Stroud Trail Marathon

May 14th, 2015 Alasdair

10th May 2015

Stroud, Gloucestershire

Tim and I enjoy a moment at the end of the Marathon

Tim and I enjoy a moment at the end of the Marathon

That’s Stroud pronounced a bit like a shroud rather than Strood which sounds a bit like rude. I mention this because a lot of people thought I was running in a flat area of Kent rather than the hilly Cotswolds. I’m sure Strood is very nice but it can’t be as nice as Stroud. This trail run is a corker. It has 800 m of ascent with running alongside shady canals, through woods covered with wild garlic and bluebells and up onto open heath with long views. There is a choice between a “Half” Marathon and a “Full” Marathon but both are slightly over length. There were a few of us running equally split between the full and half distances. The route is the same for 14 miles but the start times are an hour apart so we couldn’t run together. We had perfect conditions with pretty dry surface but nice and soft underfoot. I ran in “barefoot” trainers, well Nike call them barefoot. Trail shoes would be needed if it was wet. We had to carry a 500 ml water bottle although it need not have any water in it. I wore a belt, some had rucksacks and some ran with an old water bottle in their hands. I ran out of steam at around 20 miles and slowed down a bit but still finished at 4 hr 54 minutes which was mid fleet. Fastest time was about 3 hr 30 min and slowest was near to 8 hr. This is not a route for PB’s but can’t be beaten for organisation and gorgeous scenery. Highly recommended,

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Sumara gets some TLC

April 26th, 2015 Alasdair
Sumara Varnished up to the Rubbing Stake

Sumara Varnished up to the Rubbing Stake

I seem to be more pushed for time than ever, not helped by the fact that we have entered the very hilly Stroud Marathon on 10th May. Nevertheless, Sumara needs looking after and anything to save time is going to be a big help this year. I can actually varnish the hull up to the strake in just two hours. Sanding takes about the same time using a Festool Rotex connected to a Festool extractor. So I can easily get these tasks out of the way before going into work. The thing that takes the time is

where the varnish has failed and that is always on the margin boards and the odd bit on the top of the coach roof. To get a build up on the damaged patches of six coats of Epifanes varnish, waiting a day and sanding between each coat was going to zap up too much time so I have opted for Epifanes Rapidclear which dries fast enough to get two coats on a day and, most usefully, doesn’t need sanding between coats. Now I have achieved the build up I will sand all the upper brightwork and slap on a coat of Epifanes gloss varnish. (Rapidclear is not a full gloss varnish). Ideally I would give it two coats of gloss but that won’t happen so I have promised myself to give the margin board an extra coat one day at anchor – that probably won’t happen either!

While I was working on Sumara yesterday Marcus de Mowbray called through the fence. Marcus is the grandson of Jack Laurent Giles. He came into the yard the take some pictures. On Sunday while I was working in Arthur Beale’s Arthur de Mowbray called in buy some bronze rudder pintles. Arthur is the other grandson of Jack Laurent Giles! Arthur makes amazing dug out boats amongst other creations.

Sailing plans for Sumara this year are very modest. I feel like some very gentle East Coast pottering, catching up with some friends who have boats at Wrabness and Walton on the Naze. Last year we really enjoyed our fleeting visit to Brightlingsea and will be happy enough just mooching around. I am hoping to base Sumara at Woolverston on a swinging mooring so I can make use of those rare weekends. Having Sumara in London right outside the house is handy in some ways but hopeless for weekend sailing as the combination of tides, weather and lock opening restrictions conspire against a simple weekend sail. Hopefully the new location will ensure I get sailing whenever a spare day is available.


Norway will be busy!

April 26th, 2015 Alasdair


While I’ll just be pottering in Sumara around the English East Coast, Norway will still be in my thoughts. Charlotte will taking Pouncer overland from Umea in Sweden to Narvik in Norway to commence the big Russian adventure sailing around the North Cape into the White Sea and through the canal to St Petersburg. Definitely more of that trip later! Tim and Alex with Yacht Thembi and John and Selma with Yacht Brimble will not be joining the Russian adventure but have decided to enjoy the Lofoten Islands en route back from Tromso to Britain. Brimble can be followed on They may well bump into Gareth and Frances in Hal who are heading northwards up to Spitsbergen. They can be followed on So I may just be supping a fine pint in the Butt and Oyster but I could well be thinking of all the wonderful times I’ve had sailing in Norway.

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Ski Touring in Arctic Sweden

April 12th, 2015 Alasdair
Beaver Attack

Beaver Attack

Team Photo at Skaite

Team Photo at Skaite

Team Jump

Team Jump – note the handy vehicle which is a four wheel drive Volkswagen pick up with a cab to take five people, a big flat bed to take a couple of snowmobiles and a tail lift. What more could anyone ever want!

Our Hosts at Skaite

Our Hosts at Skaite

Svarte making flies under Erik's instructions

Svarte making flies under Erik’s instructions

Making Flies

Making Flies

Return from Kabla

Return from Kabla

Fishing Trip

Fishing Trip

29th March until 5th April 2015

Raffi Ki

Raffi Ki

Lunchtime Fire

Lunchtime Fire

Kabla Mountains

Kabla Mountains

Erik in the Hut

Erik in the Hut

Tsielekjokk Hut

Tsielekjokk Hut

Luckily we were invited for another skiing holiday in the Arctic by Charlotte and Svarte, an opportunity which of course we grabbed immediately. We flew to an airport which sounds a bit like a spicy Greek sausage and is just north of Umea. As we landed a little girl shrieked at the top of her voice “Christmas Trees – Hundreds and Hundreds of Christmas Trees!” which made me smile. We hired a car and headed off for a five hour drive northwards through well hundreds and hundreds of Christmas trees. It wasn’t long before I learnt to just use one foot when driving an automatic. We stayed the first night at Njavre and learnt the delight of the new tree bark toilet.  On Monday morning our gang of six drove up to Kvikkjokk to start the mini tour. Jokk means small river in either Swedish or Sami.

I’m not quite sure who it was (actually I do know but that would be churlish) but someone started to apply some sticky wax to their skis and we all followed like lemmings – more of lemmings later. This was a big mistake! The wax was so sticky that the skis constantly balled up and made progress very slow. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it.  We tried to get the stuff off but with little success. Perspex compasses make good wax removers. So my Lesson Number One is “Go for a ski first before applying any wax”. Bet I forget that before next year. The days ski was to be all uphill save for a long trek across a lake which I normally find tends to be flat. After about 14 km we arrived at the tiny mountain rescue hut of Tsielekjokk. On the whole route we had only met one other skier who happened to be British and was towing a pulka. He had stayed in the same hut which made us worry that he may have eaten all our food but luckily our food drop remained intact. Charlotte and I took an axe and a bucket to try to get some water from the river. This is potentially a bit dangerous but we succeeded without falling in. The hut was wall to wall bodies as it was very small. Once the fire was lit it was very cosy and we all slept well. I suspect carbon monoxide poisoning may have lent a hand. We had a very lazy and long breakfast before setting off on the short distance to the fabulous farmhouse of Skaite where we were guests of the joint owners of the estate. Apart from a large and very beautiful main house there was also the most fantastic log sauna house next to an iced over river. There was a hole smashed through the ice were you can plunge yourself into icy water after the superheated sauna. Quite an experience! In the evening we had a scrumptious meal with a spectacular dug out cake filled with marzipan and cream. This stay was an unexpected luxury. Skaite can not be reached by road at any time of the year. It is only accessible by snowmobile in the winter or boat and a long walk in the summer, although helicopters are often used. The north of Sweden still has places that are 80 km from the nearest road and I mean any road at all, even a track. It is the biggest wilderness in Europe. On Wednesday after a fine breakfast we set off on the 14 km route down to Oarrenjarke which means squirrel peninsular. Every day that we go out skiing there is the ritual of the lunchtime fire. I love fires! There is quite an art to building a fire on snow but with Svarte’s excellent training I think we have the knack of it now. Our last few days were to be spent on day tours from Njavre. The first day Charlotte, Grit and I went to ski up a distant mountain (OK hill). We were able to pass our fire building badge with honours and we only got lost a couple of times. The second day was to be a mass snowmobile ride into the lovely Kabla mountains where we would all have lunch around a fire (of course) and then some of us would ski the 20 km back to base. The Kabla mountains are gorgeous! We saw a fluffy ball of a lemming frolicking in the snow. I haven’t yet mastered steep downhill skiing with these cross country skis so there were some long traverses and flip turns to lose height. I’d love to grasp the graceful Telemark turns. We only got lost once of the way back but still arrived before dark. The final day was another snowmobile trip to go ice fishing. Erik was the winner of the fishing competition by about ten times but Eric is a real expert – we all spent an hour or so one evening captivated by his fly making skills. There were all sorts of tools and clever tricks to produce what I think was called a Royal Coachman. We skied back down the narrow and sometimes steep tracks for last time. We were joined by Eleanor and the lovely dog Rafi Ki. There is a point when the snowplough just will not slow you down enough so you need to choose whether to let ‘em run at a breakneck speed (breakarm in my case) or to bail out into some deep snow. There must be another way! After a big meal of salmon(s) and cakes we said our goodbye and thankyous to everyone for we needed to head of back to the airport very early in the morning. Ryan air decided to greet us both with a £70.00 fine for not checking in online – at least the coffee on their planes is first class! Another lovely holiday – thank you to everyone who made it happen.

Posted in Arctic, Skiing, Sweden | 1 Comment » |

Ski Touring Kit List

April 11th, 2015 Alasdair

11th April 2015

Last week we managed to escape to Arctic Sweden for a wonderful week of ski touring. Once I find my camera I will put up some pictures and describe the mini adventure but I thought it would be helpful for me, and who knows maybe someone else, if I list the kit that I took. There were a few things that I would have liked but did not take (DNT) and some things I took but did not use (DNU). That doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t be used on a future trip. So here we go:

35-45L Rucksack  Lowe Alpine AirZone Pro 35/45,

8 mm rope (10 m) plus small length of 6 mm rope to tow skis (which have 6 mm holes in the front) DNT

Folding saw. Very useful for fires and lighter than an axe. DNT

Shovel. Definitely essential.

Multitool. Leatherman Skeletool. Used a lot.

Matches Sun glasses DNT

Googles – surprisingly good. I used them a lot because I forgot my sun glasses. They did not mist at all and were comfy and warm.

Thermos with gaffer tape wrapped around. Essential when below 10 degrees to prevent water from freezing. Did not hold enough water for one person for a long day.

Water container. If above 10 degrees a light water container would be useful. I drink more in these cold fairly high environments than normal. Probably 750 ml a day plus coffee  DNT

Compass, essential,

Thumb compass DNT but would have been really good. These are made by Silva. I will buy one immediately!

Asnes NATO combat skis. Performed well but I would love to master fast downhill stretches with them. Telemark skiing seems tricky to me.

Velcro strap for skis,

Poles Pole mirror (not yet invented but very handy to keep track on group),

Skins – NATO Combat skis take short skins directly under the boot.

Ski boots – Alpina

Gaiters DNT but Charlotte used hers a lot. I didn’t get too much snow down my boots but on colder weather they could be good.

Hut shoes (Merrel barefoots). Lightweight shoes that you can drive with serve dual a purpose as driving hire cars in ski boots is tricky.

2x Bridgedale liner socks,

3x Devold thick socks Merino,

Glide wax,

Two types sticky wax,

Cloudburst day sack 15L (if going on short day tours these lightweight sacks are perfect)


Oranges – surprisingly good,

Decent coffee and means of brewing it.

S hook (Long one to fit shovel handle and be used to hold pot over fire),


Devold Expedition merino top,

Devold Expedition merino zipper top,

Merino Long Johns,

Devold underwear,

Pro Gortex brace trousers Artyrex – brilliant piece of clothing but not cheap,

Gortex or Event shell jacket – Montane,

Rab belay jacket Pertex Endurance and Primaloft – crucial!

Rab Waistcoat Pertex Endurance and Primaloft DNU but it wasn’t so cold this year (last year it was minus 26),

Gortex mittens,

Lighter gloves – my hands overheat in conditions 0 to minus 10,

Spare mittens – they can blow away and people forget to bring them.

Merino Beanie,

Lowe Alpine peaked hat with ear flaps,

One wrap, double sided Velcro for general lashing.

Snood – cosy,

Credit card – one never knows,

Health Card,

Sun screen,

3x Compeed blister pack – crucial,

Down sleeping bag – to pack very small,

Blizard pack – for emergencies DNU,

Dyneema sling 2.4 m circumference – not sure why but we used it as a dog lead for Rafiki this year,

Tibloc DNU,

Side swing pulley DNU,

HMS Screwgate Karabiner,

Spirit Karabiner,

Lenser P5 torch – favourite torch,

3x AA Batteries DNU

Petzl TacTikka Headtorch – reliable even below 20 degrees,

6x batteries DNU,


Phone charger,

Camera DMC-FT2,

Spare fully charged camera battery DNU,

Spork titanium DNT,

Plastic mug – bright orange to hang on the back of rucksack to help visibility in bad weather,

Coffee filter mug could be good DNT,

Diary or waterproof notepad plus pen (maybe waterproof) Handy for jotting down emergency phone numbers,

Needle and thread DNT,

Montane technical trousers – didn’t take on tour but great for airport transfers and general use,


Candle – can be used to wax skis if no glide wax is available.

Well I think that is everything but I expect I have missed something!  The other thing to watch out for is that fellow members take adequate gear – especially water.

Posted in Skiing, Sweden | 4 Comments » |

Walk from Weymouth to Worth Matravers

March 16th, 2015 Alasdair

14th March 2015 Dorset Coast – South West Coast Path The much needed weekend break had arrived and we were on the 1800 train to Weymouth. As John works with train sets we were treated to first class and the journey was very civilised. Selma greeted us at Weymouth and, despite our large snack en route, we were soon tucking into a fine tandoori meal served by one of the most polite waiters I have ever come across. I think the restaurant was called Weymouth Tandoori – not very imaginative but worth finding. The walk back to the B and B was the dark side of Weymouth with lots of drug and alcohol crazed rather menacing people hanging around the streets. The cleverly named B and B – called Weymouth B and B was modern, clean and served up a good breakfast. The view from our room perhaps wasn’t the best. (Cost about £80.00 for a double room)

Inspiring View from B and B Window - if you like Bricks

Inspiring View from B and B Window – if you like Bricks

Weymouth is a handy place to start a walk as it can be reached swiftly by train from London. Our first day was to be a short walk to Lulworth Cove – about 12 miles away. We set off at a lazy 10 am on Saturday morning. Sadly Selma wasn’t to join us for the walk as she is recovering from an ankle injury so John, Grit and myself pushed off along the grand sea front towards the hills. We called in at a busy little café at the end of the beach to buy some sandwiches for lunch but they would only sell things with bacon so we had a cup of coffee and pushed on up the hill. There we found a really splendid café called The Lookout who would make us some sarnies for lunch. It had a very appetising menu. Next time we will have coffee here!

The Lookout in Weymouth

The Lookout in Weymouth

The imposing white Riviera Hotel in a Spanish style looks slightly smaller as you get closer. Soon a rather splendid outdoor centre looms beside the path. There are some long and intricate zip wires and diabolical swings which must be pretty character building for the hard hatted children who looked like they were enjoying the experience. The path is not for people who don’t like hills. Although this section is less arduous than the North Somerset and Devon sections it is nevertheless very hilly indeed. One year I was walking it and there was an ultra marathon taking place. They were so knackered that we were able to overtake most of them by walking at a brisk pace. It is said that the South West Path has the same ascents as climbing Everest twice. I believe it is Europe’s longest continuous path but I could be wrong. For March it was quite cold dropping to 2 degrees at night and only touching 7 during the day. Add a bit of wind and you can soon chill off. I wore a pair of merino long Johns with Montane technical trousers on top and two Devold merino tops with a Montane Event jacket on top. A merino hat, Devold wool mitts and merino snood were donned when necessary. It was a good choice as I never got cold or hot. I had a Rab belay jacket and waistcoat for when we stopped for lunch. At Osmington Mills there is a normally very attractive pub but on this occasion masses of flood defence work was being carried out and the place looked like a bomb site. I’m sure it will get restored to it’s former glory soon As we approached Burning Cliff we found a little wooden church. It was rather Norwegian. The cliffs around here have been known to catch fire. In 1826 this cliff burnt for a year. Soon we were climbing to White Nothe and preparing ourselves for some splendid walking along the whalebacks of this wonderful coast. Durdle Door is a popular spot for tourists and in this case almost entirely Indian visitors – not sure why! After Durdle Door there are just a few more beautiful miles before reaching Lulworth Cove where we once again met Selma at about 4 pm. We were booked into the very posh Lulworth Inn which was quite a treat compared to some places I’ve stayed in. (cost about £105.00 for a double room) John and I decided to do a bit of hill running before our evening meal. In the morning we left at about 9.30am as we had intentions of getting to Worth Matravers for lunch. If we had bothered to think about it we would have realised that that was virtually impossible without running shoes. The path from the bay was closed due to a cliff collapse so we walked back through the village and over the fields. In fact we could have saved ourselves a big hill by walking around the beach! Mupe is a lovely anchorage sheltered from the South West by a ridge of rocks. Soon we were in the Ministry of Defence firing range where we were attracted to a sign saying danger keep off hanging on a tank with the inevitable consequence. This section of the path is more demanding than the day before with some corking great hills. Those Ultra Runners must have been crestfallen when they saw some of the paths, many of which need steps to achieve the gradient. At Kimmeridge the surf was up and about 50 surfers were out there enjoying the waves. There was a group of kayakers riding the waves too. The oily stone at Kimmeridge can be turned on a lathe to make unattractive ornaments. There is a working oil well on the cliff. Once we reached Chapmans Pool we needed to turn away from the gorgeous Dorset Coast and head inland. Chapmans Pool can be a good overnight anchorage but nowadays the Sunseekers from Poole Harbour tend to snatch the space before the slow yachts can get there. Just a few more miles inland and we arrived at what must be one of Britain’s finest pubs – the Square and Compass. What a heavenly pie (and a pasty) and tasty pint! Can life get better?

Another Hill

Another Hill

Yet Another Hill!

Yet Another Hill!

Oil Well

Oil Well

John and Myself on a Tank

John and Myself on a Tank

Durdle Door

Durdle Door

Burning Cliff Church

Burning Cliff Church

Mupe Bay - A lovely anchorage

Mupe Bay – A lovely anchorage

Along the Dorset Coast

Along the Dorset Coast


John Virtue Sea Paintings

March 1st, 2015 Alasdair

1st March 2015 Eastbourne Towner Gallery

John Virtue's Painting

John Virtue’s Painting

John Virtue's Note Books

John Virtue’s Note Books

One of the reasons the Eastbourne Half Marathon appealed was that there was an exhibition of John Virtue Sea Paintings which I was intrigued to see especially after enjoying the Norwegian Pedar Balke Exhibition at the National Gallery.

John Virtue’s paintings are, like Balke’s,

North Cape by Peder Balke

North Cape by Peder Balke

mono-chrome but much bigger than Balke’s ones. The paintings leave more to your imagination too. Untitled, except for a number, it is possible to visualise various scenes in each painting but they are all very much to do with the movement and power of the sea. They were all based on sketches made during a series of eight mile walks in Norfolk. Well worth a visit!

Eastbourne Half Marathon

March 1st, 2015 Alasdair


1st March 2015

Eastbourne Half Marathon Finish

Eastbourne Half Marathon Finish

I know, I know, it was meant to be the Steyning Stinger, my favourite Hilly Half but sadly the application forms posted in December came flying back through the door last week with “insufficient postage” plastered over it. The Steyning Stinger was full and Eastbourne had places and so Eastbourne it was.
The appalling weather on Saturday encouraged me to wear a 250 g merino top for the race which was a big error. The sun came out on Sunday and blazed away all day. I nearly boiled over. I even had to grab some water en route – a rarity for me. I had a feeling it would be a flat run. There was mention of a hill which for some reason I thought would just be a minor bump – but I was wrong. After mile two we began to climb and it went on and on! At each “prow” there would be a turn and I would think “ah off down again soon” but once I arrived at the turn it climbed again. I suppose it wasn’t too bad but I just misjudged it. Most of the route was a friendly affair along the sunny seafront with drummers and cheering crowds.

Pier 150301We did a tour of the marina and headed back to the start which had one of those sneaky extra legs shoved in just when you don’t need it. My second half was slow and I let quite a few people slip past only managing a brief burst for the finish line. A well run fun race. My final time was a poor 1 hour 48 minutes and a bit. Oh well, must try harder.

Deal Half Marathon

February 10th, 2015 Alasdair

Deal, Kent

8th February 2015
I decided to attempt the Deal Half Marathon again this year, swayed partly by a kind offer of local accommodation and feeding by my friend Philip. Deal is a well run friendly event hosted by the local triathlon club. It starts at a very civilised 10.30 and you can register on the day. Philip had fed me well and drove me up to the start. It was a glorious dry sunny day and not too cold. During the run I found myself behind a couple running together and the male half told his female partner that she should drop behind if she was struggling and he would wait for her at the end. She did drop back and eventually dropped behind me too. At about mile 7 I caught up with the male runner and stayed about 50 m behind for at least a mile. At about mile 9 I heard someone coming up behind me with a strong powerful pace and his partner powered past me with a big smile on her face. I decided to try to close on the male runner to get his reaction as she caught up and he looked slightly peeved! They ran together for 100 m then she shot off ahead probably saying “if you are struggling just drop behind and I’ll wait for you at the end”!
I finished after 1 hour 44 minutes and 43 seconds my best ever time. The day was topped off by a whacking great big roast beef lunch in the newly decorated Rising Sun in North Street. Brilliant day!

Next on the running agenda is the very tough Steyning Stinger on 1st March. It is a struggle to beat two hours on the very hilly cross country course.

The finish line of Deal's Half Marathon

The finish line of Deal’s Half Marathon

Sailing Cancelled!

January 11th, 2015 Alasdair

South Dock, Rotherhithe 11th January 2015 Boff! I was really looking forward to a long weekend away sailing to the Medway but had to bottle out when the best forecast I could find (after shopping around) was westerly gale force 8 becoming severe gale force 9. That may just have been workable but the wind was forecast to remain strong westerly and I didn’t fancy getting a train back. The Thames can be a tricky little sail if the wind is gusting strongly, especially on the nose. I’ve been knocked down twice in the Thames but never anywhere else.

North Cape by Peder Balke

North Cape by Peder Balke

North Cape by Peder Balke

North Cape by Peder Balke

So instead I took the river bus from Greenland Pier into town to see the Peder Balke exhibition at the National Gallery. Peder Balke is a Norwegian artist and I confess I was rather saddened to be confronted with about 20 fine paintings of the North Cape. The reason it made me a bit miserable was because I should have been sailing round the North Cape this summer but this was another sailing trip that I had to pull out off earlier in the year. I could just imagine the good ship Sumara sailing close by such a wonderful cliff. I do like small exhibitions like this one. I went to the Turner exhibition at the Tate earlier in the year and decided blockbusters aren’t my thing. Some of Peder Balke’s paintings border on being kitsch but others are really inspiring especially the small black and white seascapes. If you like seascapes or like Norway then this exhibition is well worth a visit. What’s more, it is free!