Wednesday 9 June 2010
Another waif has been donated to me. I haven't got a scooby what make of kayak it is, except to say it is a wooden strip bathtub & very bespoke. Not something I would normally take on, but hey, its a quirky freebee. It has laid in Jason's garden in Gardenstown over on the East coast for a few years since a pal capsized it without a spraydeck & put himself off the ocean for life. If anyone has an idea as to its possible origins or manufacture, let me know. Photos & more details soon. I will crack on with sanding & Interthane Plus & varnish coats.

It's been a while blogging & plenty of kayaking photos/adventures will follow as a backtrack, but dealing with lower back trauma & severe Subacromial Impingement from the climbing years has caught up, momentarily. Only the other month the G-Meds were out sticking large needles in my arse at 2am because I couldn't get off the floor... There is interest in joining my rolling classes in far flung wild & exotic places such as Aberdeenshire, the treasurer of the Banff kayaking club & a booking for the Portsoy Boat Festival, let alone the client base of Western Isles home so fond. Another restoration is pending...I need to be present :o)

Helen Wilson is the newest link @ Greenland or Bust on the right hand side of this page. Some good stuff there. No you can't have her mobile Alec :o)

Retro fitted hatches on the forward & aft decks. The coaming, although in good condition I will rebuild in carbon fiber.

An overview shot from top to tail. 4.7 meters long - 68cm wide at the seating position, it is as I have said, a bit of a bathtub but without a doubt, rollable in a straight jacket. We'll test that later this year :o)

Despite the state of its hull, this kayak has some very appealing & well engineered lines. It should restore to a very high finish.

posted by •≈ Sgian Dubh at 19:29:00 | 3 Retorts
•≈ 7 Hunters
Monday 21 December 2009
Three further Hunters needed for a crossing to the Seven Hunters, taking in Brona Cleit, Eilean a' Ghobha agus Roareim - details soon. I will be guiding a 2 day crossing January, leaving from North Harris, returning South Lewis. An open crossing with a camp on the rocks [ there is soft grass], returning the next day, LRF permitting. Rolling for beginners & intermediate in open seas & many other aspects of open navigation/survival will be undertaken on course. The ability to prove a roll that is practical will advance your space. That said, non rollers are more than welcome. 3 spaces left.

Further detailed details on application.
posted by •≈ Sgian Dubh at 03:16:00 | 0 Retorts
Sunday 28 June 2009
Since I was up the way, rolling around - at 8 o'clock this evening I took a scoot up to where Patrick Winterton & Mick Berwick had camped in a wee carpark just shy of Rubha Robhanais, & took in a wee blether as they prepared for a 5am start. Mike was running around with white war paint under his eyes like a thin drawn out Adam Ant - Patrick, poking at a bowl of noodles. They seemed quite jovial & psyched. Even Simon Willis had made the journey over in his luxury camper van. Some sheep were trying to gate crash.
As Simon wondered around looking for an O2 signal, we talked Norwegian highs, circulatory currents, hydration, exertional heatstroke, orientation without horizon & the psychology in soloing to North Rona, the Hunters or St.Kilda, while the collie sprinkled holy water on each tent, van wheel & kayak. Blessings come in many forms :o)

Once you've done the boring open water bit [& thats the thing about open crossings] are you gonnea put in a speedy Faeroes circ nav? I asked expectantly - It's excellent, but I don't know of anyone else who has done it.

Patrick scratched his chin. Try to get home again I think...but the ferry only goes to Denmark now. He looked out warily at the rip forming strongly 100 mtrs offshore.

Having caught his glance, & for the sake of boosting confidence, I mischievously added: Aye, that rip is 24/7, I've seen prawners going sideways in it & back throttling. A kayak goes through like a greased egg.

Generalizing, I still think some approaches to, & reasoning behind open crossings, need more examination, maybe questioning that addresses individual motivation; especially nowadays where kayaking/climbing & the great outdoors is marketed to anyone & everyone & equipment is sold without recourse to those without apprenticeship. As access to the oceans is marketed en-vogue without commercial responsibility so the commercial causalities rise. You can walk into a store & buy the best kayak & best equipment - but you can't walk into a store & buy several bombproof rolls & a level survivalist psychology - the most important tools you can have at hand. I have in the past, had serious words with a few people who have been about to cross the Minch with little more experience in a kayak than a few days in sheltered unbelievably, without a spraydeck. It's a game of commitment, not Russian roulette..

Well, there is training for an extended crossing but then there is the crossing itself - they are not the same animals. It goes without saying that I wish them luck & a safe return, but this crossing is one I'd only go at with someone like Murty maybe, as shotgun. I wonder how much input he's had in bringing to bare the realities of this journey against a schoolboy enthusiasm... I hope they roll well in a squall, fully loaded, at night after no sleep & maintain spacial direction/oppo awareness?...I hope sustainably well. I hope they won't need to also. The combining seas into South Iceland can throw a tantrum anytime & account for a lot of the mad waters that encircle the Faroes. I'd imagine any problems they hit, to be creeping down into that vicinity. I shelved the 2002 Reykjavik to Nuuk solo because of those very reasons.

Still, wee itches aside, at 5am, in morning rain most likely, they will leave for the North Rona [fine soft bivi ground in contrast to the hellish Sula Bothy alternative] & Sula Sgeir stacs, & that's a day realistically, then hit the 3 day/2 night march or die session. It still seems reverse to my mind, North to South would be my preference...Anyway, the seas have been like glass all week here & the sun barely sets at the moment.
Mainly easterly or southeasterly 3 or 4, increasing 5 at times, slight or moderate
, haar, moderate or good, occasionally very poor....
Only an exhausted Amadan could fail - it's a very good time to go on the skin of it, maybe a day or two earlier would have been optimal, but it's still good. They may make it. I left them locked in preparation on the wee slipway, happy to know that when I first arrived, I wasnae the local ghillie about to shout GET ORF MOI LAAAND!:

Out the gap turn left a bit, keep going straight on - Patrick & Mick gear up for the Faroes

Their progress can be followed live on SPOT here

UPDATE: I have since learned that there has been no organized support waiting for them at the Faroes. Trawling through the www. the main concern seemed to be getting live film of their, what seems to be, imminent landing at the Faroes south island of Suduroy. There seems to have been no concern at having a launch ready as a shadow escort in the Faroes zone, or finalized medical or hospitality support [should it had been needed], by whoever is officially looking after or covering the trip. The onus seemed to be purely on wether they would have film.... Shame on
the sponsors, whoever you are. How did you not have this base covered if you knew they were gearing up 18 months ago? I find it utterly abhorrent, that they have been left to the wind inside an exhausting an epic open crossing.

I have rectified this successfully, through various Faroe/Greenland kayaking contacts in the further Northern hemisphere. Amongst other bits & pieces now in place, I have managed to get Jon Næs on board. He is a local Suduroy sea kayaker, & also a member in the volunteer rescue company SNB on the Faroes & they have planned to meet Patrick & Mick in their small rescue boat ROYNDIN offshore & shadow them in -two-step & secondarily to their safety- he has arranged for a pal who has good camera equipment, stills & live to join him, who also writes for the local Sudurras website. Things like this have a life of their own & the news is spreading, a wee bit of coercion aside. :o)
They are now in full radio-phone contact with the local SNB launch & crew & within a proper web, of support.

15:24 03/7/09: Low & behold, they are meandering in fog, in shipping channels & increased head winds.

UPDATE 17:30: They have arrived safe & sound. Three days & nights in the Northern Atlantic, in kayaks 54cm wide & 17ft long, alone, motivated & tiny inside a totally committing crossing. A huge achievement & well done to both of you. The moment of landfall can be seen here. Now, maybe a rowing ferry service? :o)

posted by •≈ Sgian Dubh at 23:19:00 | 6 Retorts
Sunday 22 March 2009

Qajaq Building with Skyak Adventures

•≈ Turner Wilson -& I imagine Cheri also- will be visiting Gordon Brown & the Isle of Skye from the 6th to the 17th of May. He will be here to guide anyone interested in participating, in the building & design of their own skin-on-frame qajaq. Duncan Winning will also be there as will Mark Partridge, bringing to the table a vast knowledge base in wood selection, boatbuilding & paddling expertise.

The cost will be £1250.00 per head & this will include all materials use of the workshop & tools. Not bad when you wiegh it all up. Your own skin-on-frame & a gain in knowledge & build techniques for just over a thousand notes. There are no many SoFs on the islands & it would be good to see a few more trucking around. Gordon & Morag say that this does not include accomodation but they can easily guide individuals to their preferred option. Personally I'd go for camping at the end of their garden with a banjo. :o)
I would have been there to help people fine tune their rolling, advanced or basic & get to grips with their new low volume delights for free as a side show, but unfortunately I will be engaged elsewhere with a prior Igdlorssuit client commitment...

Anyone still interested in a place on the course should drop an email in on Gordi & Morag at or maybe ring that bell on 01471 833428 - Places are going like hot cakes! I'm sure it will be a great gig & a success to be repeated.

Once upon a time...

There was a qajaq-rolling junkie, who met a qajaq-rolling fool...

posted by •≈ Sgian Dubh at 21:02:00 | 0 Retorts
Friday 13 March 2009
A day [or three] at Aird Feinis, Na Hearadh - following reeks of strong wind & heavy breaking swell - rolling with the punches. It's an almost constant feature of this part of the coastline throughout winter. It is also, some of the best, unsung sea kayaking ground in the Hebrides. The Jurassic DNA of this area is rampant, its wild thrown skylines, cut by great volcanic incisors dominating each turned corner & geo.
The surf landing site in the photo is for SoFs only - composites need not apply. Well ok, they can apply, but they will lose a good 8 inches of nose trying to fill out the form. :o)

posted by •≈ Sgian Dubh at 16:17:00 | 3 Retorts
•≈ The Storm
Thursday 5 March 2009
Sometimes if you put the kayak in the sea - you may not be around for very long. Needless to say I was still tempted to get into a knife fight with the elements. :o)

Ama whale on a beach without these pelagic fireworks, without this ocean. The Anas & my soul are primed. Today was a day of huge Atlantic storm waves trying to climb 150ft cliffs....& nearly making it!
I was perched on a 4ft skiddily wet ledge, having downclimbed a 30 or so foot section of damp cliff when this came thundering in. I got a wee bit wet & nearly torn off, but it was worth grimacing for the shot. I should dig out those mouldy old climbing ropes next time. For a bit of perspective, the small white ledge left in the black mass could easily accomodate two adults.
posted by •≈ Sgian Dubh at 12:01:00 | 2 Retorts
•≈ Zack
Wednesday 25 February 2009

I found this astonishing, inspirational, emotional, honest & replete... In my qajaq I have felt this way, inside the frame, shooting off the hip & going home through creaking glens, performing the next great roll & feeling nothing when there is everything to feel...Zacks short film is an instant classic.

•≈ Zack

With that in mind I took the kayak out & through the wild arches, mad surf & stacs, ending up at Cladach Sgiogarstaigh where low slung rocks create a viewing amphitheatre below the waterline I took a slingshot into a small but natural haven, the drummed skin protesting at being forced onto rounded boulders. Ahead of me - small houses & crofts scattered out like cornflakes on a tabletop. Behind me, subsonic rumbles, great soaring arches & sea stacks. Dragging the sea kayak ashore, I watched a storm build out in the Atlantic & prepared to take this shot..

I ended up at the deserted 19th century harbour, deserted but for a few small craft rotting at the top of its slipway, it's walls gently clanking with loose chains & creel lines like an impatient old man tapping his pipe, waiting for the to'ing & fro'ing of purpose, or youth, to return...
I slipped back into the qajaq & pulled the Tuiliq over the coaming, setting a mind course in the darklight, for broth, a fire & sleep.

The next day, I was on that road back to Skye, weaving through dramatic clouds & swirling horizons. All of this punctuated by light & independant rain storms. Seconds after I took this shot I had thousands of tiny white balls in my hair :o)
Today is a day of 360° grey, rain & wind. The coliies nose is pressed against the window, as is mine...

posted by •≈ Sgian Dubh at 18:24:00 | 0 Retorts