Friday, 30 May 2008
Having recently returned from the screaming wild archipelagos, I was teaching a friend one on one, the basic approaches to the art of hand rolling & sculling braces in the local harbour, once a thriving trawler port. As the tide receded we packed up for the day & wandered around in the basin. Relics of the past sometimes appear from the depths with delight.
I did remark on the thought of scraping the skin on frame or the composite along the tip of this anchor & the hazards of learning to roll in a post-industrial setting. You wouldn't want to clank your head off this either while inverted. Sometimes it seems we live as veneer to the past, stroked & admiring of our own shine & presence, we layer away from the wood, the bones, that support the skin of the creatures we become. It's great how artifacts occasionally pop their heads up, wink at today, then slink quietly back beneath the shifting sands for a year.

Tentative first steps - H & new Avocet.

A few hours later & we were going through assist hand rolls, working toward fingertip assists for confidence. The class is growing, & I'm enjoying the responsibility as much as the joy of passing on technique & confidence.
Before returning to Skye, I'll take them into Dublin - the Dubh Linn, where I
zen-up with my own rolls peacefully & alone. An inland venue overlooking the seas, akin to a swimming pool on an ocean liner, which often further helps in refining their own work - as it does mine. It's the colour of dark tea, almost black, blinding to the eyes, simple... yet, wide as an ocean & as deep as it is. I've never swum to the bottom in one breath...
It's one of three lochan, on two islands, I'm in the process of petitioning the Crofters Commission over & for, setting up qajaq shelters & wooden jetties to aid in & support Greenlandic rolling classes. The lochans could also be viably stocked for community fish supplies. At the time of writing this, they are dormant pools, save for the presence of visiting geese & rolling classes...
The ghost of man whispered: We once
quietly trained پښتو here on the Outer machair turf & gniessian edges, to attack our own interests, when needs were just that.... & leaving unwilling yawns & nul benefits to those who were....left standing, I laid down my knife & picked up a stick.
Sands shift ;)

The Dubh Linn

posted by •≈ Sgian Dubh at 12:03:00 | 0 Retorts
Saturday, 24 May 2008
Today the collie -Seobhag fìorghlan na h-ealtainn- did his job & chased down a big spring rabbit. When his turbo kicks in, that dug can shift - he took it down fair & square in open ground. Primal grunt. Today, tea was an easy process of skinning & preparation. These are the quiet bonuses of distant island life. Food is out there in many forms, if you look & have the basic skills to utilize it. From knowing your seaweeds, walking up to a wild goose without it seeing you [easy] & crustacean surgery. These are the dying skills of a thousand generations & being able to matter-of-factly live like this on remote solo kayaking trips, can be a life saver, & ordinarily, a simple lunch stop. The Coop is merely for beer, when you eventually wander briefly back into village life. I've left out the gutting process to preserve the mental welfare of those with a more squeamish constitution. I'll likely dry some of this meat into jerky for long kayak crossings in a mixed bag of Guga, dried in the same fashion. Natures glucose in it's fashion. This life is about walking barefoot at every opportunity, about feeling each stone & root underfoot, getting in, getting dirty, & getting levelled - Inuit or Hebridean. They dug & me...we love it. We're a team of sorts - even if he does fart inside the bivvy way to often...

1]Remove the feet first - always at the knee joint. Rabbit bones splinter into sharp shards.
2]Make a surgical cut along the underbelly. Remove all internal organs.
3]Pull the skin outward toward the flanks & over the rear feet. A bit like pulling a sock off. You should end up with a handbag. Remove tail.
4]Strip skin backward to the head, leaving it on as a grip. Everything should come off in one piece, ergo, preserving the pelt. Severe head under the skin. Optional: Remove rear tendons to bind as fishing line, boot lace or Taqqat etc.
5] Wipe clean with damp cloth. De-bone.
6]Go forth & make pie.

•≈ Bunny Wabbit graphic warning≈•

Fred - cute little brown bunny was hopping around a sunny field an hour ago

Peeling the skin away from the meat - normally Fred would get paunched in the field. The handbag method.

Freds dead baby - Freds dead...
Being the nice one, you will notice I have arranged Fred in such a fashion that he can observe his own autopsy. I don't care what the hippies say - THIS, is a a true out of body experience.

The remainder of Freds furry side will make a groovy glove puppet :o)
Next week, how to sauté a seal.
posted by •≈ Sgian Dubh at 16:36:00 | 3 Retorts
Sunday, 18 May 2008
A solo circuit that should be on anyones list of open crossings, screaming archipelagos & minimalist unsupported survival kayaking. A knife & a firesteel as trusted companions. From the lighthouse doss & Taigh Beannaichte on Sula Sgeir to a storm bivvy overlooking the Stoer, you are never in a hurry to return to technology & the race spilling over with it's own brand of clattering insanity...
The more I am out in these wild places, where calm seas tattoo thier own skin with intricate patterns, where tens of thousands of stones metamorph into flight at the first crimson light of dawn, from summits of struck black pelagic bastions; any feeling of needing to return, lessens considerably. Maybe it's time to re-inhabit the Hunters, or St.Kilda...lest we become overly precious of our history, forget its dynamisism, its state of constant succession, & become scared of overwriting it anew, laying down purposeful archaeology for future generations. Would we leave them instead, a legacy of plastic bottles & pre-fabricated waste along a constricted ancestral path because we market, pre-package & sanitize the terms explore - adventure - forge...
posted by •≈ Sgian Dubh at 19:45:00 | 0 Retorts
Saturday, 3 May 2008
Well I promised a mini review of the instructional Greenlandic dvd simply entitled - Rolling With Dubside, another black brother, so here it is.
To my mind, this dvd is a no frills edit & put together with a great clarity. In the opening moments, you realize Dubside carries an excellent philosphy on kayaking rolls & his relationship with the direct environment that facilitates the art.


Within each roll he explains with clear narrative & visual performance of each roll, the stroke positions & how they are relative to body position at all times. One thing you will notice is the ease with which each roll can be performed with grace & fluidity, no matter it's ranking in technicality. A philosophy I carry myself into every Greenlandic rolling class I teach. At the end of each segmented examination of the inner workings of individual sculls & rolls, he takes a moment with the viewer, to recap the key points. This serves to clarify the key components internal to a clean execution each roll, in an almost 1 to 1 relationship with the viewer & gives an excellent reference library in itself for those wishing to learn a new roll, however complex or simple. This becomes the theme without deviation.

One of the examples I've chosen & put into stills from the dvd, is the Elbow Crook Roll. Pakassummillugu, in Greenlandic. This is a 3 point roll in competition, so low mid-ranged & within the grasp of most novice-intermediate rollers. As with each roll Dubside covers, he gives the viewer some brief information on the history of the rolls reason for being, & then performans it fluidly. With a clear narrative following each increment, he will then go into a few tips, tricks, & ways to progress with the roll in question, should it feel unobtainable; often taking time to point out common mistakes that keep rolling below optimum, leading to failure. But not once is there negative focus.

Elbow Crook Roll breakdown footage

There are further treats dotted around as you journey through the dvd, & I shall leave you to discover those for yourself. Overall, Rolling With Dubside is inspirational without glamour & practical without complication. It should be on anyones shelf who is interested in developing Greenlandic rolling techniques, & should serve many levels of traditional kayakers with visually clear rolling reference points, easy to follow guidelines, tips & tricks, & the occasional smile when it's far to gnarly out there on winter nights. Possibly, my only gripe, is the lack of emphasis on off-water based stretching, centre-based body rolling movement exercises &
Qajaasaarneq - rope work. Maybe it will be more extensively covered in Part II, along with the Norsaq & the Straight Jacket Roll. That aside, if a dvd makes you want to go out & try, which this does to many of the people I teach, then it is worth a purchase in it's own right.

Even if you are not purely into rolling & more inclined to sea kayak touring, there are lesser instructional films of this ilk. The ability to self rescue & roll is afterall, the most effective & traditional defense, in any global form of sea kayaking. When you learn to roll effectively, I concur with's more a dance with a friend, than a boxing match against an opponent.

Maligiaq also agrees :o)

Sub-sections to Rolling With Dubside

*** Definately recommended & available here:

posted by •≈ Sgian Dubh at 18:04:00 | 2 Retorts