Edie

Edie

I know that this isn’t a film review website but after watching the recently released “Edie” this afternoon I feel that I must put some thoughts down.
It follows the journey of Edith Moore, after the death of her husband, who she has looked after for 30 years, but what was in effect a claustrophobic marriage.  When her daughter wants to put her in a Care Home, she heads north to Lochinver, following a dream that was ignited by a post card from her father many years earlier.
As somebody in her 80’s climbing Suilven, an iconic mountain rising to a height of 731 metres, was clearly going to be a major challenge.  She was assisted in her endeavours by Jonny, who just happens to work in the local outdoor shop.  He was in a prime position, therefore, to be able to sell her a significant amount of high quality outdoor equipment.
Jonny was also in an ideal position to provide appropriate training for the proposed ascent of the mountain.  The relationship between Edie and Jonny is the corner stone of the film and is what helps make the film more enjoyable than might be expected.
One of the most emotional points in the film is when they are rowing and Edie reflects on her wasted life.  So many years spent in unhappiness, which can never be regained.  I enjoyed the performances by both Shelia Hancock and Kevin Guthrie.
The background to the film is the superb landscape of north west Scotland, although this is a film set in the mountains there are glimpses of a coastline far below, which many of us are familiar with, and if we aren’t, it is an inspiration to head north to discover the superb coastal and mountain scenery.
A showing of Edie may not be that easy to find.  At our local cinema it was only shown Monday to Thursday at 3.00 in the afternoon.  So if you had a normal job watching it is virtually impossible, that may well explain why there were only 5 people at the showing we went to.  It deserves to be seen by a wider audience though.
At times the film seems cliched and the end was never really in doubt but it is a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend 102 minutes of your time.

The Art of Kayaking

The Art of Kayaking

I first met Nigel in 1979 at the 3rd National Sea Canoeing Symposium in Sheffield, when he spoke about his trip to Newfoundland.  Following on from this when I needed an assessor to assist with an Advanced Sea Assessment (5 Star) I asked him to come to Jersey early in 1981 and this was the first time that we paddled on the water.
It was clear right from the start that Nigel’s skill level was way ahead of most coaches who were active at the time.  I remember seeing him reverse loop a sea kayak, in a narrow gully, rotate 180 degrees and surf in the opposite direction, there was absolutely no margin for error.
Later that year Nigel went on his solo paddle in the Hudson Strait, which was significantly more challenging than anticipated.  Nigel has remained active, over the years, as a coach, designer, author and explorer and this book is a result of his undeniable passion for all things paddling.
“The Art of Kayaking” is divided into sections covering equipment, flat water skills, dry skills (navigation, weather etc), applying skills (moving into more challenging conditions) and a short section on breaking down skills.
All the chapters are supported by a large number of colour photographs, illustrating the key points.  Some of the photographs are clearly quite old, whereas others have probably been taken for the book and have been annotated clearly to emphasize the salient points.  The photographs clearly reflect Nigel’s considerable experience as a kayaker.  My only slight gripe, about the book, is that it doesn’t always say where the photographs were taken.  Its the geographer coming out in me, I like to know where places are.
This book will appeal to kayakers of all abilities, those starting out on the journey as a sea paddler will be able to dip into the book frequently as they gain experience and extend their horizons.  Coaches will also appreciate the clarity of some of the explanations and diagrams, enhancing the quality and variety of their coaching.
There are quite a number of sea kayaking manuals available and it is always difficult to decide which ones to buy.  Some are specialized, whereas others such as this one are more comprehensive and offer something to paddlers of all abilities.
If you are in the market for a sea kayaking manual or just want to add to your kayaking book collection then “The Art of Kayaking” is one book to seriously consider.

Nigel Foster
Nigel at the Port Townsend Symposium in 1995. Performing at skills session, to a crowd of approximately 100 people.

Magazines Part 2

The ongoing inability to go going sea kayaking is allowing more time to peruse my canoe and kayaking magazines.  They are literally taking over the whole floor of a room in the house.  I think that over the years I have managed to collect a few, what I consider gems, although probably many would disagree.
So here is the latest selection.

Magazines
Ocean Paddler, which is still going strong. Issue No.1 appeared in May 2007 at the Scottish Sea Kayak Symposium.

This was a great and welcome addition to the sea kayaking scene in the UK.  The first edition contained articles on incident management by Jeff Allen, photography by Douglas Wilcox, Tasmania by Justine Curgenven and Expedition Planning by me ( I had actually forgotten about that until I opened the magazine).  Over the years it has contained a huge range of excellent articles and should be considered essential reading by anybody interested in sea kayaking.  It is published 6 times a year and subscriptions are available.

Magazines
A report of the Symposium held in December 1979.

This report on the Third National Sea Kayaking Symposium is looking a bit battered because the family rabbits attacked it a few years ago.  The rabbits had to go after that, they had crossed a line when they attacked my kayaking literature!
Held just outside Sheffield in December 1979, it was one of my first excursions into mainstream sea kayaking.  Organised by John Ramwell, who ran the Advanced Sea Kayak Club for many years, it had some great speakers.  Nigel Foster spoke about his circumnavigation of Newfoundland with Tim Franklin, Derek Hutchinson spoke about expeditions and the Aleutians.  Plus lots of other inspirational stuff.  It would almost be true to say that attendance at this event and seeing what people were achieving, kick started my desire to get away on sea kayaking expeditions.

Magazines
Another first edition. Canoeist evolved from White Water Magazine and was a valuable source of info in the 1980’s and 90’s.

Stuart Fisher launched Canoeist in January 1983, a change from White Water Magazine, which had been printed for years.  In the first issue Paul Caffyn was half way around Australia and 30 companies who wanted to exhibit at the International Canoe Exhibition at Crystal Palace couldn’t get space as it was sold out!  Major articles included how to complete fibre glass repairs, a review of the Mirage kayak, which paddlers of a certain age will remember with affection and guides to the Basingstoke and the Coruh River in Turkey.  In later editions there were plenty of sea kayaking articles.

Magazines
First published in 1960, this is a 1978 issue.

Canoeing was well known as the magazine in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s which had pictures of scantily clad females on the front cover.  Mainly taken, I think, in the Ardeche, this cover is kayaks in the Ardeche.  There was a mention of 1977 British Sea Kayak Expedition to Spitsbergen.  Sam Cook who was on that trip is coming to Jersey in August this year to talk at our Nordkapp meet, so why not join us.  Other articles included canoeing in North America and a photo guide to the Struer Kayak factory in Denmark

Magazines
The magazine of the British Canoe Union from the 1950’s. It evolved into Canoe Focus.

A classic front cover photograph, from the Outer Hebrides.  Nigel Matthews and Frank Goodman, who paddled around Cape Horn in 1977 are in the picture.  Obviously Frank is well known through Valley Sea Kayaks.  Chris Hare took the photograph, was a very influential figure in sea kayaking in the 1960’s and 70’s, including being involved in the production of magazines.  The kayaks look like Anas Acuta’s, notice the lack of hatches and the paddles look like Mark Gee’s paddles.  A non stop circumnavigation of Anglesey is one of the main articles.

Magazines
A French magazine, which always seemed to be well produced, with high quality photographs.

Summer 2011 and the French paddling press was already pushing SUP.  This magazine contains some articles with stunning photographs of paddling in France plus a circumnavigation of Islay, in Scotland.  It helps if you can read a bit of French but if not you can’t failed to be impressed by the quality of the images.

Kayaking Magazines

Although out of action for several months with a ruptured achilles, it does allow me time to do some of those admin type tasks, which have been put on hold for several years as I have been to busy enjoying myself.  One simple task is to sort out my collection of kayaking magazines.
Most people at this point will switch off and think what is he talking about.  Over the years though I have built up a collection of canoeing and kayaking magazines, dating back to the 1930’s, which actually represent a significant body of knowledge about this sport we all love so much.
Even looking at the adverts gives you an insight into how the sport has evolved over the years.

Kayaking magazines
The quarterly magazine of the Canoe-Camping Club, this issue is from the spring of 1960. My understanding is that the magazine is still printed.

The Canoe-Camping Club still publishes its magazine but this one dates from the spring of 1960.  This issue contains some relevant advice on safety, a review of a 1957 Club trip to Sweden.  Noel McNaught, who wrote a couple of popular paddling books of the era, has an article on the River Blackwater in Ireland.  Again numerous short snippets illustrate what a well traveled and adventurous group members were in the Canoe Camping Club, 60 years ago.

Kayaking Magazine
The in house magazine of the British Canoe Union, this issue dates from July 1961.

The cover photograph of this issue of the BCU’s magazine is of trophy to commemorate Paul Farrant, the winner of the F1 class in the 1959 Canoe Slalom Championships.  Sadly he was killed in a motor cycle accident in 1960, when returning back to London after retiring from the Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race.  The first page announces the appointment of Oliver Cock as the National Coach from the 1st January 1962.  The fee for the services of the National Coach for the weekend was 12 guineas. £12.60 in todays money.  Another announcement was the introduction of Third Party Insurance liabilities up to £1000.  I think the current liability cover is £10 million.  How times have changed.  Most of the rest of the magazine was taken up with competition results, not the most fascinating reading.

Kayaking magazines
First published at the end of 1960 this was one of the first magazines devoted solely to canoeing.

I haven’t got the first issue of this magazine but managed to find the second one. John Disley was the Advertisement Manager and had an article on strength training.  He won the Bronze Medal in the 3000 metres steeplechase, at the Helsinki Olympics in 1952, and went onto to co-found the London Marathon.  Oliver Cock had an article on “Canoeing”, which was largely about the developments at the British Canoe Union and the possible appointment of the first National Coach for canoeing.  A position he was to get.  Another article considered the movement of water through the Swellies, in North Wales.  The research carried out under the supervision of instructors from Plas Y Brenin.  Plus numerous other short items.  A varied and actually quite interesting selection.

Kayaking magazines
Beachbreak is a specialist surf kayaking magazine first published in February 1980.

This was the magazine of the British Canoe Union Surf Committee, clearly it had a very small and specialist market.  I think it last for 17 issues, that’s the number of issues that I have any way.  Articles included a review of surfing in Brittany in 1979, riding waves in Hawaii on a ski and a guide to Kimmeridge Bay, in Dorset.

Kayaking magazines
This North American magazine, from 1994, is the most recently published of those illustrated.

Atlantic Coastal Kayaker is published 8 times a year and is available in both print and online versions.  I remember buying this issue, which was my first one, from Maine Sport in August 1994 after a family canoeing holiday on the West Branch of the Penobscot.  Here are a few images of that first multi day trip with our children.  Surprisingly when I opened the magazine I found a short review of a lecture I had given at the Crystal Palace Canoe Show of the Jersey Canoe Club trip to Greenland in 1993.  The link with the magazine continues as in the next issue I have an article on sea kayaking in Jersey.

Sea Kayaking Books

One of the things I have at the moment is time (ruptured achilles) so I am able to consider complete a few projects.  Something that I have been thinking about  is sea kayaking books.  Mainly, which ones have been influential over the years both in terms of coaching and the general evolution of the sport.

A substantial body of paddling literature has evolved over the last 170 years, with a wide range of books covering broad spectrum of topics. The last 40 years has seen a proliferation of sea kayaking books, offering both advice on skills and coaching, plus those describing journeys, many of which, provide inspiration.  I think that the selection of books below are all worth seeking out, giving an insight into how our sport has developed over the years.
Some of the key writers in the U.K. included Alan Byde and Derek Hutchinson. I remember seeing “Living Canoeing” by Alan Byde for the first time.  Published in 1969 there is the classic photograph of Mike Ramsay vertical at Hambledon Weir, I sat there staring at it as a 13 year old wondering how on earth the paddler got into that position. This is a book which provided inspiration to a generation of paddlers, both sea kayakers and white water paddlers.

Sea kayaking books

For me the next big development was the publication of Derek Hutchinson’s book “Sea Canoeing”. I had seen it advertised in Canoeing in Britain, the BCU magazine of the time and couldn’t wait for mine to arrive in the post. There was no way that the local bookshops were going to stock such a specialist title in 1976.  My copy was signed some years later by Derek and I feel fortunate that I got to know him.  For me one of the most significant aspects of the book were the photographs, they showed just where it was possible to take sea kayaks and they encouraged us to start to explore further afield.

Sea Canoeing

“The Book of Canoeing” by Alex Ellis, first published in 1935 has 7 pages devoted to sea kayaking.  He states:

“Paddle technique could be described in detail, but it is doubtful if a theoretical description would be of any great value.  It has to be acquired gradually by actual practice.”

Although this is 80 years old it remains very sensible advice. There are no real shortcuts to competence with a paddle and a kayak.  The author mentions two paddles, which he thinks are suitable for sea canoeing.
1.) Fort William to Largs
2.) South West Ireland
Paddles which 80 years on would still be seen as significant achievements.

Sea kayaking books

“Kayak to Cape Wrath” by J. Lewis Henderson.  I am not sure to the exact date of publication buy my copy has a dedication in the front, dated Christmas 1953.  A journey from Fort William to Cape Wrath along the west coast and then a crossing of northern Scotland, via a line of lochs, to finish on the east coast at Lairg.  A significant journey undertaken over several summers.  It is a journey, which, an self respecting sea kayaker would be pleased to complete today.  Joe Reid was clearly an accomplished paddler in several areas as he was in the K2 1000m event at the 1948 Olympics.

Sea kayaking books

“The Canoeing Manual” by Noel McNaught.  First published in 1956, includes a whole chapter on crossing the English Channel, something which some paddlers still aspire towards but is actually discouraged because of the shipping hazards.

Sea kayaking books

“Vikings, Scots and Scraelings” by Myrtle Simpson, published in 1977 was the first book I read about kayaking in Greenland and it fired my imagination, encouraging me to consider heading north in pursuit of sea kayaking heaven.

Sea kayaking books

“Paddling my Own Canoe” by Audrey Sutherland from 1978.  Her initial paddling was in a nine foot inflatable canoe but she started her explorations by swimming the coast of north east Molokai.  She went on to paddle in several areas of the world providing inspiration to, particularly, a more elderly generation of paddlers.

Sea kayaking books

“Scottish Sea Kayaking” by Doug Cooper and George Reid published in 2005. In many ways this was the first of a new generation of sea kayaking guides, in full colour and full of useful information about a whole range of topics. Pesda Press have gone on to publish a whole range of sea kayaking guides, covering most of the British Isles

Sea kayaking books

So that’s my personal selection of sea kayaking books, which are worth seeking out.  There is no doubt in my mind that if was to write this piece in a couple of weeks time some of the titles would have changed.

Greenland Paddle

Anybody knows me is aware that I am totally lacking in any practical skills. My belief is that it is important to keep the artisan in work. So it was much to everyone’s surprise and some people’s disbelief that I decided to make a Greenland paddle.
Embarking on this journey I was completely thrown into unknown waters. I had managed to reach the ripe old of 60 and had never bought any wood in my life. It was with some trepidation that I entered the the timber yard and casually ordered two pieces of red cedar, as if it was something I did almost every day. The reality is that I wouldn’t have recognised cedar if it had hit me in the face.
One of the advantages of making your own paddle is cost.  Wood for two paddles cost £20 whereas commercially produced paddles are generally in the region of £200 or slightly higher.  The only problem is that I didn’t have any tools at all to work with so buying the necessary items cost just over £200.  So I have to make a few paddles if there is to be any return on the investment.
If you decide to make your own Greenland paddle there is plenty support out there.  I have used the really useful film that Matt Johnson has put on YouTube. Use the film in conjunction with the PDF written by Chuck Holst and available for download from Qajaq USA.
It has been a fascinating journey so far and my progress has certainly surprised some members of my family.

Greenland Paddle
No power tools for me just a good old fashion saw. It was fascinating how the sawing improved as the afternoon wore on.  Once I started with the saw there was no turning back.  I will either have a Greenland paddle or some expensive firewood!
Greenland Paddle
Markings which indicate how the shaft will emerge.
Greenland paddle
Markings for the end of the blade. The rounded edges were produced using a dinner plate.
Greenland Paddle
Quite amazingly a paddle shape is starting to emerge. A hand plane will be used to smooth the edges.

North to Athabasca

Athabasca

In the summer of 2000 I took a group of young people from Jersey to paddle the Allagash Wilderness Waterway in northern Maine.  I remember sitting on the shore of one of the lakes watching a float plane come into land and drop off a solo paddler.  I made a note in my journal to the effect on the 23rd June.  Several years later I came across a book “Canoe Trip” by David Curran, in which he describes his solo trip down the Allagash after having been dropped off on Umsaskis Lake on the 23rd  June 2000.  Although we were clearly on the river at the same time, apart from that distant view I have no recollection of seeing a solo paddler again on that trip.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book, so was pleased when towards the end of last year I came across a second book by the same author, “North to Athabasca”.  Once I sat down to read the book at the end of last week I quickly became  hooked and finished it in a couple of days.  With his friend Walter they decide to paddle a river, significantly more challenging than the Allagash.  Flying north into Saskatchewan their aim was to paddle the MacFarlane River, a rarely paddled river which flows into Lake Athabasca.
Actually getting to the launch site was a major undertaking and once on the river they were effectively in their own, although as is the case with many remote trips today they did carry a satellite phone.
The river flows through a pristine wilderness with all the challenges that traveling through such an area entails.  Through David’s writing we gain a flavour of what they experienced, ranging from the wildlife encountered to the physical challenges involved in paddling in the Canadian north.  They were clearly at home in such an area but I do have to say that I questioned their behaviour with one particular bear, if it had been me I would have been paddling flat out in the opposite direction.
At the end of the book, besides thinking I would always take a GPS with me, my overall feeling was one of envy.
It has been nearly 15 years since I last did a long canoe trip and reading “North to Athabasca” made me realize that it has been too long.  It is an easy book to read, the ideal scenario would be on an aircraft en route to a paddling trip.
Just be prepared to start planning your own adventures.

Sea Kayaking Emergency bag

Virtually every time we go on the water we should carry some basic items of safety equipment.  Unfortunately, I am basically a disorganised person and finding small items of equipment from the chaos of the kayaking boxes was virtually an insurmountable problem.  So the solution was to put together a small emergency bag with all the essential items of kit.  It took about 3 months to source all of the things that I needed and it is true to stay that it still isn’t complete.  I still search diligently in yacht chandlers and outdoor shops for that elusive item of equipment, which may provide the final piece of the jigsaw.
The following items of equipment are contained within my waterproof bag:

 

Signal Mirror:  A small item, which could prove to be useful if you have an accident on a sunny day.  I found mine in a small French yacht chandlers.  It only cost 3.00 €, so it is worth the small financial outlay.
Spare Hatches: 
I carry the Reed hatch covers and have used them twice so they weren’t a waste of money.
Bungee Cords: 
Just one set and you never know when they will be needed.  Ideally for keeping some of the items in the bag wrapped up.
Multi-purpose Tool: 
There is the Leatherman and then there are cheaper ones.  For this emergency bag I have selected a cheaper one, as there is every chance that it will damaged by the seawater.  I paid 7€ for mine at a French DIY store.
Woollen Hat: 
I might swap this for a sun hat during the warmer summer months.
Plastic Sheet: 
Cut from a sparkling water bottle.  The thin plastic is ideal for helping to repair a relatively large hole in the kayak.
Repair Tape: 
Spinnaker tape, electrician’s tape and duck tape.  A selection, which should be able to sort out most needs, including repair kayaks, spray decks and tents.
Epoxy Resin: 
I use a French variety, partly for the challenge of translation, and partly because it is effective.  It will set under water and will repair most materials.
Whistle: 
I have the loudest one that I could find.  The literature makes numerous extravagant claims about decibels etc, all I know is that if I blow it my ears hurt!
Lighter: 
More like a blowtorch than a lighter.  An effective heat source and according to the publicity material it can’t be blown out by the wind.  Useful for a number of reasons.  Just in case the gas runs out I also have a box of waterproof matches.  (I also remove this from the bag before I fly anywhere)
Fire Lighters: 
Just a couple in case it is necessary to light a fire.
Poncho: 
A small poncho, which is ideal if people are cold at lunchtime.
Exposure Bag: 
I don’t have the traditional orange exposure bag but one, which is made of the same material as the well-known space blanket.  The advantage is that it packs up very small.
Spare Food: 
Just a small amount.  I don’t plan on getting stranded for several days in the heart of what is in effect an urban area.  I normally take food, which I am not that keen on so I am not tempted to eat it. 

Money:  Just a small amount, stored in the inevitable film container that is if you can still find one.  Useful for telephones, cafes etc.
Spare Batteries: 
These are for both the GPS and the VHF radio.  A selection of cheaper batteries is better than the more expensive variety; they only have to last a couple of hours.
Strobe:
  Ideal for drawing attention to yourself at night.
Wet Wipes:
  Ideal for all sorts of uses.
First Aid Kit: 
Just a few small items.  Triangular bandage, skin closures, assorted plasters, wound dressing and safety pins.
When I open up the waterproof waist pack it always amazes me that all of the above fits inside such a relatively small container.  What it has enabled me to do is to always carry a basic level of safety equipment.  It can be customized to meet individual needs and because I am always on the look out for another useful item it remains a work in progress.

The A – Z of Sea Kayaking. An update.

A-Z of Sea Kayaking

The A – Z of Sea Kayaking was the first book that I published for the Kindle.  The concept was very simple, write down everything I knew or I could find out about sea kayaking.  It was a fascinating journey, which changed direction several times in its development.  At one time I was also going to include information on some classic paddling destinations. That idea was eventually put on hold but I did include information on such varied topics as coaching, skills, weather, navigation, personalities etc.
The finished product came out at just under 100,000 words and occupied several hundred pages on my Kindle, it is still the longest book I have completed.  The latest title “Coasteering: A Practical Guide” has just under 24,000 words, although it does have significantly more photographs.
Over the last week I have been revising the book and rather naively I thought it was going to be quite a simple exercise.  When I first published the title Sandy Robson was just setting out from Germany on a 5 year expedition tracing the route of Oskar Speck. Olly Hicks and George Bullard hadn’t even started to think about kayaking from Greenland to Scotland, something they achieved in 2016.  Sea Kayaker magazine was still in production, as were other paddling magazines, which have since disappeared.
Other changes have seen of one of the most respected governing bodies in the sport renamed.  The British Canoe Union has become British Canoeing.  Sadly a number of the most influential and prominent paddlers of the second part of the 20th century have passed away.
So far I have added another 5,000 words and appear to have only just scratched the surface of the significant number of changes, achievements and developments in the sport.  It is amazing to see just what has been achieved in the last six years, a true reflection of how dynamic modern sea kayaking is.
So what started as a simple project has grown significantly but the plan is still to have the new edition available before the end of the year.

Tide, Feather, Snow

In 1998 I was fortunate enough to spend a few weeks kayaking in Alaska, I remember being particularly excited as it was the first sea kayaking trip away that I had organized completely via the internet.
We flew into Homer, chartered a boat to take us out and spent 3 weeks paddling back in to Homer.  It was a scenically spectacular area with great wildlife and we were lucky that for the first 10 days we didn’t experience any of the rain for which the region is famous.

Alaska
This is the view across Kachemak Bay towards the Kenai Fjords National Park. It was taken at the end of our trip to the State and there were already indications that winter was approaching

I came across the book “Tide, Feather, Snow” by Miranda Weiss towards the end of last year.  It describes the life of somebody who moves to Alaska and lives in Homer.  The book describes the Homer that we knew, I recognized the descriptions of the town, of the bars and some of the towns characters, reading it brought back some great memories of that summer at the end of the 1990’s.
It is a delightful read which reflects on the challenges of living in the largest State.  Anybody who has an interest in the north or has been to Alaska will really enjoy this book by Miranda Weiss.

Tide, Feather, Snow