Archive for January 2010
This weekend sees the first ever Pyranha Dart Fest, a big get-together of white water paddlers at the River Dart Country Park near Ashburton, Dartmoor.
There is a busy schedule planned, with paddling, coaching sessions and entertainment in the evening. My good friend Kevin Francis and I are presenting one of the evening slots, with the pithy title ‘Kev and Mark’s Excellent Adventures’. I will whizz through my trips to India and California in recent times, whilst Kevin will tell stories about the epic wilderness whitewater of the Romaine River in Quebec, with at least one helicopter evacuation involved … hopefully see you there.
More info here, here and here.
… a rather large and consequential rapid on the Romaine River, pic from Kev Francis
A few pics of California …
India follows …
This weekend we made a couple of visits to Chapman’s Pool, a cove located several miles from our home. Getting to the cove (without a kayak) is quite awkward at this time of year, as a 300 foot descent is required down slippery streaks of mud pretending to be paths.
We weren’t the only thing slipping. A few minutes before we arrived, a major landslip ate a big chunk out of the 150 foot cliffs, scaring the bejesus out of the lone fossil hunter occupying the cove. As he breathlessly reported to us,
“The ground shook and it sounded like a jet taking off”.
We watched as smaller rockfalls thundered down to the water’s edge; all very impressive, but a fraction of the earlier slip in terms of volume …
The large pile of debris created by the slip currently blocks the beach, but will presumably be washed away in the next big storm, just leaving the larger rocks for the fossil hunters to pick through. In the meantime, take care boys and girls, and remember that our coast is not exactly a static environment!
I’ve had a fair few enquiries about the equipment used for photos in the blog and in the book South West Sea Kayaking. So humour me, I’ll try to cover this stuff in a single blog post.
Basically, I now always use a digital SLR. I carry it in a Watershed Ocoee drybag with internal padding. Watershed drybags are 100% dry (if sealed properly), but not cheap. Whilst paddling, the bag lives between my knees and is quickly opened/closed for photos.
The only protection for the camera whilst in use is a rubber Camera Armor cover; this at least protects the camera from damp salty fingers. Incidentally, ignore the lens condom thing that comes with the rubber case – this is useless and looks ridiculous, it goes straight in the bin.
The photos for South West Sea Kayaking were mostly taken with a secondhand Olympus E500. It’s conveniently small and light.
I subsequently decided to go a bit more seriously down the SLR route, and spent far too much money on toys from Nikon. For the last two years I have owned a Nikon D80 (Nikon have now replaced this with the improved D90)… this is a fantastic camera which does a much better job of exposing colour and light effectively (compared to the Olympus E500), and (something of a Nikon speciality) handles low light and high ISOs very well. If I were only ever to own one ‘decent’ camera for everything, it would be this one.
Late last year, I went temporarily insane and acquired a Nikon D300s; this expensive housebrick of a camera doesn’t really do anything new that my D80 doesn’t (apart from video, which I don’t want/need), but it is a noticeable step-up in certain respects, e.g. really fast accurate focusing and blisteringly fast frame rate (7 shots per second). I’m currently trying to get my head around this camera, but I’m sure that it’ll produce some great pics once I figure it out.
Like any camera geek, I have all sorts of lenses, not all of which I am entirely sure I understand what they do. However, pretty well all my on-the-water shots are taken using the awesomely versatile Nikon 18-200mm VR lens … the zoom range covers pretty well all possibilities, and the VR (image stabilisation) is obviously of benefit whilst your boat is moving up and down.
For wildlife/close-up shots, I was lucky enough to acquire a Nikon 80-400mm VR lens on eBay. This hefty lump of a lens is only really practical for use on dry land, and I’ve spent many happy hours lying on rocks and sand, pointing it at obliging seals and seabirds.
Hopefully that’s useful, for those who want to know the technical side of things. At some point I might find time to pen something about how I take photos, but I admittedly know a lot more about buying toys than using them …
PS If you feel a sudden desire to buy any of this gear for yourself, please use the links on this page – I get a small commission, enabling me to waste even more money on camera gear!
First thing this morning, I completed a 12 mile cross-country run, which included 1300 feet of ascent and a fair amount of getting lost in Rempstone Forest. This is the longest run I’ve done since 1993, and I suspect it all came much easier back then! This is all part of a grander plan, of which more in due course … the good news is that it was a beautiful dawn and that there is no finer place to run than the hills of the Isle of Purbeck, looking down on the sea on three sides.
Anyway, we’d spent too much of Saturday indoors, doing some rather dull work on the new book (ISBN numbers, anyone?), so we took this afternoon off and went for a wander around Durlston Head Country Park.
PS A reminder that tomorrow (Monday) night, Heather will be speaking about our splendid Orkney trip, and I’ll be speaking about various whitewater trips. All welcome – come and say hello! More info here.
Fabulous Lundy Island has just become Britain’s first Marine Conservation Zone, under the new Marine and Coastal Access Act. Lundy is the first of many planned MCZs.
Finding Sanctuary is a project devoted to involving stakeholders (i.e. you and I) in the planning and development of further Marine Protected Areas in South West England. They sent the following message to water users … have a read through and please give serious consideration to responding;
Finding Sanctuary is the first ever project that gives people a real opportunity to be involved in plans to protect the marine environment in the south-west, and those behind the scheme say that this is a once in a generation chance for interested parties to make their views known.
There are now just six months left for sea users to come forward and share their information and observations about the areas of sea they use in the south-west, so that commercial and leisure interests can be taken into account in the planning of new Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs).
No MCZs have yet been proposed for the south-west, with the exception of Lundy Island whose protected east coast will have its designation changed from a Marine Nature Reserve to a Marine Conservation Zone this month (January 12th 2010), making it the south-west’s first MCZ. Central to the process is a regional Steering Group incorporating a wide range of water users that will make its recommendations for new MCZs to Government in June 2011. Local MCZ Groups will work alongside the Steering Group so that local information and views can also be considered.
According to Joana Smith from Finding Sanctuary; “By the end of our research work we aim to have a definitive map showing how south-west waters are currently used. This information is vital for ensuring that commercial and leisure interests can be taken into account in deciding where Marine Conservation Zones should be placed and what activities need to be restricted in them. 2010 is a critical year – this isn’t an opportunity that is likely to occur again in the near future and the decisions that are made could have an impact on a whole range of waterborne activities. The message has to be – make your voice heard now before it is too late.”
While discussions with the fishing community are well advanced, Finding Sanctuary is still looking for input from a wide range of leisure sea users, including sea kayakers, kayak fishermen and kayak surfers, who could find their activities affected by the creation of new Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs). Possible restrictions could include no anchoring areas, new speed limits or even no take zones.
So far over 700 sea anglers, 300 divers and 40 sailing and yacht clubs have shared their views and data with the project, but there are many more sea users in the region who have yet to get in touch. Finding Sanctuary is particularly keen to hear from kayakers, jetskiiers, kitesurfers, windsurfers and surfers as these groups are currently underrepresented.
The Royal Yachting Association’s Kate Moore says that people must act now. “If people miss this opportunity to speak out, they will be wasting their one chance to determine the future balance between marine conservation and the way we use our seas. We all know there will be difficult decisions ahead but those decisions have to be made based on the most comprehensive and up to date information.”
Any club, association or individual who wants to contribute information to the project can do so via www.mczmapping.org or by contacting their Liaison Officer to arrange an interview. The website www.finding-sanctuary.org also has a list of “drop-in days” for sea users in the south-west region.
Spike Searle – Cornwall & Isles of Scilly liaison officer
Lives in Newlyn, Cornwall (ex-fisherman)
John Weinberg – Dorset liaison officer
Lives in Swanage, Dorset (diving background)
David Murphy – Devon liaison officer
Lives in Brixham, Devon (ex-fisherman)
Martin Syvret – Somerset liaison officer
Lives near Exeter, Devon (works part-time, fisheries and aquaculture background)
Beth Henshall– Boating & Watersports liaison officer
Lives in Plymouth, Devon (sailor)
More Lundy photos here and here.
Only those reading from overseas will be unaware that the UK is currently undergoing (what is for us, anyway) an exceptionally cold period. Things aren’t too severe down here in the south west, but I was still too wimpy to go paddling in this weekend’s subzero temperatures and bracing winds. My bad shoulder is my official excuse …
Instead, today we headed to one of the places that has recently become one of our favourite haunts; the RSPB Reserve on the Arne Peninsula overlooking Poole Harbour. Yes, we’re members of the RSPB; middle age looms.
Heather, somewhere in Orkney. I think.
I did an evening of talks up the road at Poole Harbour Canoe Club last year. Surprisingly, I can’t have offended absolutely everybody in the room on that occasion, as they’ve invited me back for another go, later this month.
The talks will be on the evening of Monday 18th January, commencing at 7.30 pm. The venue is the cellar bar of The Blue Boar in Poole. I’ll say something about our recent whitewater trips to California, and something on our sea kayaking trip to Orkney. Other places like India and the Isles of Scilly may or may not feature, depending upon how much I ramble and how long before the audience starts walking out. Heather may also do some of the talking, or she may not. As you can see, we’ve planned this in depth.
Other local paddlers are very welcome to attend – indeed the more the merrier, PHCC welcome guests on this evening. It’s free, but if after arriving you feel a sudden compulsion to buy fifteen copies of my book, then I won’t stop you.
Drop me an email if you have any queries.
More Orkney …
… and a bit of California …
Back at work today, oh joy. We did at least do some enjoyable things over the hols, but not involving paddles or kayaks. On a Christmas Day MTB ride with Heather, I managed to land upside-down on my shoulder from a significant height. Something audibly went ‘crack’, but I haven’t been brave enough to get it X-Rayed; hopefully if I ignore the problem, it will simply go away. Doesn’t sound promising for paddling in the near future, though. Anyway, there was no paddling to be done in Wales - all rivers were effectively frozen solid and so we went hillwalking with various friends instead.
Anyway, relevant news.
Firstly, the Feb issue of Canoe Kayak UK magazine (out tomorrow) features an article and photos by Yours Truly on the subject of Orkney. Please buy a copy, otherwise they will stop employing me and hence our cat will go unfed – can you live with that on your conscience?
Secondly, and this is the important one, the New Year’s Resolution - Heather and I are on a drive this year to make decent progress with the writing of Savage Shores. We put back the finish date by a year for various reasons, but now we are both fully focused on this genuinely exciting project. More updates to follow.