Scottish sea guide^

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Mark R
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Scottish sea guide^

Post by Mark R » Mon May 22, 2006 12:31 am

Cailean suggested I start a thread about the Scottish sea kayaking guide published last year by Pesda Press, so here goes...

First off, whatever they think of the book...any sea kayaker who paddles in Scotland and claims they don't own a copy yet is a liar. Everyone will already own a copy by now, and anyway everyone should.

Good points of the book...

> Quality photos, although not in the same ballpark as Mr Wilcox*.

> Useful technical info at the back

> Local tidal info (probably THE most useful bit)

> Great info panels on wildlife

> Nice intros on each area/ region

Stuff which doesn't quite work for me...

> Recommendations on campsites. Don't want/ need them, personally. No, really.

> Maps with dotted lines showing me where to paddle...huh? I can understand this concept to encourage less confident paddlers to try a few sheltered novice trips, but there are even dotted lines showing me how to cross the Minch and back. What's that all about? Maybe I'm missing something, but this makes no sense...the whole book is predicated around the concept of describing pre-determined trips...which don't really tie in with sea kayaking as I understand it, as much from practicality as philosophy.


That's it, really. You will certainly want to own a copy of this for the useful local data (and don't pretend otherwise, you all already own a copy), but the book is arguably a brave experiment which doesn't quite click together.

Now, as for 'Oileain'....



*I am sure it has been considered already, but there has to be the market for a Wilcox 'coffee table' book on Scottish sea kayaking...
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Re: Scottish sea guide

Post by Quest 129 » Mon May 22, 2006 9:56 am

I paddle all the year round and am out most weekends. I do not own a copy of this book. Guide books are great for pointers and ideas but I prefer to be out there doing it rather than reading books about it.
Each to his/her own.

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Post by Mark R » Mon May 22, 2006 10:00 am

Surely you use tidal data to paddle, though?
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Niall Duncanson
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My thoughts.

Post by Niall Duncanson » Mon May 22, 2006 11:02 am

I don't own this book and I don't feel the need to. I look up tidal data from the net whenever I feel I need to. I am not exactly out every weekend, but I do a fair bit up and down the west coast and elsewhere every year. I feel the book in question is likely to result in increased use of the area, but as long as this is responsible use I have no problem. I would rather see a hundred canoeists (I pretty much did on Loch Lomond yesterday) than one jetski on the water. At the end of the day, though, I would rather do the research myself before going to explore somewhere new.
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Post by andreadawn » Mon May 22, 2006 11:17 am

I did buy a copy and was rather disappointed really, but since I didn't look at it first I guess I've only got myself to blame.

I was rather hoping for something that gave a more general overview of the coast from a kayakers perspective.

I'm perfectly happy to use guidebooks where they suit my purpose. I seldom follow other people's route ideas to the letter, prefering instead to use them for more general inspiration. Unfortunately this one just doesn't inspire for some reason. It's all rather cold and clinical. Most of the tidal info can be found elsewhere such as in Martin Lawrence's Yatchsmans Pilots, which give more comprehensive coverage, and Hamish Haswell Smith's book is far more inspirational when it comes to islands.

It would be interesting to see if folk who live in Scotland or regularly paddle there view it differently to others.

Andrea

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Post by Owen » Mon May 22, 2006 11:33 am

I do have a copy and I have to agree with Andrea, disappointing.

The tidal information is only enough to do the routes discribed; no good if you want to deviate. The now very sadly out of print Pembrokeshire guide had much better approch. It didn't give any routes but just discribed the coast, access, tides, general information etc. I very rarely use use it as a guidebook, Lawrence's pilots, Haswell Smith and the easy tide website are all more useful.

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Post by Mike Marshall » Mon May 22, 2006 12:06 pm

I also have a copy and feel that it is aimed at the early competent sea paddler wishing to explore and grow a little. It is also good for quick checking an alternative if the day prevents your original trip for whatever reason.
If you are heading to unknown territory for the first time, it is reassuring that a particular paddle has a "grade" (so to speak), which boosts the confidence to do the trip.

MikeM

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Post by TimParish » Mon May 22, 2006 12:26 pm

As a newcomer to sea kayaking (or any kayaking for that matter) I bought a copy of the book and found it informative and inspirational.

I've spent over 17 years diving around the coasts of the UK and, in the earlier years, several of those dives were selected and planned using one of other of the 'Diver's Wreck Guides' which cover all areas of the UK and which have a similar format to the Scottish Sea kayaking book. As you gain more experience and confidence you start researching and planning your own dives and this becomes a far more rewarding experience.

I'm hoping that this will be the same with sea kayaking, as experience is gained you drop the use of the guide books and start to spread your wings, but in the initial stages this type of resource can be invaluable. I think the book is good for what it does, illustrating the type of trips that can be undertaken off the coasts of Scotland.

Horses for courses!
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Another use for guide books

Post by adrian j pullin » Mon May 22, 2006 1:45 pm

I think there is another point to this and other similar books. It's called dreaming. If you can't get out there. I agree that it is a poor substitute for paddling, but at least you can escape in your mind for a short time.

I bought this book last week and have only flicked through it. It looks to me to be giving lots of useful info, particularly for those of us that live far enough away not to get out there every weekend.

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Post by Jim » Mon May 22, 2006 1:45 pm

I'm not a big buyer of books, every now and then I'll find a series of fiction books and end up buying them all, but generally I only buy books very occasionally. I haven't got a copy of the Scottish sea kayaking guide, and probably won't. I also haven't got round to buying the 2nd edition of the rivers guide (well I hardly ever paddle rivers now) or any of a number of good books.

I have seen the guide, I think it was Pelagic's copy, and of the few bits I looked at the routes didn't really seem to be the ones I would pick for that area. That's all there is to it. It's a good resource for people with no idea about the area (can I call Sscotland an area without upsetting nationalists?) and/or that don't go sea kayaking very often and don't have the confidence to totally do their own thing. However something that crossed my mind, and I think others in the group felt the same, was that it appears to miss out the premier league trips/locations and highlight other very good trips/locations that are perhaps only second division? Now whilst I have no particular problem with this, it does leave one feeling slightly cynically thatthe book is not all it's made out to be, and is could possibly be an attempt by the authors to divert attention from their favourite spots? Like I say I only had a brief glance at it really, and everyones criteria for an excellent trip are different, maybe the authors genuinely do think they have included all the best spots?

As to whether or not I would use guides, the answer is yes. I don't do much hillwalking anymore so my confidence in picking a line up a potentially serious mountain has waned slightly, and I'll happily refer to McNeish's book on the Munro's (admittedly he generally tries to include interesting routes that are alternative to the normal tourist track where one exists, although that in turn will probably lead to the alternatives becoming the tourist tracks of the future?), or any other book anyone has that has some tips for routes and what is good/bad etc. I don't have any sea kayaking guide books, but I do tend to paddle with Pelagic, which is rather like having a guide along since he's been doing this for, ooh probably about as long as I am old, and knows most of the coast inside out.

As for tidal information and stuff, I never really noticed that aspect. I don't really use the internet for long term planning but pick up a set of tide tables from my local chandlers for, well I can't recall but it's less than a pint of beer and much more useful for navigating. I do also print off tables from easytide to use for double checking stuff (tip from Phil years ago) although last month the day we had a genuine discrepancy in the printed tables was beyond the prediction I had been able to get, luckily Phil had tables from a different source. In fact I still haven't written to Lavers about that, a misprint that could well have caused us untold trouble with the corryvreckan! Anyway, I digress, surely it's not the tide tables but the constants for local HW and tide streams that would be in the book? Like others have said I do tend to use the pilot for that sort of information - I only have the Lawrence, Skye and NW one at the moment, I really should get some more since dads Admiralty Pilot (laminated A3 photocopies of) is a really dry read and a bugger to get your head round, not to mention the fact that the pages kept getting out of order and are so big they are a nightmare to hold still enough to read in the wind...... I also use tide stream atlasses a bit, more for the general picture than details, which is lucky since I only properly learned how they work a month ago, after passing through the corryvreckan :)

The pilots are not perfect being written from a yachtsmans perspective (kayaks don't need to read endless lists of shallow rocks or leading marks to get into bays) but ALL the pertinent info is there.

I would imagine the guidebook is a great resource for coaches?

JIM

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Post by andreadawn » Mon May 22, 2006 6:39 pm

Mark mentions Oileain in the first post.

Having just been scanning through it, I think that's what I was hoping for with the Scottish book. It makes me want to drop everything and rush off to Ireland now.

Very inspirational. I really must get around to visiting that lovely country again. I've not been since I started sea paddling.

Andrea.

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Post by MikeB » Mon May 22, 2006 7:54 pm

Oileain is aimed at "Irish islands", but 50 Great Voyages is just that - a collection of trips.

50 is useful - if you like that sort of thing - as is all info I guess. I reviewedit when I got mine and said nice things about it (and yes, I paid for mine) and I suspect it serves a useful purpose, especially if you don't "know" Scotland.

For me, it's a reference work - not a "guidebook" though. But, had it been around when I statrted sea-paddling I suspect I'd take the view that it was more useful. I guess these days I tend to look at guidebooks / trip reports as offering ideas and suggestions rather than something to follow exactly.

But the first time I organised a trip on my own, I did find it very useful to more or less follow exactly the route and suggestions made by someone else. Gave me a considerable sense of overall security.

Mike
Last edited by MikeB on Tue May 23, 2006 4:00 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Post by catman » Tue May 23, 2006 12:27 pm

For someone like myself fairly new to the sport I did find it useful. At the back of the book it gives emegency numbers i.e 999 for phone and 112 for mobile!! Is this accurate, as I have never heard of using an alternative to 999 before?
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Post by Bertie.. » Tue May 23, 2006 12:44 pm

catman wrote:For someone like myself fairly new to the sport I did find it useful. At the back of the book it gives emegency numbers I.e 999 for phone and 112 for mobile!! Is this accurate, as I have never heard of using an alternative to 999 before?
Catman, 112 is a european wide effort to come up with a number we all know/use throughout the EUZone. I've never used it, but as far as I know it works just as well.


It's a funny debate this one, about whether or not to own a sea kayaking guide. I have loads of sea technique books, but not one sea guidebook. I have loads of river guide books, but very few river technique books - it all being in Nealy..

I've never noticed this. I'm guessing that sea kayaking is more about just getting out there, much like I do a lot of moor walking but never follow guides.

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Post by Sharky » Tue May 23, 2006 2:23 pm

The great thing about books is they can inspire, inform and make great presents

The drawback with books is they can be outdated as soon as they are printed, prevent people from making clear personal decisions and turn mushy when they get wet

Perhaps it comes from being a climber as well but I quite like the opportunity to 'collect' guidebooks from places I've been as well as places I'd like to go. Hence a collection that includes Alaska through to Scotland, down to Baja and beyond

When I first began paddling in North Wales I was quite reliant of Terry Storry's book which terrified me into thinking every trip would be an epic. Now I treasure my copy for historical reasons as well as the occasional reminder of interesting facts

Books give us a reference point of how things were whereas the Web tell us how things are. Both have their uses when planning and searching for trip ideas but neither should take away that crucial element of personal judgement

Personally, I think any author is brave to publish a book today in a world full of instantaneous peer review
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Scottish sea guide

Post by Michelle » Tue May 23, 2006 4:59 pm

Some friends relatively new to sea kayaking used the guide and went to Mull of Kintyre because it seemed an easyish paddle and it nearly ended in deep s*** because the info is misleading.

Did some research and have since discovered that some of the paddles have only been undertaken once by the authors. How can they claim to be an authority if this is the case? There is so much knowledge out there why weren't others involved like in 'Oileain' which is superb

Personally I would never rely on anyone else's tidal information. Best to do it yourself

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Re: Scottish sea guide

Post by MikeB » Tue May 23, 2006 5:01 pm

Michelle wrote:Some friends relatively new to sea kayaking used the guide and went to Mull of Kintyre because it seemed an easyish paddle and it nearly ended in deep s*** because the info is misleading.
In what way? Mike.

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Post by Pelagic » Tue May 23, 2006 5:12 pm

Ive been surprised no-one has mentioned the inaccuracies before now, I noticed on a trip to the west of Mull, where tidal stream information didnt tally. Admittedly the sound of Iona etc. is sometimes a bit of a movable feast anyway but it was a big enough discrepancy to cause concern. Hence I havn't refered to it since. There are several other people I know who have made similar comments, and I think as a rule, please check information (particularly tidal stream info) against another source.

Nice pictures though...............

Phil

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Re: Scottish sea guide

Post by Mark R » Tue May 23, 2006 6:45 pm

Michelle wrote:Did some research and have since discovered that some of the paddles have only been undertaken once by the authors. How can they claim to be an authority if this is the case?
I don't think this is fair. Should they have paddled it in all weathers and tides, just in case someone else should choose to?

The real problem is bigger, the whole concept that a sea trip can be described as a fixed itinerary/ dotted line on a map.

Weather, tides, group factors all make it unlikely that you will follow the same route or even experience the same conditions as the authors did. But conversely, it'd be a fairly daft group who read the book and headed out to sea expecting this.
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In defence...

Post by ianzippy » Tue May 23, 2006 7:51 pm

In defence of some of the criticisms levelled at the guide ( i do own a copy, and very pleased with it i am too), the authors comment in their introduction that:
"the fifty trips described are not necessarily the 'best', but are intended to give a real insight into the variety of kayaking the Scottish coastline offers. The authors are aware that many fantastic areas have been missed out..."

In response to Michelles post, the book also includes this comment:
"This guide...cannot provide the essential ingredients of ability, environmental awareness and good planning." (p6 - 'Important Notice')
So there's a surprise ;)

It's a guide book after all, i'm sure no-one who read Cameron McNeish's "The Munro's" and headed into the Cuillin without a map would subsequently feel it reasonable to blame the book if they got into 'deep s**t'.
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Post by Robert Craig » Tue May 23, 2006 9:04 pm

Did seem a bit of a give-away that every single picture in the book referred to (and this is Scotland, remember) includes clear blue sky.

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Post by Helen M » Tue May 23, 2006 10:07 pm

Robert Craig wrote:Did seem a bit of a give-away that every single picture in the book referred to (and this is Scotland, remember) includes clear blue sky.
Ahhh .. the WWW phenomenon in action!

H - x

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Post by Pelagic » Wed May 24, 2006 12:31 am

In response to Michelles post, the book also includes this comment:
"This guide...cannot provide the essential ingredients of ability, environmental awareness and good planning." (p6 - 'Important Notice')
So there's a surprise ;)
In fairness to the guide, I wouldn't describe the Mull of Kyntyre as an "easyish trip" and having dug out my copy, it doesnt either.

I would still consult a pilot as regards tidal info though, I think its over generalised and not specific enough, even for the above trip.

Nice pictures though.................

Phil

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Post by Pelagic » Wed May 24, 2006 1:35 am

Andrea mentioned Haswell-Smiths Scottish Islands and Oilean as being very inspirational and I couldn’t agree more, great books.

I was lucky enough recently to find a mint copy of the Clyde Cruising Club sailing directions for the west coast of Scotland, the sixth edition, 1951, in a second hand bookshop.
Strangely this edition has a hand written note in it saying “from Grandma, Christmas 1957”, which is the year I was born.
It’s brilliant, from its blue leather binding, gold embossed lettering, slightly salt stained pages, carefully cut and glued amendments and corrections, it’s just a joy. The hand drawn charts are wonderfully detailed, in fathoms of course and cover all kinds of obscure little nooks and cranny’s.
I took it to the pub to show Geoff and then got to stare at my beer in total silence for about an hour and a half while he seemingly read it from cover to cover. Slowly turning the pages he looked up once to say “apparently we should be really comfortable on a voyage to the outer Hebrides in a sound vessel of over ten tons” then went back to reading, as a guidebook it’s of questionable value, but inspirational, you bet!
As a matter of historical interest this was the first edition published after the war. All copies prior to this were recalled during the conflict in the interests of national security.
If you spot one of these early edition pilots, buy it, and wonder at the patient dedication it took to produce. A precious thing.

Phil

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Post by Dave Thomas » Thu May 25, 2006 2:20 pm

Owen wrote:The now very sadly out of print Pembrokeshire guide had much better approch. It didn't give any routes but just discribed the coast, access, tides, general information etc.
Just looking at the Pembs guide - and was reminded in the context of this thread that two pages have typos in the tidal info - stream directions swapped so that streams are 180 dgrees out. That particular 'station' is referenced on 3 - 4 different pages, so the anomaly does stick out like a sore thumb and can be sorted by reference to what is happening on a wider scale. But it just goes to show that care is needed to cross-reference anything of a critical nature in a guide book.

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Post by Robin Ashcroft » Thu May 25, 2006 9:59 pm

I'm not sure that a "guide" is the best way to disseminate information about potential sea kayaking trips. A "guide" is something very specific, and whilst this approach works well in a mountaineering setting - or even a river setting - when your describing a specific line over the earth's surface.

The sea, and the potential for travel it provides, is another matter; as you can pretty much travel anywhere (within reason) at will. I looked for "guides" - and guidance - when I was starting sea kayaking; having been used to them in mountaineering. I was was at first quite suprised by the lack of them. Now, with some experience under my belt, I'm pretty sure a "guide" is too prescriptive a format for the reality and potential of sea kayaking.

Nevertheless sea kayaker would find information about potential paddling areas to be very useful. It's all to do with the format; perhaps the answer is to look to the sport that's actually most similar - yachting and cruising - and see what they use. A pilot, or a nautical almanac, written to reflect the limitations of a sea sea kayak may be the answer. Take the concept of a yachting pilot and write it for a craft that draws 6" and is paddle powered!

Although having dismissed the concept of a guide I'm beginning to see Hamish Haswell-Smith's book as my new "bumper fun book", but of coursde that's a guide - but without dotted lines!



The probelem of course is, is there enough demand to make all the effort of research and compilation commercially worthwhile.

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Post by Dave Thomas » Fri May 26, 2006 8:21 am

Robin Ashcroft wrote:Nevertheless sea kayaker would find information about potential paddling areas to be very useful. It's all to do with the format; perhaps the answer is to look to the sport that's actually most similar - yachting and cruising - and see what they use. A pilot, or a nautical almanac, written to reflect the limitations of a sea sea kayak may be the answer. Take the concept of a yachting pilot and write it for a craft that draws 6" and is paddle powered!
The three little guides by Nigel Hingston covering the SW peninsula (Dorset round to Somerset) have very much that format - tidal info (though that is a little sketchy in places), details of landing/launching sites, beaches etc (inc parking & facilities). But no mention of a 'route' anywhere. And, as has been said already, the Pembrokeshire guide is similarly a compendium of relevant information on and off the water with no suggestion as to possible routes. Both avoid the excessive detail (for kayakers) found in many yacht pilots.

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Post by CaileanMac » Wed May 31, 2006 11:40 pm

Dave,

Would have to agree with your observations and that a similar guidebook to the Pembroke / SW coast guide is what is needed for the West Coast of Scotland rather than guidebooks which set out, set piece trips. This is my humble opinion on matter - not being much of fan of people following the 'herd' and doing set piece trips. People need for information to faciltate adventures so as to avoid having an la carte menu sea kayak experience.

As for the person earlier in the thread moaning about their friends getting into bother off the Mull of Kintyre due to following the guidebook's trip - this is what happens when people blindly follow guidebooks and don't as the author's suggest in their foreword apply their own trip planning and seamanship skills. Highlights neatly MarkR's point that by describing and laying out such trips, people won't actually bother to do some of critical trip planning thinking for themselves. The Mull is a serious place with multiple overfalls and lots of exposure to swells / no landing zones.

All that said Doug & George have to commended for actually putting pen to paper and inspiring people to get out sea kayaking in Scotland through the guidebook. There's lot's of scope for an Oiliean style guidebook and a Wilcox Coffee Table guide yet....

CaileanMac

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