Thursday 1st November and so there is a lot of interest.]

For the last four years they have been virtually self-sufficient in food.  

Electricity comes from a big wind turbine.  

Heating comes from a massive solar array and sophisticated log burning boiler.  

And their self-catering business returns around £70k a year income.  

They built their own lovely four-bedroom house and the two conjoined self-catering houses.  After years in the hotel business they got the designs absolutely spot on.

On their 6.5 acres they have poly tunnels, growing beds, plus enclosures for ducks, geese, chickens and a dairy cow.  

They have had pigs (I've written a lot about those pigs) but they have now gone on their one-way trip to Mull.

This is less of a business sale than a lifestyle opportunity.

See You At Edinburgh Mountain Film Fest in One Week

Next weekend I'll be at the Edinburgh Mountain Film Festival.

On Sunday afternoon I'm giving a talk called The Accidental Sea Kayaker.  Err, that's me, in case you were wondering.  

The talk is not as narcissistic as it sounds.

It's really about the joy of sea kayaking Scotland's west coast, writing the book about the Scottish Sea Kayak Trail and especially shooting the sea kayak films with Gordon Brown.  

I've been told to pitch it at a "generally adventurous audience, who're probably not sea kayakers".  I finished creating the presentation yesterday, putting in lots of video, some of it from behind the scenes.

I'm going to look on this as missionary work - seeking sea kayak converts.

Despite Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown winning awards at film festivals, this will be the first such festival I've actually attended.  The real reason is to see Alan Hinkes speak on Sunday evening.  

Alan is a friend I've fallen out of touch with.  We last met in London in 1995 when I was working on Newsnight, and I staggered into the production office the next day still drunk.  That's another story.  Which I won't be telling...

But I will try to get someone sea kayaking within sixty seconds.  In a lecture theatre.  I wonder if that'll work?

Oh - there's a PR piece about my talk at the festival in The Scotsman tomorrow, written by surfer Roger Cox.  Fingers crossed that turns out OK.

All of which means, for the first time in years, I won't be at the Scottish Canoe Association's Paddle 2012 annual show in Perth.

There seem to be a few notable absences.  

Lomo Watersports (Mark & Bruce), who used to sell crate-loads of drysuits at the show, do not appear to be on the exhibitors list.  Pesda Press (Franco Ferrero) and Skyak Adventures (Gordon and Morag Brown) don't have a stand this year.  Also missing is Stirling Canoes, although this might be because it is now only an online store).

However, there is an impressive list of speakers giving talks and workshops, with the emphasis apparently on competitive paddling.

There is also the Tay Descent on the Saturday - which I believe Gordon has entered.  He will want to do well...

Say "hello" to him as he flashes past.  Or if you're in Edinburgh I'd be delighted if you'd come to my wee talk and swell the numbers.  Please...

GoPro 3 vv Sony Action Cam

I am so keen to get my hands on these new cameras, but they're not in the UK yet.

These don't seem to be PAL versions.

GoPro has just announced the GoPro 3, which comes in three flavours - white, black and silver.  

The resolution looks frankly amazing, but then this little camera has always produced great results.  

We used GoPro HD1 extensively in Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown Volume 2.  But I resisted buying the GoPro2 because I felt the detachable wifi back looked cumbersome.  GoPro seems to have had similar thoughts and wifi is now built-in.  

What's more, they have some serious competition.  

Sony is poised to release in the UK its Action Cam with built-in wifi.  The link is to the US store, but the PAL model should be in Europe before the end of the year.  

That picture alongside doesn't do it justice.  There's a screen on the other side of the camera and a plastic waterproof housing.  

Now what does that sound like?

Here's a video comparison review of the GoPro2 and the Sony cameras I found on YouTube.  Perhaps the GoPro 3 will answer some of the criticisms and keep it in the lead.

Hello Podcast Listener - You Live Here

I get some useful statistics from Libsyn, our new Podcast hosts and the people who've helped to create our new Apps for iPhone iPad and Android.

I'll not bore you with all the numbers, but I thought you might like to know where you all are.  This map is a quick way of seeing where our listeners live.  Obviously most downloads come from the UK and USA, with surprisingly few in Canada.

Darker colour = more listeners

I receive precise download figures for each Podcast, and while I won't bore you with the numbers, it's obvious that the new releases are of most interest.

You might like to know we'll have THREE new Podcasts lined up, and they're all different aspects of a similar theme.  The first goes live on 1st November, the second on 15th November, with the third coming 1st December.

Details nearer the time.  Until then we're publishing an older podcast every day until 22nd October as we migrate the archive to Libsyn.

Big Kayaking Film Night In Liverpool - 4 wks

For each of the last three years I've had a film touring the USA and Canada as part of the Reel Paddling  Film Festival World Tour.  

A bit like the Baseball 'World Series' this 'World Tour' has been largely confined to North America.  But not any longer.  

Four weeks from today, Liverpool Canoe Club plays host to the best paddling films of 2012.

Monday 12th November 7-10pm at the main conference room in Liverpool Marina, where I gave a talk in Nov 2009.  

The marina does good food and has plenty of safe parking, while the club are a welcoming crowd.  It should be a superb night.

All 5 category winning films (including a 20 minute version of Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown - Rescues) plus nine other films showcasing many aspects of paddlesports.  Fourteen films in one evening.

Having been there, I know there is seriously limited space so it's highly likely the £9 tickets will sell out.  Book them online becuase it's £12 on the door, and there might not be any left when you arrive.

New Sea Kayak Podcasts APP for iPhone and iPad

There are now more ways than ever to listen to SeaKayakPodcasts.com.  

As ever, Podcasts can be downloaded straight to your smartphone, via your computer to your mp3 player, or streamed online.

Now there's also an App for iPone and iPad which will allow us to provide bonus content. An Android version is coming soon.

Read how to get the App here - how it works and its limitations.

Most people don't care how the mp3 reaches them, they just want great content.  You'll be pleased to hear we have some superb interviews lined up in the coming months.

But you might like to know everything is done through Libsyn which sends the mp3 file to the following locations.

First and foremost, it is hosted at SeaKayakPodcasts.com.  New podcasts appear on the front page and on the archive page which is most relevant to their content.  If you want to hunt for an interesting Podcast, this is the place to do it.  All these are direct links to the mp3 files.

When a new podcast goes live, it's announced on the @SKPodcasts Twitter feed.  

There's a brief summary along with a link to a streaming version of the podcast.

I know from the statistics exactly how many people download the podcasts using iTunes.  

If you haven't found it yet, you can see the preview here, from which there's a link to the iTunes page.  

Or go to the iTunes store and search for Sea Kayak Podcasts in the Podcast section.  

If you enjoy the podcasts, it would be wonderful if you gave us a 5 star review please.  This helps other sea kayakers find the podcasts too.

Of course, iTunes is not the only compiler of podcasts.  We're also with FeedBurner, where you'll find us on a page which looks like this one alongside.

What's more, Libsyn has automatically created yet another web page for us.  I know, I know - far too many places...

Actually, I'd rather not have this webpage but I can't work out a way of turning off this option!

A streaming version of each new podcast (not archive ones) will appear on this blog, as happened on 1st October with the Finmen podcast.  Or rather, it will if I remember to do it...

Our big news though are the APPS.  They're the direct way to access the entire podcast library and bonus content.

So there you have it.

For the next couple of weeks, through much of October, archive podcasts will appear in the feeds as I migrate them onto the new system.

On 1st November a brand new podcast interview will appear, with another new release coming around 15th November.  

Subscribe and you won't miss a thing.

Etape Pennines - My Ride

It was only for one day, and only on one loop of road.  But on that day, in that place, car was not king.  

Bikes ruled.
A closed road is fantastically special.  It puts cyclists first in a way no cycle-lane possibly could.
You can use the full apex of the corner, take the outside line on an uphill bend, overtake a large group of cyclists on the wrong side of a small country road, all safe in the knowledge you won't abruptly be turned into mince.  

The cars were over there, behind the cones, grumbling.  On this day, in this place, they did not have priority. Two wheels, good.

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I'm told there's a trend for new Sportives to be tougher than their predecessors - longer, higher, harder events - something to give the paying public a real challenge for their money.  

The Etape Pennines, England's newest closed road sportive, certainly fits that trend.  

As one competitor said to me in the car park after, "This was certainly the big brother of the Etape Caledonia".  

He's right, and the numbers confirm it.   

My Garmin clocked 81.65 miles and 3,500ft of ascent on this year's Etape Caledoina in May.  

On Sunday's Etape Pennines, while it ticked over just 77.3 miles, it recorded 7,784 feet of ascent.  More than double.

Was it too tough?  Some might think so.  Yet the numbers say it was easier than the Bealach Mor sportive over the Applecross pass (90mls 9,500ft).  And it doesn't come anywhere close to the daddy of European sportives La Marmotte (108 mls 17,000ft)

Most significantly, it was easier than the Etape Cymru (92 mls 9,800 ft).  So no, it wasn't too tough.  Competitors just need to appreciate the seriousness of what they've entered.

Because of 1406 starters 79 did not finish.  While riding I estimated some hills had sections of over 18%. My Garmin recorded a maximum gradient of 22.3%.  Er, wow!

That's steeper than the acclaimed 'Horseshoe Pass' gradient on the Etape Cymru.  It's even steeper than my big, local 20.7% hill, and it is like riding up the side of a house.  

Many competitors got leg-cramp on the final three hills.  

Which explains why many ended up pushing their bikes.  Pushing is almost the final indignity, only the broom waggon is worse, because it's an admission of defeat.  Those legs must have really hurt.  

How can County Durham be hillier than Scotland?  

I know both well.  While I now live and work in Scotland, I'm from Newcastle where used to be a TV reporter for BBC Look North, so I've spent a lot of time driving these dales with camera crews.  

Clearly, it's all down to the course.  Think of it as having three distinct sections and you won't go far wrong.  The toughest section was section two, and I'll guide you through them.

Section One
The route runs clockwise, with a fast start through former mining villages.  The sun was barely above the terraced houses as a few bleary eyed locals gazed in wonder at the Lycra clad clowns speeding through their village long before their newsagent had even sorted the delivery of Sunday papers.  

Look closely at the map between Crook and the A68.  
You'll see a blue circle with a mountain and a 4 in it.  
Now look at the Key alongside.  
Yep, that's a Cat 4 climb (their categories, not TdF).  
That means a hard uphill.  

In reality it must have been fine because I hardly remember it.  

It's all the others which are etched into my legs.

Major road crossings were handled superbly and safely (I'll talk about the organisation later). 

 Loads of marshals, signs, cones, tapes and giant Stop / Go electronic displays.  

Traffic on the main A68 road was held up in two crossing points and we riders, after being gathered in taped-off pens, were sent across in large groups.  

There was a third crossing point on the A689 at St John's Chapel.  

I did not have to wait at any crossing, effectively riding straight through.  

Timing mats were placed either side of the crossing point, so time spent in the holding pen would not count in the overall time.  

Once across the main road, and before re-crossing the timing mat, I used this time-out to sort clothing and pull my next energy bar out of its wrapper.

From the A68 to Langdon Beck was (mostly) lovely riding.  Here we cruised along the north ridge of Teesdale, the rising sun warming our backs and brilliantly illuminating the cloud that still filled the cold valley below. 

Competitors actually stopped (!!!) to photograph this temperature inversion.  I did not, sorry.

Within sight of Middleton in Teesdale, the route planners stuck their first knife into our legs.  

Whether it was because they couldn't close off the main road into Middleton from this side, or they just wanted to add miles and gradient, I don't know.  

But on a sharp right-hander we went up a tiny track steep enough to give a marmot a nose-bleed.

I had driven some of the course yesterday, so I was ready for this.  

I also knew not to blow-out on this climb because, tough as it might seem, harder ones lay ahead.

Until now our main spectators had been the marshals (sincere thanks to every one) and early-morning dog walkers.  

Chatting to people the day before, despite publicity and signs, I suspect a many had not really registered that this event was taking place until, one morning, there we all were.  

Gradually though, as the day wore on, more people began to turn out and applaud.  "Thank you" to each and every person. 

A gently climbing main road led from Middleton, past the feed station in the High Force Hotel car park, to Langdon Beck, where for me at least it was Gel time.  

Although the rise was just a Cat 3 climb,  we'd been climbing since Middleton and the legs were starting to go.  

As we climbed, the scenery changed from lush valley, watered by the River Tees, to high open moorland.  We'd been warned about this.  40-60 miles were 'mountainous'.  Quite.

Section Two
This is the toughest because it runs against the grain of the land.  Imagine valleys arranged like the fingers of a hand.  Now we're riding from thumb to little finger over the knuckles, going up down up down up down without respite.  

There was no high-level ridge cruising or gaining miles along a valley.  We were either headed up or down.  

Both directions were brutal battles with gravity.  

Leg, arm and core strength was either used to force the pedals down, or to clinging desperately to the handlebars, hoping the rough roads wouldn't burst a tyre at 50mph (my max speed).

That's why this was tough.  In this section, there was no respite.  None.  Were the moor views spectacular?  Dunno.

We were blessed with good weather.  Had it been bucketing down and/or high wind, those rough-road descents, polished cattle-grids, and tight turns right at the bottom would have been a lot more dangerous.  Bad weather could easily have added thirty minutes or more to my time.

However, I was utterly, utterly amazed at how many spectators made it up to these moors.  

These could not have been accidental spectators, or irritated drivers.  Each had made the journey to watch perhaps one competitor, or perhaps all of us.  It didn't matter - the applause was a huge boost, albeit slightly embarrassing. 

Section Three
I knew the worst would be over when we hit the moor road which strikes north from Stanhope, a road I know well.  

Never mind the miles still to go, or the two categorised hills, twenty miles out I could smell the food at the finish.

I mistakenly thought I'd ride the whole event in under five hours, so underestimated the quantity of bars and gels I carried.  

Fortunately I could replenish stocks with Zipfit products, free of charge, at the feeding stations.  

Mind you, the first Zipfit gel I tried nearly caused me to choke!  It was like inhaling a giant Jelly-Baby!  It's a much more viscous product than the SIS I prefer.  

The villages had woken up by the time we returned.  Again, a remarkable number of people were watching the show roll through town.  

Then it was all over.  There was a beep as I crossed the timing mat, music, a water bottle, and a medal.  

Oh, and legs that, had they been able to speak, would have asked for a few days off, please.  

Quickly changed, I tucked into a baked potato and chatted to complete strangers about their day and their ride, which is where I heard the quote which started this piece.

Almost everyone I spoke to agreed the organisation was (almost) utterly superb.  

Signs warning local people about the road closures had been posted well in advance all around the course.  

Every single potential vehicle access point to the closed roads, from driveways to rusty farm gates, had a cone in front with an explanatory note.  

Motorbike marshals patrolled the course, although one stopped abruptly and, I understand, caused the crash which resulted in this damaged wheel.  

The Mavic roving service vehicle loaded a replacement wheel and the rider completed the course.

So why write (almost) utterly superb?  Parking.

Long before the event, I looked at the entrance to the parking on Google Street View and formed the opinion that such a small road wouldn't handle the volume of traffic which would all try to arrive about an hour before the event.  

I decided to get there early.  Woken at 3:45m by drunken party-goes returning to my hotel, I was the first competitor in the car-park when it opened at 4:30.  The crew actually gave me a round of applause for being first.  

For me that was fine, because I like to eat two hours before an event.  I cooked my porridge and brewed coffee in the passenger foot-well of the car, keeping warm in the cold dark morning.

Two hours later, not long before the first wave was due to start, there was still a line of headlights stretching into the distance of cars trying to park.  Some people left their vehicles in neighbouring villages and rode to the start, many without lights.  

It must have been a stressful start for many folk, and then charging them a £5 parking fee on exit was an added insult.

Our start time was pushed back, but only by a few minutes.  

Late arrivals joined whatever wave they could, meaning some fast riders started quite late in the day and had to pick their way past us snails.  

Organisers must sort this for next year, and you can express your interest in Etape Pennines 2013.

Me? Well, 1406 started, 79 DNF, and I was 411, 41st in my age category in a time of 5hr 50min 8 seconds, and I'm pleased.  

I did the my first Etape Caledonia last year in 4hr 55mins, whch I wrote about here, and this year did it in 4hrs 35 minutes.

But let's be clear.

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If you're not a regular cyclist and you're just looking for a challenge event to push yourself and / or raise money for charity, please think long and hard before picking the Etape Pennines.  Unless you're coming from a strong level of general fitness, you're going to have to put in lots of serious training time to get around the course.  

You might do it, but you'll have a much nicer time with little brother, the Etape Caledonia.

Etape Pennines This Sunday

I'm driving south tomorrow, heading to home territory.

The first Etape Pennines is being held on closed roads around County Durham.  

It's a hilly 78 mile course through Weardale and Teesdale but so many people want to ride it, entries were sold out ages ago.  

I'm not lookng forward to spending tomorrow night in a Travelodge beside a motorway, nor getting up at stupid-o'clock to reach the start.  But I am looking forward to the ride.  The Twitter feed alongside will show what I'm up to, but I won't be tweeting during the ride!

Access Restriction at Torr Head, NI

Anyone planning to kayak from Scotland to Northern Ireland might find this information and annotated images, from local paddler and Postman John Ruston, extremely useful indeed.

 “…road access has very recently been lost at Torr Head, Co. Antrim.”

This is important because the shortest distance between Scotland and Northern Ireland takes paddlers to Torr Head.  I’m told it has fierce tides and vicious down draughts.  

Those who’ve kayaked the North Channel often arrive exhausted, hoping to arrange a vehicle pick-up where they reach land.  

However, there is now no public use of the private road that services the Torr Head property, says John.

“This is effective in the first instance for one year from beginning of August.  Respite landing are available on the beaches North and South of the Head but there is no road access for anyone considering a pickup here."  

"Strong flows run at this point and visiting paddlers might be relying on access to leave the water.”

“I have myself been turned away when approaching from the sea and directed to the nearby beach at Portaleen 100M south.  This is a great place to land and I think that camping here would not be a problem but there is no road.  You are stuck.”

“Anyone arranging a pick-up in this part of NI should avoid Torr Head for the time being." 

"Pickups are possible at Murlough Bay (north 2 miles) where there is a public road across National Trust property, and to the south at Cushendun (village/small harbour).”  

My thanks to John for this.  

I haven’t checked this with CanoeNI, but their interactive map clearly shows ‘No Vehicle Access’ at Torr Head.  

Incidentally, it also says ‘No Vehicle Access’ at Murlough Bay, where John says access is possible.  

He tells me this means no access to the slipway, but in reality, people do launch and land kayaks in the area using the road in the image. 

John has passed this information to the SCA.  

He is also happy for folk to have his phone number in case they are unavoidably stuck and need an urgent pick-up - 07899 095 761.  

What a remarkably nice chap.

First New Podcast in AGES. It's a great story.

We had to come back with a cracker, didn't we?

Most Scottish based sea kayakers have heard stories about a Greenland kayaker washed up on a Scottish beach centuries ago.  I'd always assumed the story lay somewhere in the blurred, grey area between myth and history.

It not only turns out to be true, but it seems a whole community might have been living off Orkney.  By any standards, that is an excellent story.  What's more, it's a mystery, because no-one could successfully explain how they got there.

Until now.

Norman Rogers new book, which I wrote about last week, Searching for the Finmen, gets as close to an explanation as I think anyone will ever find.  Buy the book here.

So naturally, Norman is the subject of our first podcast in the newly re-launched SeaKayakPodcasts.com.

Updates and direct links to podcasts will also be on our Twitter Feed - SKPodcasts.

There will be one new podcast at the start of each month.  

During the month, I'll also publish some older episodes from the archive as I gradually migrate onto the new system.  

With more than seventy recordings it is taking some time.  Or listen to the streaming version here.