Review: Concept Kayaks “Explore” – A serious fishing kayak

My personal criteria for a serious fishing kayak

Over the last 6 months I have done a great deal of research on YouTube and kayak fishing blogs into exactly what I need to look for in a serious fishing kayak. This is a one-time purchase that needs to be perfect for my fishing ventures big and small. By checking out the set-ups of many other kayak anglers (and suffering some serious kayak envy). I had put together a list of top criteria in my head to base my kayak shopping around.

Top criteria for me is a fairly large kayak (in terms of both hull volume for stability and also storage space), hard wearing build and materials, and also with the potential to modify (added extras and accessories in the future like fish finders, GPS, anchor trolley etc). The kayak also has to be very stable, but with the ability to glide through the water efficiently.

Concept Explore Review- serious fishing kayak

The Concept Explore kayak looks the business

The Concept Explore kayak ready to launch on her maiden voyage

First impressions
Wow! The Concept Explore was stood alongside other high end fishing kayaks in the showroom, and my eye was drawn straight to it. It certainly looked like the kind of vessel that would handle the fishing expeditions I have been dreaming about for so long. There is plenty of room in the cockpit (good for the long hauls) with plenty of leg space and lots of storage. Lets take a look under the bonnet.

Kayak  Specifications
Length = 365cm (11’11″)
Width = 78cm (2’6″)
Height = 33cm (1’1″)
Kayak Weight = 27kg (60lbs)
Max Load = 150kg (331lbs)
Colours = Yellow / Sand / Forest Camo

A large storage well at the stern with bungee webbing cord

A large storage hatch at the bow with lockable lid

Storage
The thing that immediately caught my eye was the mass of on-board storage space, which included a large storage well at the stern (36″ x 18″) with zig-zag bungee cord fastening, this will easily carry a large fishing box, anchor, and an additional dry box /crate. In front of the seat there is a large centre console (with Scotty compatible fittings for instruments and attachments), and a large oval shaped sealed hatch at the bow with tons of usable space and a large lockable lid (including fitting to attach a large dry bag). Storage was high on my list of priorities, and the Concept Explore certainly provides enough to hold all of my fishing gear + with a maximum weight load of 150kg, enough to store my catch too.

Centre console has a useful storage areas for fishing tackle Extras and Accessories

  • Multi Function Centre Console (for mounting Scotty rod rests and accessories) – The console itself runs through the middle of the leg area (measuring 28″ x 7.5″) with 7 x star shaped “Scotty Compatible” holes, aswell as a number of re-enforced screw holes for attaching additional rails or brackets. It also has a cup holder (very useful for an avid tea drinker like myself), but also a useful storage area for various bits of fishing tackle. The lid of the centre console is held firmly in place with straps with a handy storage area underneath (for more fishing tackle, phones, keys etc). The design of the console is really intuitive with space for any instruments you may need to add, and positioned to allow easy access without it getting in the way when paddling. There is even a measuring scale (in cm and inches) to measure fish size.
  • Carry handles on sides, bow and stern (side handles are centre balanced which allows single person to carry one handed). The front and back handles are useful for lifting the kayak onto the trolley wheels.
  • Kayak trolley (available separately)
  • Flush mounted rod rests (with covers) – The rod rests are easily accessible, although I only use them for storing rods in transit. When fishing I like to use a rod rest that sits in front of me. The centre console will easily hold a number of rod rests.

concept-explore-fishing-kayak-22

Rudder system
The Concept Explore also has a rudder system, also seen on other high end fishing kayaks. The rudder system is controlled with foot pedals, and helps with maintaining direction in conditions where the kayak is turning into the wind (also known as weather cocking). Normally the kayaker is forced to paddle furiously on one side to keep the kayak straight, but the rudder will allow extra control over the steering.

The rudder can be raised or lowered when required using the haul lines situated on the right hand side of the kayak. The rudder system is well constructed and can be assembled in minutes ready for use. I was a bit concerned (as it was a new gadget that I had never used before), but I sat in the kayak and pushed the pedals back and forth for a few minutes, with some of my previous kayaking experiences in mind I decided that a rudder system was definitely a good idea.

The rudder system can be raised or lowered to assist steering in windy conditions

Handling and Comfort
The kayak performed even better than expected. I took it out for its maiden voyage from Porth Beach across to Newquay harbour and back. I am 6 feet tall and weigh approx 95kg (quite a lump). With all of my gear the load would be around +120kg and I have been close to the maximum load on smaller kayaks before (impairing their glide through the water). But the Concept Explore sat in the water really nicely, and steered through a cross-wind (approx 15-20mph) with no problem at all. Half way across the bay the wind was a little bit stronger with a bit of chop to the sea, the Explore cut through it just nicely, but I decided that it was an ideal time to test the rudder system. The rudder worked exactly as expected and after a couple of minutes getting used to the pedals for the first time, I was able to perfectly counter balance the push of the wind and maintain my course without having to paddle furiously on one side.

At 30 inches wide, the Concept Explore felt really stable in the water. I stopped paddling for a while and allowed the Explore to drift sideways into the waves. I sometimes end up in this position while drift fishing and this is the point where you are most likely to get tipped by a wave. Compared with other kayaks I have used, the stability of the Concept kayak is loads better, and as the kayak was sitting relatively high in the water I didn’t take much water over the sides.

The positioning of the 6 x scupper holes in the cockpit of the Explore allows the water to drain downwards to the lowest point (the foot area), with the ability to plug them up if preferred meant that I had a very dry ride. Many times I have had to sit in a puddle of water in other types of kayak (especially if the kayak was sat very low in the water). I found that the adjustable foot pedals can be finely adjusted to the perfect position, and can be easily tweaked whilst out on the water. The “Ultimate” kayak seat that I got with the kayak is easily fitted and feels very comfortable, although made of lightweight material, the padded back and seat felt very plush and offered enough support to lean back into the seat whilst paddling. All round an extremely smooth and comfortable ride.

The width of the kayak offers great stability and plenty of room in the cockpit

Manufacturing and materials
My number 1 priority (over and above storage capacity) is quality construction, after all I will be putting the kayak through some tough conditions and it will get something of a battering while travelling to some of my favourite bass fishing spots (not to mention the occasional bump or knock when putting it on the roof rack). Concept Kayaks are rotation moulded from the highest quality LLDPE (linear low density polyethylene). LLDPE is very durable and is impact resistant, unlike HDPE (high density polyethylene) which is prone to denting and cracking (also used to make plastic garden furniture which I break all the time). After speaking with the manufacturers, they confirmed that LLDPE was indeed the best possible material for the construction of kayaks, of which they sourced the very highest quality LLDPE from ExxonMobil. This was used to make the hulls of all of the Concept Kayak models.

The LLDPE used to make the Concept Explore also contains UV inhibitors to reduce UV damage while the kayak is being used (which will degrade plastic over the years making it brittle), I will still store my kayak under cover though when not in use.

It should also be noted that all of the metal fixings in the Concept Explore are made of 316 marine grade stainless steel (suitable for use in both freshwater and seawater). I have seen other kayaks that claim to use “marine grade” stainless steel where in fact using 304 which can corrode over time when exposed to salt water. There is also no use of rivets at all (which have been known to come loose and cause leaks over time).

Concept kayaks are very well built and they offer a lifetime guarantee on the hull of the kayak

High Quality Build - Lifetime Warranty
Concept Kayaks offer a lifetime warranty on the hull of the kayak as standard (which speaks volumes to me in terms of confidence in their construction). The Concept Explore kayak comes with a moulded serial number that I used to register the warranty on the website. The kayaks are individually inspected before being shipped as part of a stringent 10 point check and comes with a certificate of quality assurance. (I can’t argue with that).

Verdict
This is certainly not just any old leisure kayak (with a rod rest stuck on for good measure), the Concept Explore was designed specifically with the serious touring fisherman in mind, and when put alongside some of the other high end fishing kayaks, the Explore still ticks all of the boxes for me. This kayak is built to the highest quality, with many years of experience poured into the R&D at Concept Kayaks who are based right here in Cornwall.

Price isn’t the main consideration for me when choosing a good quality fishing kayak (this is a serious hobby for me), but the Concept Explore retails at £358 (at the time of publishing this), which simply cannot be ignored when comparing to prices of other kayaks of the same specifications, and so out of my £500 budget, there is enough change to buy some more fishing tackle. Win Win!

Useful Links
Concept Kayaks Website
The Outdoor Hub (where to buy the Concept Explore)

Posted in Fishing and Hunting, Outdoors | 8 Comments

Review: Rob Allen Scorpia – a fantastic speargun for beginners

I have always been into any kind of fishing or hunting, and was recently introduced to spearfishing by some friends. They were having far more luck sub-surface than I ever had with my trusty old fishing rod. With that in mind, and having watched a lot of inspiring spearo videos on YouTube, I was more than happy to give it a go. The exciting prospect of bagging a few decent sea bass for the table was beginning to grab me (failing that, perhaps even just a flattie or two).

spearfishing for seabass in Cornwall

Not wanting to spend a fortune on equipment (as a beginner), I was looking for a speargun that would perform as well as my growing abilities required. After a lot of research online, it was apparent that Rob Allen’s design of speargun would be sturdy and strong enough to handle the rough ground hunting in Cornwall, while packing enough muscle to fire a strong straight shot at a fast moving sea bass.

After chatting to the guys at Spearfishing.co.uk and getting some valuable pointers,  I am also incredibly fortunate to be able to review a Rob Allen Scorpia 90 beginners speargun. The Scorpia series are built with the same high quality components as other top of the range models and use the same 16mm bands. Priced at £89.99 for the Scorpia 90 (prices vary for other sizes) – it is perfectly priced for the beginner spearo.

Rob Allen Scorpia "beginners speargun"

Rob Allen Scorpia Series – Specifications:

  • Single 16mm band
  • Available in sizes 50 – 110 cm
  • 6.3mm tri-cut stainless steel spear
  • Aviation grade aluminium barrel 1mm thick
  • Mechanism manufactured from glass reinforced nylon
  • Single wrapped heavy duty shooting mono – 2mm thick with 400lb breaking strain
  • Low profile muzzle available (Free upgrade worth £19)

My first impressions as I unwrapped the Scorpia 90 is of an extremely well made bit of kit. Constructed from aviation grade aluminium, it feels very rugged but also light enough to hold up and aim with one hand. The terrain that I will be fishing is rough Cornish coastline (boulders and kelp), and so a speargun that allows one hand free is essential as I can steady my stance whilst simultaneously taking aim at passing fish (a technique that may need some practice, but it’s good to start off with the right gear).

The handle and trigger mechanism (including safety catch) feels sturdy with a positive click and a strong hold on the spear end. Being made from glass reinforced nylon it will not corrode. I “false fired” (without loading the rubber) and replaced the spear into the trigger catch several times until I was 100% confident of its reliability (solid). By placing the spear on the floor (or a nearby chair) and stretching out the line, it is also clear that the length of the mono line provided (in addition to an outstretched arm + length of speargun) gives a substantial range of fire. The handle also has a moulded reel mount which may come in handy when I start hitting big enough fish to let them run.

Rob Allen Scorpia - trigger mechanism

I opted for the low profile muzzle which allows the addition of and extra band if required. By flexing the rubber a bit (but not loading it out of water, as this is extremely dangerous), I can immediately feel the potential power capability of the single 16mm band.

The Rob Allen Scorpia 90 speargun with single 16mm band

How to Load the Rob Allen Scorpia 90 speargun:
Loading the Rob Allen Scorpia 90 speargun for the first time was a little daunting because it raised a few questions in my mind about whether I was setting it up correctly. My questions were kindly answered by the guys at Spearfishing.co.uk and a quick demonstration confirmed that it was as straightforward as I had originally thought.  Loading and setting up the Rob Allen speargun is actually very simple and neat, with a very small amount of practice required to get the chest loading technique nailed.

  1. How do I load the speargun correctly (without busting a gut)? -> The chest loading technique is widely recommended in the spearfishing world as the easiest and safest way to load most spearguns. (look it up on YouTube)
  2. Should the line run on top of the speargun when loaded? -> The mono line cannot run directly on top of the spear, as it would obstruct the notch in the spear (where the wishbone sits and catches the spear) – The line should run slightly to the side of the spear (but not underneath), with the crimped loop sitting on top of the spear at the trigger end.
  3. Should the line run over or underneath the speargun rubber at the muzzle end? -> The mono line comes out of the end of the muzzle (alongside the spear), running down over the top of the rubber (neatly near where the rubber is held into the muzzle).
  4. How does the line catch work? (situated underneath the trigger mechanism) -> The line is neatly held back along the length of the barrel with the line catch, as the trigger is pulled the line catch simultaneously releases the line.
  5. Will the crimped end of the monofilament line catch on the speargun muzzle when I fire it? -> Although the crimped end of the mono line sits pointing forward on top of the spear, when fired should not catch on the muzzle. The sheer speed of the spear firing out of the muzzle combined with friction from the surrounding water pulls the crimp and loop backwards so that it is free to pass through the muzzle.  (no problem)

Verdict: The Rob Allen Scorpia 90 ticks all of the boxes for me, it is an extremely well designed speargun and is produced without cutting corners and compromising on quality. At only £89.99 it is very competitively priced and you get all the power and versatility you will need to see you through your first couple of years as a spearo. The full range of Rob Allen spearguns and spear fishing accessories is available at www.spearfishing.co.uk (the UK’s Official Rob Allen Dealer).

Check out their video below which gives some great advice on choosing the right speargun.

Posted in Fishing and Hunting, Outdoors | 5 Comments

Review: Asics Mens Gel Volt Running Shoes – Hitting the coastal paths

Asics Gel Volt running shoes - hitting the coastal paths in Cornwall

My running schedule began late this year, partly because I felt that my old routes were boring and flat, and probably weren’t pushing my fitness level enough (or maybe those are just excuses for being lazy). I have spent many a weekend throughout spring exploring parts of the Cornish coastline, of which there is over 630 miles of the South West Coastal Path that is fantastic for off road running. The twisting pathways and sharp gradients offer me a new dimension which will allow me push it harder than ever this year.

Having the correct footwear is essential  for ample support and cushioning from foot impact, and having a good grip is the difference between a strong confident stride or slipping over and twisting your ankle on one of the many slopes or boulders en-route.

I am delighted to be able to try out these Asics Gel Volt Lightweight Running Shoes from M & M Direct. Out of the box the trainers look great, the colours and design is really appealing, and goes with my black running shorts. More importantly they feel extremely light (only 325 grams for one of my size 11′s), but they don’t feel skimpy. The AHAR rubber cushioned sole (with an impressive tread grip) is substantially dense, and the overall composition of the shoe feels really sturdy.

Asics mens running shoes are great for support and grip

For their maiden voyage, and to put my new Asics through their paces I picked a mixed terrain route. It was a 7km road, cliff path, and beach run (including an incredibly steep hill). The first thing I noticed was how smooth the road running felt, usually after the first mile I can feel small impact pains in my lower back but no pain was felt at all while wearing the Asics Gel Volt shoes. After a good start I was able to get my breathing pattern synchronized with my stride… and away we went!

The run was gruelling (as planned) and the shoes felt great throughout, the lightweight upper dried really quickly after I ran through pools of water, and I had every confidence in the grip.

Asics running shoes are perfect for running along the coastal paths in Cornwall

Verdict: The Asics Gel Volt shoes are fantastic for both road and rough terrain running, and are currently my favourite running shoes,and well worth the price of £69.99. With the quality you would expect from Asics, the lightweight upper, well cushioned sole, and the ample tread, they allow me to be the mean running machine I strive to be.

Thankyou to M and M Direct for sending the running shoes for review, check out their website for a great range of running shoes and sports gear at great prices. For lots more helpful information visit their running guide here.

Posted in Outdoors | 2 Comments

The ultimate crab and lobster trap

catch your own crabs and lobster using a trap

Catching crabs has always been a major fascination for me. One of my most successful methods was using a hand line from a harbour wall, and with a few “tried and tested” modifications to the baited end, I found that I could fill my crate with crabs quickly without losing my bait. With the use of an old onion bag or other fine netting, I created a little bait bag (weighted with a stone) and tied it to the end of the hand line. This way the crabs nipped onto the bag (containing a mackerel fillet or something equally stinky), and I could pull them up, sometimes 3 or 4 at a time.

Fold-able crab and lobster trap for leisure anglers

Taking this on to the next level, and being able to catch crabs and lobsters for the table has always been on my agenda. Using a traditional lobster pot is just not practical (as they are large and heavy) and so I was over the moon when I discovered this portable / fold-able lobster crab trap from Castnets. This really opened up new opportunities for me as it folds up and fits onto the back of a kayak easily, or can be taken out and anchored on a low spring tide and collected the next day.

The folded crab and lobster trap easily fits on the back of a kayak

Perfect for:
Catching crustaceans like crab and lobster for the table
Catching crab for fishing bait
Fit perfectly on the back of a kayak.
Can be easily carried (very lightweight)

Priced at only £24.99 from www.castnets.co.uk this trap is the perfect solution and is far better designed than many other traps that I have seen. The trap can be assembled very quickly (60 seconds) and holds very strong with a good volume inside (90cm diameter). The four one-way entrance holes are large enough to allow large spider crabs and lobsters with little chance of escape. All you need to do is bait the trap with a bit of fish and anchor it to the bottom with a lead weight (I use an 8 oz weight in calm sea).

Verdict: The ultimate crab and lobster trap is well designed, sturdy and well priced. I have done quite a bit of research and this is definitely the best one around. I’m looking forward to cooking up some nice juicy lobster!

In addition to setting this trap, I will also be on the lookout for crabs and lobster whilst free diving here in Cornwall.  Check out my post here.

Posted in Fishing and Hunting | 4 Comments

Review: Leatherman “Wave” Multi-tool

review - leatherman wave multi tool

Some say that your not a real man until you’ve got a multi-tool. I started with a pen-knife that my dad bought me from a shop in Oban (in Scotland) when I was 12. That was the moment when I felt properly grown up. His words of advice were “be careful with that, its so sharp you will cut yourself just by looking at it” – he wasn’t wrong. It was a great little knife and got years of use, although I lost the little tweezers and toothpick within a few weeks (doesn’t everybody?).

Leatherman long nose pliers, perfect for unhooking sea bass or making fishing rigs

So given the chance to review the popular “Wave” multi-tool made by Leatherman, I was once again that 12 year old boy opening up the various blades, saws and tools packed into the steel handles of the Leatherman. Although I was a bit shy at first (I didn’t want to scratch or ruin my new multi-tool), I soon realised its capabilities, and was cutting, bending, hacking and sawing away with every confidence in the quality of the tool.

leatherman wave has serated knife and penknife, and also has a saw

The saw has two rows of teeth, although quite short, it does the business and is perfect for cutting down branches of up to 10cm in diameter easily. The perfect buddy to have when getting firewood or shelter making. The bottle opener gets some use too!

The long nose pliers come in most handy when making fishing rigs, and also for unhooking some of the bigger fish that I catch. I think it may be a good idea for me to attach the Leatherman to my belt with a stretchy bungee cord, as I would be annoyed if I lost it in the sea.

The Leatherman has a double toothed saw that cuts like a dream

The Leatherman Wave includes all of these useful features, all of which are well constructed from stainless steel. It gets the job done with no nonsense!

  • Serrated Knife
  • Needlenose Pliers
  • Regular Pliers
  • Wire Cutters
  • Hard-Wire Cutters
  • Saw
  • Scissors
  • Wood/Metal File
  • Diamond Coated File
  • Large Bit Driver
  • Large Screwdriver
  • Small Bit Driver
  • Ruler
  • Bottle/Can Opener
  • Wire Stripper
  • Lanyard Attachment
  • Clip-Point Knife
  • 2 Double End Bits
  • 100% Stainless Steel
  • Weighs: 8.5oz
  • Closed Length: 4″
  • Leather Pouch

Verdict and Thanks:
I would like to say a big thankyou to Whitby & Co for sending me the Leatherman Wave for review, this is a must have for outdoor enthusiasts and professionals, and this has become a permanent addition to my fishing bag. The quality of the multi-tool far exceeds any of the cheaper brands that I have used, and will clearly last me for years (even under the tough pressure I will be putting it under). The Leatherman wave is available here at Whitby & Co for £109.95

Visit Leatherman athttp://www.leatherman.co.uk/

Posted in Outdoors | 1 Comment

Freediving for Crabs in Cornwall – Preparation and Equipment List

freediving in Cornwall for spider crabs

One of my top 5 outdoor activities to begin this year is free diving for crabs here in Cornwall. The warmer waters around the South West coast arecaused by the Atlantic gulf stream. This gives us a longer crabbing season, and so my search for diving equipment and physical preparations begin.

I will be targeting Spider Crabs (Maja squinado) and Edible Brown Crabs (Cancer pagurus) of which there are an abundance of both here in Cornwall so I’m hoping for some good success. I will be using two methods; free diving and collecting in a mesh bag, and I will also drop an unmarked crab / lobster pot which I will dive to empty (as I don’t have a boat).

I have a few local spots picked out, and with some further research I will be compiling a list of “Hot Spots” to hit over spring and summer. Google Maps (Satellite View) is great for surveying the coastline for accessible diving areas. It is easy to see whether there are darker (rocky or weedy) or lighter (sandy) areas of sea bed.

My Free Diving Kit List
Wetsuit
Diving Mask
Snorkel
Fins
Gloves
Diving Weight Belts
Diving Torch
Diving Knife
Diving Watch
Float
Crab / Lobster Pot
Diving Bag

Physical Preparation
Cardiovascular Exercise
Breathing Exercises
Swimming Training
Water Pressure Training

Diving for edible crab in Cornwall, watch out for the claws

I will post further updates on my progress shortly, along with any top-tips from my experience. Freediving can be dangerous and I will be taking things slowly until I have confidence and skill enough to offer tips and advice.

First tip: always know the tides and weather conditions before you enter the water. (be safe kids)
Second Tip: watch out for the crab claws, seriously!

Posted in Fishing and Hunting, Outdoors | 2 Comments

Review: Mens Polarised Sunglasses – “Pilot” by Maui Jim

review - Maui Jim Pilot sunglasses

When it comes to sunglasses, I’ve never really been lucky enough to have a really good pair (small violin plays), and those which I have treated myself to have always come to a quick and painful demise (usually crushed or snapped). When I recently had the opportunity to get a pair of Maui Jim polarised sunglasses, I really was over the moon.

The Maui Jim website is really informative with really good product images (including a 360 degree view), which is really important when it comes to buying sunglasses online. It can be tricky to know if they will suit your face, but detailed product specifications allowed me to get fully clued up on material, frame size, colour and lens spec’ before I made my choice.

When the courier delivered the parcel, I chatted to him for a while (as he also owned a pair) , he commented on how great his pair were for Carp fishing, the polarised lenses were really good quality and cut pretty much all glare and reflection off the surface of the water. His words were re-assuring that I’d made the right choice as I also intended on wearing my new “Maui Jim’s” while fishing.

Maui Jim sunglasses- back and side pofile

Style #: 210-17  Colour: Silver / Neutral Grey
Frame Material: Stainless steel, a sleek, sturdy and non-corrosive metal known for its light weight and strength; non-corrosive nickel/silver temples with nylon temple tips
Finishing Treatment: High-gloss for a smooth, sophisticated look and feel
Hinge: Anti-corrosive stainless steel/bronze spring defies the elements and offers a secure, comfortable fit
Bridge: Fixed saddle-style with double cross-bar and adjustable, non-slip, rubber nose pads for comfort
RRP – £225.00 GBP

I decided on the “Pilot” sunglasses, actually an obvious choice as they look fantastic. They have a slightly curved (or wrap around) semi-rimless aviator design, the curved profile protects from light sneaking in through the sides and also gives an unobstructed view. They also have Maui Jim’s own PolarizedPlus2™ lenses, I chose the neutral grey colour, but they also come in HCL™ Bronze or Maui Evolution™.

During this scorcher of a Cornish summer (so far), I have worn them pretty much every day since they arrived. The “Pilot” sunglasses fit perfectly, really comfortable and well balanced. The rubber nose pads add extra comfort (there’s nothing worse than red marks on the side of your nose). The glasses have proven great for everyday wear and also my sports interests (fishing for sea bass around the Cornish coastline).

The PolarizedPlus2™ lenses (mentioned earlier) really are the star feature of these sunglasses. I had a good understanding of how polarisation worked (from my days working as an optical assistant), but to wear a really good pair of high quality polarised sunglasses like these is a visual sensation, they cut the glare off of everything!. The lenses and the stainless steel frame are salt water safe, which is crucial for me as I often get splashed with waves.

The lenses are fantastic for driving, especially after some rain when there is a lot of light reflection on the road. I have also noticed that it takes the glare off of other drivers wind-screens, so now I have a clear view other drivers (and what they are doing whilst driving).

Verdict: the “Pilot” sunglasses are outstanding in terms of quality, comfort and performance. I have been converted, long gone are the days of wearing 15 euro sunnies from the “looky looky man” - Wearing the Maui Jim “Pilot sunglasses has enabled me to improve at my sports fishing, and most importantly, I look great in them!

Maui Jim logo

Visit their website here
Maui Jim on Facebook
Maui Jim on Twitter
Maui Jim on Instagram

Posted in Style and Fashion | 2 Comments

BOOMco Rapid Madness Blaster Review

Me and my two sons have always been massive fans of pretend play and shooting toys, and so when we had the opportunity to review one of the Rapid Madness Blasters from Boom-Co, we were eagerly awaiting its arrival, and my boys were checking the door every 5 minutes for the courier. In the mean time we watched the YouTube video (below) to get an idea what we were in for. The video is hilarious and made us even more excited to get our hands on the blaster.

The blaster turned up, well packaged (and not a moment too soon, as my boys were going to explode with excitement). Out of the box the Rapid Madness Blaster looked awesome, and appeared very well made with no rough edges and solid joints where it was put together. The box contained the blaster, 30 x darts, a magazine (as in ammo magazine), and a target. There were also instructions there (if required), but we didn’t need them (and we were far too eager to get it loaded up).

Boom-co rapid madness blaster review photo

After deciding who was going to have the first turn, my youngest son aimed down the hallway at the front door and pulled the trigger. The noise that the blaster makes when firing is exhilarating, it makes a proper Rat-A-Tat-Tat!!! It was fantastic. He emptied the whole magazine (containing 20 x darts) within a few seconds and the look on his face was priceless. He knew it, my eldest son knew it, and I knew it – this was going to be great!

loading the darts into the Rapid Madness Blaster

Loading the Rapid Madness Blaster is so easy, the darts simply push into the magazine, then all you have to do is load the magazine into the side of the blaster and pump it up (15-18 pumps is enough). The darts are really lightweight and fly really far – they don’t hurt when you get hit by them either, my boys were running around whilst I hid (in ambush) ready to shoot them with the blaster – really really good fun!

The retractable blaster shields also pick up your opponents darts

The BOOM-co blaster target has a sticky back and can be attached to walls or clothing

Boom-co have clearly put a lot of thought into the functionality of the Rapid Madness Blaster. A really nice touch is the blaster shields which can be armed with the push of a button. The shields not only make the blaster look even more awesome, but the front of the shield will allow darts to stick to them. If you are under heavy fire from your opponent, your shield will help you pinch extra ammo. The blaster also comes with a target which the darts will also stick to. The target can be attached to a wall, bedroom door, or even stuck to clothing (for a moving target).

Verdict: BOOM-co have really hit the nail on the head with the Rapid Madness Blaster, suitable for ages 7-11 this toy is really great fun to play with (for adults too). The design and construction is fantastic and I feel that it may have set a new benchmark for cool blaster toys. It is priced at £49.99 (RRP) and available from most toy shops including Toys R US, Tesco and Amazon. I strongly advise watching the video (at the top of this review), then go out and buy one of these blasters now!

Useful Linkswww.BOOM-co.com | http://www.youtube.com/user/officialboomco | http://instagram.com/boomco

Posted in Kids Fun and Games | 1 Comment

Review: Bosch Rotak 43 Ergoflex Lawnmower

Bosch Rotak 43 Ergoflex Lawnmower

I have owned a few mowers over the years, hover, cylinder and rotary. The hover mowers were never very good, and I often got a better cut from swinging them around sideways than pushing them
in a straight line. A stripey lawn is not possible with a hover mower (so far as I have tried).

Cylinder mowers are great but do make for a high maintenance cost. (annual sharpening and setting etc) And up until now the rotary mower did the job but not very well.

I was fortunate enough to get my hands on one of the Bosch Rotack 43 mowers to try out. With my curved lawns front and back (normally a 3 hour job with the hover mower), I put it through its paces.
The mower is poweful (1800w) but much quieter than my previous hover mower. The blade cuts a good width (43cm) and gets very close to the edges. I can now cut a striped lawn and a brilliant cut too, no need to go over the same spot several times (like with my old hover mower).

cutting close to the edges with the Rotak 43

The grass box is easily big enough for my requirements, I’m spending more time mowing than emptying, but removing the grass box is a bit fiddly particularly when full.
Assembly was fairly easy apart from the grass box, that was quite difficult but got there in the end. – Everything else fits together very well, and the 15 metre power cable means that I no longer require an extension lead to reach the bottom of the garden.

Verdict: In short I would recommend The Bosch Rotak 43 to anyone, It is a wonderful machine, and now mowing the lawn is no longer one of my “oh maybe i’l do it tomorrow” jobs!
Available from Notcutts for £205.00

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The Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall

The vegetable gardens in bloom

Spring is finally here in Cornwall, and to celebrate the extra 2 minutes and 20 seconds of daylight each day, I made a pact with myself to get out and about visiting some of the attractions in this beautiful county.

One of my favourite outdoor day trips (apart from the Eden Project which I will cover in another post) is the Lost Gardens of Heligan. I had always wondered where these gardens were after hearing about them so many times, and apparently the perfect place to get some desperately needed inspiration for my garden makeover.

There is also a beer names ‘Heligan Honey’ which is brewed by the local Skinners brewery, the description on the back of the bottle describes how the ale is made using honey from the bees which are kept at the gardens. I have sampled ‘Heligan Honey’ a few times, but I never actually visited the gardens themselves. The entrance fee of £12 was OK considering that they have free parking, and I made a large packed lunch (cheese and Marmite sandwiches) to keep me going throughout the day. The address for visiting is The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Pentewan, St Austell, Cornwall, PL26 6EN.

The lost gardens of Heligan
The gardens were absolutely stunning, and the whole estate is kept in pristine condition, even the productive gardens where they grow all manners of vegetables and fruit were neat and immaculately presented. The story of these mysterious gardens spans back 400 years, where at one point they seems to disappear into rack and ruin following the first world war. The Tremayne family set about restoring the gardens, the area was worked on by dozens of specialist gardeners and labourers in a huge effort to bring the gardens back to life.

the flower gardens in spring

Apple blossom

Productive Gardens
The fruit and vegetable gardens were definitely one of favourite parts as I have a small vegetable plot at home and I specifically wanted to see how it was done properly. The gardens once met almost all the needs of the Tremayne family and their guests at the big House. Today over 200 varieties of mostly heritage fruit, vegetable, salad and herb are lovingly tended to supply the Heligan tearoom with fresh, seasonal produce throughout the year.

The vegetable gardens are an enticing stage for a glorious array of traditional crops and growing methods, I learned about putting seaweed on the vegetable beds as a brilliant soil fertilizer, and it also acts as a mulch to stop the soil drying out (something I will incorporate into my own vegetable plot). There were some enormous glasshouses growing fruits such as prize tomatoes of every variety and also wonderfully juicy peaches. I also learned about Victorian crop rotation methods, which were very similar to the methods I was using at home, but obviously on a much smaller scale.

Apple arches in flower

crop of juicy broad beans
In the Jungle
The jungle sits in a steep-sided valley, creating a micro climate at least five degrees warmer than the northern gardens. Here the exotic palette of plants brought back from across the world, both by the intrepid Victorian plant hunters and more recent collectors flourish before your eyes.

Chusan palm tree flowering

banana plantation

The Ancient Woodland
There are over 80 acres of ancient woodland at Heligan to get lost in with a carpet of Bluebells and other woodland plants like moss and ferns.

The sheltered pathway is brought to life with giant woodland sculptures that have become part of the flora and fauna; I actually did a comedy style double take as I noticed a giants head with plants for hair and bright blue eyes emerging silently from the beautiful natural landscape. Also the Mud Maid and Grey Lady (photos included below) wait to be discovered along the woodland walk.

the mud maid sleeping in the ancient woodland

an ancient tree - all knotted and gnarly

The Lost Valley
The Lost Valley is home to some beautiful but slightly scary looking ancient trees, with giant knots and tangled branches, some of them reminded me of the Whomping Willow from Harry Potter. Two large and tranquil ponds in the lost valley, stocked with a healthy supply of fish like sticklebacks and Rudd, offer the perfect fishing spot for the otters and the kingfishers that live there year-long. I also saw many other small birds and squirrels dashing in and out of the foliage, probably gathering food and nest material.

The tour guide leaflet also explained about a healthy population of nocturnal wildlife in the woods including many species of owls and also bats. I love owls but I’m not a keen lover of bats; however I did appreciate the work that was being done to help conserve these sometimes misunderstood creatures. The wildlife experts at Heligan have installed over 60 bat boxes, which can seen can be throughout the woodland area. They provide shelter to many resident species such as brown long-eared bats, greater and lesser horseshoe bats, and if I had to have a favourite, based on the name, the Pipistrelle bats.

shepherds hut in lost valley

an evening pheasant out for a stroll

sunset view over Mevagissey

 

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