Wednesday, 30 July 2008
Nice boat mate.
Initially I had thought the tourist walking by had been commenting to me on a one of the many fishing vessels moored inside the harbour walls. His comment seemed a little random, but I dutifully stopped removing my kayak from the wagon roof & turned in that very direction.
Ah, the prawner? No no, that's not mine, but yes I concur, it is rather nice as fishing vessels go...
When I glanced back toward the random tourist & continued off-loading the kayak he had acquired the look of a person whos brain had just stalled.
No mate, that thing there...
I fixed him with my gaze, as I lowered the qajaq onto the slipway.
Ah, this? This is a kayak, not a boat. It's a sea kayak to be exact, following on from a Greenlandic ancestry & tradition, yet cunningly, it has been fashioned from modern materials. This one includes much kevlar.
I paused momentarily, like a boxer lowering his guard to taunt an opponent, allow him a free swing, yet, in the absence of a suitably swift & regaling response I added.
Oh, & you sit in the middle bit, where the hole is...Of course, I don't expect you to know it's not called a hole either, but, & here's the upside, it's a word you will understand since you appear to now be standing in one. Would you like a tour of the skin-on-frame?

I think I've finally flipped out, had enough, become crapulent, a little agitated, skipped into bampot world & subsequently become somewhat vexed with this whole boat situation. From now on when somebody asks me What Boat I Paddle I fear I may eviscerate them inside cascades of word-masonry so epically profound they will think they've been run down by a 100 year Tsunami.
Look godamnit, it's a kayak, a qajaq, a qajariaq, a canoe with a full skin on & therefore not a boat. If people insist on calling kayaks boats, I will in turn, & at every opportunity point out that they are boaters & they are boating, & therefore not kayakers kayaking. If that appears pedantic, even ostentatious, then why was there a twinge of annoyance in the face of my Raasay pal when I mischievously asked if he was going boating as he unloaded his kayak into the straits one stormy day? The word boating for him, conjured pastoral wonders, straw hats, cucumber sandwiches, pompous Englishmen with insane overbites, riverbanks, punt poles, Ratty, Mole & Mr.Toad - all through the swirling waters of the Kyle, all through that black gale & swell, & all through that day like a bad song, a mouse on prozac scratching around in his brain, it followed him to his bed - that dirty boater got everything he deserved. Needless to say kayaking, as a generalization is accepted to conjour & precede far more adventure & demand on the participant than that fine & slightly limp-wristed pastime, we have come to know as boating.
If the term boating is unacceptable to a kayaker in it's implied reference & descriptive ability to encompass sea kayaking, it's wild & varying degrees of ferocity, calm & conditions, then the word boat to explain a sea kayak capable of taking on such terms & conditions of adventure should also be unacceptable. Indeed, if such a rant appears pedantic, even ostentatious, then how is it that I also know an old Inuit man from Nuuk who will throw anyone out of the Greenlandic rolling championships for using the word boat when they are referring to a kayak.
I am not alone in my quest, our numbers are swelling, we will see these boaters banished along with their long pointy boats to inland paddling pools & lochs where they will be pursued into submission by the relentless swarming antics of 10 year olds in pedaloes...sorry, by pedaloes I obviously meant wide kayaks...
I'm teetering like a madman on the edge, my laughter derisory, my fingernails screeching lines into a cartoon blackboard as I slide out of my balanced state into a maniacal pursuit of every post in the •≈ UKRGB kayak forum that starts with or incorporates the word boat in its subject matter, ie:
Which boat should I buy I'm 6ft 5 & 18 stone?
Any ya basta, most yachts & boats will carry several people of that stature in one go.

If the said tourist's passing comment had been: Nice ocean going vessel mate... I could have lived with that, yet equally, I have never had cause to say: Let us lift these ocean going vessels onto the upper surface of this land vehicle & perambulate forth until we find waters more fitting of our needs.
Kayak, Roof, Car, Walk, Sea: they are specifics in language & exist for a reason, & after some intense flash flood education, I realized I had in the fullness of description, caused the tourist to also perambulated forth.

Main Entry:
Etymology: Inuit qayaq or qajaq
Date: 1757
1 : an Eskimo canoe made of a frame covered with skins except for a small opening in the center and propelled by a double-bladed paddle
2 : a portable canoe styled like an Eskimo kayak.


Main Entry:


Etymology:French, from New Latin canoa, from Spanish, from Arawakan, of Cariban origin; akin to Carib kana:wa canoe

1: a light narrow vessel with both ends sharp that is usually propelled by paddling.

Main Entry:
Etymology:Middle English boot, from Old English bāt; akin to Old Norse beit boat/ship from Old English scip; akin to Old High German skif ship.
Date: pre12th century

1 a: a small vessel for travel on water - ie: a ship
2: a boat-shaped container, utensil, or device
3: a large sea going vessel.
4: a sailing vessel having a bowsprit & usually 3 masts each composed of a lower mast, a topmast, & a topgallant mast.
5: boat; especially : one propelled by power or sail.


Above: Some very small lorries - parked yesterday
Below: Some kayaks ashore at a secret Hebridean venue

posted by •≈ Sgian Dubh at 19:48:00 | 0 Retorts
Saturday, 19 July 2008
Let the hand carving begin!
Time to fashion a new Norsaq out of this scraggy bit of driftwood I bimbled across on the shoreline this afternoon wi the collie. Will post the results up on completion.

Update 22/07:
Almost finished, & had a good roll test of the said carving leaving wee Cnip pier & taking the slingshot into the Bhaltos & Pabaigh Mór peninsula today. Unfortunately I was plagued by endless deserted white sands, a brisk refreshing wind & a clear turquoise swell lit by shafts of warm sunlight piercing dark races of cloud...
The constant interference & distractive nature of such phenomena, makes it very hard to gain any suitably objective conclusion as to the overall quality of ones own workmanship...
Aye reet, awa wiya pish, ma heid's birlin

The hand carved Norsaq is almost finished - the dunes of the Bhaltos peninsula reflected in black Anas gloss
posted by •≈ Sgian Dubh at 20:15:00 | 3 Retorts
I'm a firestarter, twisted firestarter.
I'm the firestarter, Where's the firelighters??
You're the firestarter, twisted firestarter

The Projididy

Let's start by saying the obvious. Fire is one of the basic & single most important essential elements for individual survival in the wild. Whether it be for warmth, cooking, light, or a sense of security, the human need for fire is as old as our d.n.a memory.

There are myriad of ways to make fire. I'm currently able to use 30 or 40 independant combinations of material for fire starting from Gneiss to Rhodonite, from Tundra fungi to Guga shit on Sula Sgeir, to the use of oil Shale or concave ice - none of these methods involve matches, trips to the Co-op, lighters, conventional fuels or tapping electricity from batteries etc, although left-field thinking & alternative use of modern equipment should never be frowned upon. I'll freely admit to being partial to taking a wee supply of pre-gathered pine resin or Hex methenamine -Hexi- tablets with me on protracted forays. Hex methenamine tablets burn virtually smokeless, with a high energy density, & leave no ash. Pine resin has even more advantages.
With fire you do not just combat hypothermia & dry your clothes out. With an individual ability to make fire in any survival situation, you also open the door to, & off the top of my head, water purification & desalination, the ability to cauterize wounds, communicate at distance, create toothpaste, render food digestible, soften or harden materials for kayak or shaft repairs, preserve food, & often most importantly, provide yourself with psychological security.
You will never kayak with me & see a lighter in my pocket, but you will see this dangling around my neck wherever we go. My handmade stag horn handled strike.
Mischmetal 78% Iron Oxide 20% Magnesium Oxide 2% = Ferrocerium. The initial strike ignition temperature is around 200°C, the post-ignition burn temperature in combination with the other element ores, around 1/2100°C +
There are no moving parts, no springs & there is nothing to go wrong or run out. I can & often do, use this to make a fire in 100% of the conditions I encounter, in hurricane winds, at altitude, in torrential downpours & blizzards, on desolate & remote beaches, to equal snowfields. When £1.99 Coop lighters have long failed I have rescued people by means of fire who had otherwise given up hope & bedded down in freezing wet equipment, grimly hanging onto the thought of a better tomorrow, one of their kayaks already lost... Items such as a Ferrocerium strike & living skills such as percussion firestarting are again, like Greenlandic rolls when used as a kayakers principal defence & survival, invaluable skills that take patience to learn & develop, yet reward the practioner with confidence beyond that of the layman. Beyond modern misinformation, the illusion that everything you need to survive living can be bought with a piece of plastic, there is living to do, mud to get between the toes, & experience to be had. An individuals inability to think, calmly, simplistically outside the box in a wild environment, will often prove far more costly than the equipment they bought to take them there....

The ability to make a fire in extreme conditions can provide a physiological &
psychological base for the rational to operate & ground in, increasing the survival advantage of an individual massively. Within true survival, there is no central authority or safety net, & your dictionary of repertoire is only as expansive as your investment in that very knowledge, that age & aeon of traditional skills upon which civilization is balanced.

Life is a cruel teacher. It punishes you first & then gives you the lesson. Like it or not, that is the process of true learning - Robert Kiyosaki

posted by •≈ Sgian Dubh at 12:44:00 | 0 Retorts
Tuesday, 15 July 2008
...breezy rolling on the loch today.

Force 6 onshore - toasty in the sun - tepid underwater - spray in the eyes & the rear deck barely ever surfacing. The Sgian Dubh & I were in casual yet perfect synchronicity, communicating through hand rolls & play. Tomorrow, mileage training, gale or no gale & another half kilometre of roll variation.

Also, another random spot - for it is summer. Yesterday I saw the words Scottish Surf Team, backed up by a giant vinyl Saltire, plastered down one side of a battered white panel van parked in Tarbert, Harris with two P &H sea kayaks on the roof with assorted bits & bobs. I think the owners were in the blow up rubber bar while my collie dampened down the rear wheel. Was that you?

Teaching the Way of The Anas - a path for Padawan & master Jedi alike - same loch 24 hrs later - less breezy it is.
posted by •≈ Sgian Dubh at 17:33:00 | 0 Retorts
•≈ U-Tide
Thursday, 10 July 2008
Now here's a handy wee tool, courtesy of Jorn Eichler, now on my mobile for tidal examination. If your mobile has a decent performance at floating-point mathematics you could do worse than have this application running in your pocket. Saves walking all the way down the garden to see if it's in or out, or bad timing your arrival at an impasse or landing zone at sea because of low, high or adverse tides. Helps as as a tech reference point to traditional ocean reading skills, night or day, as well as aiding protracted or specialist landing areas, especially if you are familiar with the tidal flows & accurately forecasting eta's. µTide is basically a slimmed down version of XTide, which itself, is a slimmed down version of the excellent WXTide32 for Windows. All are useful tools. That said, toys like this should never substitute genuine & intuitive oceanic forward reading skills & experience. There are far to many idiots on the oceans with EPIRBS, that cant even roll. Is this because you can buy an EPIRB in a shop but you can't buy a storm roll in a shop? If that's the case, an EPIRB without a roll is simply a beacon pinned to a potential floating corpse. Easier to find I guess... Similar mentalities have crept into the apprenticeships of the traditions of climbing. People now believe that because they have an gold Amex card they have a right to overrule the experience of a mountain guide on Qomolangma & throw tantrums when they don't get their own way, that because they have all the right names on their equipment, they are suddenly bombproof & qualified to climb E9 or solo ice in Scottish winter. Every year the numpty influx becomes more prevalent, as the advertising industries market the great outdoors for blatant profit, yet fall hideously short of educating the great swathe of consumer participants it attracts to the edge of something they are often ill prepared for. Soon we'll be giving children loaded guns...Oh!...we are...bad example.
Educate yourselves beyond technological reliance. Enjoy the short-cuts on offer, but first know the long way round - in the dark.

Hey! I have 10 EPIRBS, 2 SatNav systems, a foredeck satellite dish, 3 electric pumps, a blow up bed, a headrest, an arm rest, a back rest, splits, quads, a trolley, solar panel power, 4 VHF/HAM installations, 4th generation NVD, heat vision, every colour of flare, an infra red strobe, a blue strobe, a white strobe, a bluetooth laptop, a dongle, 3 dingles, a personal flotation device, an inflatable person device, a helicopter tracking me overhead & a RIB following on... Man, I just love the natural peace & freedom of the wild...

I always think: Good, but you're still a f*cking idiot - try not to sink.

Anyway, I'm ranting...µTide implements a subset of XTide's function. It calculates high & low tide times for a given station & day with impressive accuracy.
There are several different data sets available which implement as separate jar-files, ergo they are available as separate applications. µTide has an excellent tide graph for any given day calculated. You can also forward +1 day to calculate ahead & so on, +2, +3...
It also supports reference stations & derived stations for which data is available in XTide format. µTide does all its calculations by default in meters. It can however show the results in feet as well. This can be set on the main screen.
If you need any help installing this on your phone, let me know. Took me about 40 seconds start to finish to load & set it onto my SonyEricsson K810i through the apps folder & usb. Running µTide will also be dependant on your phones processor speed & J2ME device handling. I played with it all night under the downy like a kid with a torch, & with the collie curled in, we studied tides from Thurso to Tromsø. I even phoned Lars at 2:30am & told him to get µTide. He called me a f*cker & went back to bed. :o)
It looks like this when enabled:

Twas a 4am start today, shearing, dipping then out to the fish stocks plagued by Portree gulls trained into the laziest means of food acquisition by endless tourists throwing endless supplies of chips off the harbour wall..Later I'll pilot over to Harris in the pot hauler, & we'll drag up through the Western lochs, Loch Roag running drops & crawl back through the small hours, the 350hp diesel Cummins lump thumping out beat steady rhythms of 12 or 14 knots to an undefined candela of red & green, & the collie will sleep curled on the gillnets, & we'll shadow down through Kilt & Rona again & drift into harbour, idle as the dawn is quiet...
Shoulda' been at T-in-the-Park aye...not in the Wheelhouse-in-the-Dark.
Next week I will back rolling the qajaq.

The discussion in the wheelhouse doorway was going something like: Brrr, put a brew on wi ya, & then hand me that basta shotgun & two rocksalt cartridges John...
posted by •≈ Sgian Dubh at 23:16:00 | 0 Retorts
Thursday, 3 July 2008
07:30 am

With the flat tops of the Waternish headland to the right & the scattering Harrissian coastline to the left you find your self inside a silent dawn vista, adrift with the wind, the swell gently slapping the foredeck; a million miles of sky overhead. The rapid slingshot current will carry you swiftly over 30 kilometres or reek havoc & drag you like a dog on a lead. I never tire of this paddle - nor tire of her ever changing moods, the familiar saline molar markers of Shiant & Trodday, the blinding wind whip, the rogue swell, the endless feeling of forward momentum the Cuan Canach gives to the kayaker resting on her skin like a pond-skater...balanced & delicate - eyes set on the horizon...

I then remembered I had stopped still in the open sea, & for no apparent reason MollyMac was in my heid. Molly is my pal Archies daughter. She's a stately 6 years old. She came sashaying through the door one afternoon not so long ago & put this question to Arch:

Da, if people are meant to be vegetarian...then why are animals made of meat?


I toured back & forth completing my 40th crossing..but i still giggled to myself constantly & pissed off the gulls & had still to explain it on dry a bunch of Harris drunks, one ex SAS member the size of a rake who's never been out of MacLeods bar but swears he has, & 4 lost Germans. The old fellas will tell you he was never in the Sutherland Association of Sheep farmers but he could've been in the LDV - that's the Look Duck & Vanish brigade to you & me. Laughter often echoes out from here into the night, across the empty streets & out over the Cuan Canach when most sane people are sleeping soundly. I depart one island with a childs logic smiling in my head, only to arrive on the next to find a similar razor sharp wit & logic in the old fellas. Everyone is connected by an unseen thread. Why would you want to live out your days anywhere else...

Hurry up & take your time -as a wise old man once whispered

posted by •≈ Sgian Dubh at 16:42:00 | 0 Retorts