The £9 dinghy

There's an article on about two men from Clacton who built a boat and went fishing off the coast. They got into trouble and had to be rescued by the RNLI.

They came under some pressure to explain their behaviour once they got back on land, check out this screenshot!

Necessity is the mother of invention and although clearly the vessel lacks a few luxuries (and basics), it did work. The lads were out long enough to catch three cod and a large British crab before they realised they couldn't row it home.

I quite admire this thing, layered together from old loft insulation boards, laminate flooring and pinned with coat hangers and glue. They were stupid to go out there without any other equipment, they took lots of risks, but I don't think the vessel was the biggest one.

I bet there aren't many other sub ten-quid rowing boats out there, I like the ingenuity. Shows that if you want to get stuff done, you can just go have a go. No intimidation.


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Have Van will Travel

Last minute trip up to the Lakes this weekend! Headed for Eskdale (via Keswick to do a bit of shopping!) but didn't quite make it thanks to a man in a 4x4 who now understands what winter tyres are for.

After some precision three point turning on an icy Wrynose pass, I diverted to Langdale and the campsite man summed up my arrival: "one man and his dog eh". Yes mate. Perfect.

Alone time in the hills is a non-optional part of my maintenance procedure! It keeps me happy and sane.

Hound hadn't been up to the Lakes before but he was mad about the smells and did a lot of exploring. The harness I picked up in keswick did a decent job of keeping some of the elements out as well as for lowering him down bigger drops, helicopter-style like he's a man dangling from an RAF chopper.

We just messed about really up and around Shelter Crags, didn't walk anywhere with a purpose but it was a great head-clearer and a bit of peace.

A van is the thing to have really, it makes shooting off at a moments notice so do-able. I think I'm going to struggle the next time I have to pitch and sleep in a tent. When the van gets sold towards the end of this summer... I'm going to need something special to replace it as a mobile adventure wagon.

We Dream

I'm fairly sure this photo embodies what every transporter-cum-campervan owner thinks about themselves.. when they're parked up on a Lake District site within spitting distance of a pint ;) (I know I do).

If you want the original image, and for credits, see Autollanepaliin on FlickR which is an account created to promote a splendid documentary about a charity drive from Finland to Nepal.

Anyhow, more at

Family Tree

Who do these pair remind you of? Yes that is correct, it is my best pal the dog. These are his mum and dad.

Like father like son eh!

Nice lady we got him from keeps us up to date and when I saw the photo above big daddy, it made me smile.

Aphex Twin - Syro

Ah why not jump on the hype bandwagon! Aphex Twin has a new album done and dusted, it's called Syro and it's out on the 22nd Sept.

Anyhow, thought it was time for a trip down memory lane since the the release date is a couple of weeks away. Forgot what this video was like!


Dartmoor always seems to get binned-off when I'm looking for places to go hiking. It isn't easily reachable by public transport and it's about as far down south as you can get which rules it out for adventures with my usual outdoor-pals who nearly all live up north.

This weekend however, I finally got round to taking a trip down there and as an added bonus, I took the pup.


That's right, it was to be the hounds first wild-camping adventure and we would do the occasion proud; man, van and beast. Better make sure I pack a celebratory lager and a a few Bonios for our first summit.

The choice of location was a bit of a last minute thing so I was unprepared. I spent Saturday morning farting-around deciding what to take as well as locating a camping shop could call at en-route that stocked the correct OS map. I also needed gas for the Jetboil (wild-camping superstove) and I fancied a new rucksack (rock and roll).

Dartmoor is home to three major military firing ranges and the route I had planned crossed quite far into one of them, so you have to check that the army aren't dropping live ammunition all over the place when you go there. I was fine.

It was a good route - quite short at six miles but took in a number of tors, one of which looked ideal for a camp. It could also be cut short at almost any point if the weather was awful or the dog was knackered (I have to keep reminding myself he's only four months old and has short legs).

The drive down was a massive ball ache, it's the school holidays and I was in a traffic jam from the moment I set off. Even in the van, with a #vanlife attitude it was almost too much. I considered binning off Dartmoor yet again, tempting signs along the road offered diversions to camp-sites, cream teas and pick-your-own strawberries which were hard to resist.

Eventually, after about 7 hours which did include 20 minutes in a shop for the essentials (and a new rucksack!) the van was parked at the side of a Devonshire track and off we went, down into a small valley and then up the top of the first tor.

Dartmoor is amazing, it's so much more wild than I had expected and very much more beautiful. I hadn't even given this a thought, I had just gone with the assumption that it would be an hour+ closer than the Lake District and probably worth the trip. How wrong! It is a brilliant place.

There's an immediate change the moment you drive over a cattle grid into the national park, and even just two minutes off the main road it feels very remote. Despite the school holidays and the traffic I didn't see another person from the moment I got out of the van.

At the top of the first tor, it was clear that the hound had done enough walking. It may have only been 45 minutes away, and we may have only covered a mile and a bit, but it was all uphill and the long grass meant he had hopped up most of it, so despite his nervous energy and a refusal to sit still, we struck camp!

Behind our rock which was sheltering us from gusts of wind, I climbed into my bivvy, made dinner (chicken curry) and tried to feed the pup who was more interested in growling at some cows a mile away. I suppose I might growl at a cow if I'd never seen one before.

We had pitched a bit early so it took an hour for the sun to set but soon enough we were both nodding off in the sleeping bag with a phenomenal array of stars on display above us.

I've done loads of wild camps in all sorts of places but the noises in Dartmoor though the night were unique. The wind really grinds around all the tors and your imagination runs wild trying to explain that thing you just heard in the darkness.

The wildlife too was very different. In the Lakes you might get a sheep or a rabbit coming past at night but here we had badgers scurrying about and wild horses! Dozens of them tending their foals and gambolling around just meters away.

Our perch was quite high up so the only thing that actually interacted with us was a giant beetle, which Bowie attacked and tried to eat after it got into the sleeping bag, but I did briefly have to consider moving when it looked like the horses were going to come up and tread all over us.

The morning arrived. There is nothing quite like waking up just before dawn on the top of a hill in the wilderness. It's refreshing and inspiring. You feel invincible, especially if the view is good and the stove is bubbling away. You're the first and only person up there like it's all yours and you've conquered it!

Bowie had breakfast, I had a brew (forgot milk!) and we tramped back to the van and drove home. He's going to be a good camping pal, and we are definitely going to explore Dartmoor a bit more often!

The Van!

The beast is finally complete, my first van project is done.

It is entirely "built not bought", not because I'm trying to keep it real, but because the off-the-shelf stuff didn't really work for how I want to use it.

I wanted a side-bed so that the full length of the van would be available for bikes/boards/sheets of plywood. The bed needed to be permanently up, I wanted the stove and sink to be at the rear but not hinder the entry/exit and for everything else to be as simple as possible to keep the van flexible.

It was important that it still worked as a van and I think I've got there. I'm very pleased with it.


The final steps were done this weekend. I had a fella come round and fit the windows I'd bought and I finally fitted my additional battery and split-charge system. So there will be plenty of power when I'm parked up somewhere, certainly enough to charge iphones, run the sink/lights and radio for a week without fear of the van refusing to re-start.

I can highly recommend getting a professional to do the windows, it's the kind of job where practice and attention to detail really pays off! As for the split charge system, that's the only job I did myself that I wish I'd got someone else to do. The wiring is straightforward enough but again it's the details of actually fitting the second battery under the bonnet.. especially when you're re-crimping cables that need to carry 300+amps... You can't do that on the cheap with some shitty soldering!

Anyhow, looking forward to the third trip away now that it's fully formed and the windows are in, luxury!

Fitting the Flettner

The van is nearing completion!

Last night I fitted an air vent, which I was a bit undecided about because I'm not entirely convinced that one is absolutely necessary.

So why did I take the plunge? I'd spent so long in going over the pros and cons without making a decision I was really annoyed with myself, so after a small glass of wine, I threw caution to the wind and went outside with my drill and a jigsaw. Christ!

Turns out that I should make more decisions like this because the result is excellent, and the vent is happily spinning away on the roof extracting air, you can properly feel it.

Only time will tell if it has a measurable effect on the condensation in the van when it's full of damp walking-gear but I am hopeful.

It will be good practice for cutting some windows in anyway!

My New Pal

Here's my new pal. Ace isn't he. 

I hope he likes camping and running about, because I made him have a wash earlier and he didn't like that very much.

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Google Chrome

Google Chrome is going down the bog a little bit which is a real shame. It is by far the quickest browser going and it is arguably the most secure, but like some of Googles other products at the moment it is losing some of it's appeal.

I've always loved the way that the big G does things. Form following function, minimalist tools that work brilliantly alone but also integrate seamlessly with other Google tools. Case in point, the Search homepage. Other case in point, gMail.

Parking the odd exception like the supremely complex Google Wave, their tools are generally awesome, have zero learning curve and occasionally include really positive game changing features.

Over the last few months though, some odd decisions seem to be getting made around features and UX.

Lots of small annoying things are creeping in across the estate.

Take the "new tab" page in the Chrome browser. there's a big grey bar across the top of it that states "for quick access, place your bookmarks here". I don't want bookmarks there, in fact I don't have any bookmarks but I can't get rid of that bar. It looks stupid and every time it opens up... it asks me.

Google Plus is another one. It has looked like a jumble sale for some time now which we are all used to, but it is features like "YOU MIGHT KNOW THESE PEOPLE" that make it unusable. There, centre stage every time you use it is a list of 50 people you've never heard of, that you can't remove, that Google want you add as friends.

Chrome again now, there is a very annoying feature called "desktop notification" that again you cannot switch off. It is a festering little icon in your system tray that pops up now and then with some kind of alert. The best thing is that when it has nothing to tell you, you can click on it and it will say "there is nothing to alert you about". So why the hell is it there at all?

Either they're fiddling with their suite of tools because they've peaked in terms of layout, design and innovation or they've made the decision to just do more stuff that drives up adoption and money and they're willing to sacrifice the design and usability for it.

Some actions are definitely deliberately vague.

Take the sign-in page you're presented with when you first open Chrome. It looks like the gMail login, but actually signs you into the Chrome browser. This then syncs your history, open tabs, bookmarks and logins by default. It's all a bit shady and you'd never notice because it does pass-through when you visit a Google site and signs you in automatically...

Anyhow, off the back of some of these annoyances I dumped Chrome a few weeks back and switched to Safari, which is super integrated with OS X and iOS, which are currently the best platforms for me. Safari doesn't fly at work where I use Linux/Firefox... but it's not a bad idea to separate those two lives anyway.

I guess after a long while of being very happy with the tools I use, I'm diversifying a bit.. never pays to have all your eggs in one basket and definitely don't be afraid to change!