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Bicycles boats

Folding boat towed by folding bicycle

The Fliptail 7 towed behind a Brompton folding bike

Maybe it’s because I live on a boat that the idea of things that reduce in size for easy storage appeal. After all, if I didn’t have a Brompton, I wouldn’t be able to have a bicycle aboard. For that matter, if I didn’t have a folding dinghy, I wouldn’t have space for a tender either.

It seems amazing to me now that I have waited so long to get this idea together as it’s so obvious I wonder that I didn’t think of it before. The marriage of a human powered bicycle and a human (or wind) powered boat is just great.

The Fliptail 7 from Woodenwidget.com weighs about 18 kilos which is no problem at all for the Brompton. On the stem of the Fliptail there is an eye bolt and on the aft end of the Brompton rack is a pin which the eye is simply dropped onto. The weight of the boat keeps it in place. There is plenty of ground clearance and the turning circle isn’t bad for a vehicle which is over 10 feet long either.

The pin on the rack doesn’t make the Brompton’s folded size any bigger but it does interfere with the bike when the swing arm is swung around. The bike still stands on its own but is not as stable as when all 4 rack wheels are on the ground. The answer I suppose is some sort of easily removed bracket.

The trailer attachment is made of alloy tube and is light and also folds away for easy stowage. It can be used equally for the road or even for launching and retrieving the boat. The Fliptail can be folded or unfolded with the trailer in place. It simply attaches to the boat’s transom where the outboard motor would normally go and could be fitted to any boat so long as it has a flat transom whatever its thickness.

This combination is perfect and I see no reason why you couldn’t go quite a long distance with the boat behind the bike. You can feel the weight when you first start to pedal but you soon forget the bike is there, at least on a level surface. The oars rest naturally in the boat and you could just as easily also add the mast and sails etc to the boat as well making the Fliptail 7 amazingly versatile.

When you get to the camp site you can even use the erected dinghy as shelter to sleep below. The folded Brompton takes up little space inside the boat so you could peddle up stream, put the boat and bike in the water and paddle or sail downstream. When you get where you are going you simply haul the boat out of the water, fold it and hitch it to the Brompton and off you go again. This is camping luxury!

The best bit is that there is no pollution! A bicycle and a row boat. Wow. Talk about setting a good example. Everywhere I go, people look and stare. And I’m not surprised really, it’s not something that you see everyday. More’s the pity.

The trailer attachment is not yet available, though Woodenwidget will soon be offering plans to enable a DIYer to make their own. If you are interested, please drop them a line, maybe if there is a lot of interest, they can be persuaded to speed things up a bit?

If you want to know more about the Woodenwidget range of dinghies for the spatially challenged, please visit Woodenwidget.com and check out their range of clever little boats.

Here’s a link to an article I wrote about the Brompton that you might enjoy too.

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boats Leica m9 Uncategorized

Filming using a remote control drone

The sailing regatta at St Tropez in October is always fun. It’s the last one of the season and everyone is looking forward to a well earned break at the end of it. Frankly I don’t know how the crews do it, racing everyday and drinking every night. They do this for 6 months of the year but at St Tropez it gets a bit mental. The atmosphere is excellent and there’s always something going on.

This year, I met the team from airmotion.ch through a friend. They have a remote control drone that enables filming with a new and unique view that often can’t be obtained any other way. The ‘drone’ they use is cutting edge and full of electronics which enable the camera platform to always remain level thanks to a pair of gyros. It can rotate, tip up and down and sway from side to side. Obviously there is also control of the platform remotely as well. 

Naturally I offered my new Fliptail dinghy as a perfect subject to film and they were happy to oblige as they were looking to build up their portfolio with interesting subjects and besides they are young with tons of energy and so we set off with fresh batteries to Port Grimaud, a kind of French Venice with canals and houses with boats moored at the end of the gardens. Amazingly it gets over 1,000,000 visitors every year. What better back drop to film a small sailing boat?

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The boys from airmotion fly the drone from a boat at sea. That takes balls! Note the extremely high tec floatation devices attached to the drone. (water bottles filled with helium for extra lift. Not really, I just made that up!)

The drone has 8 arms and at the end of each is a brushless motor driving wooden blades, with a mix of left and right handed rotation. The whole thing weighs about 5 kilos and can lift almost its own weight in equipment. The very expensive Lithium Polymer batteries need special care as they are liable to exploding or bursting into flames if not respected. They are even charged in a special fireproof box. Everything about the drone is high-tec.

It can fly as high as 3 kilometres! but at this distance you can no longer see it so must rely on its built in GPS to bring it home. It can move forwards at speeds of up to 60 kph. It can stay aloft for as much as 10 minutes on one battery but normally less to ensure a decent safety margin, after all, you don’t want this highly expensive and fairly delicate tool to fall out of the sky. The whole bundle, which includes, cases, chargers, spares, batteries, video screens, computers, cables and connectors represents a hefty investment.

What makes the drone so interesting is where it can go and how easily it can be transported to any location. The obvious uses are for all sorts of aerial photography and also for film making but with different cameras attached could even be used to film buildings with infra red to see what areas need better insulation. It’s uses are only limited by the imagination. The drone isn’t silent, those 8 blades thrashing the air make some noise and moves a surprising amount of air and in fact twice we heard someone say that it was noisy but I’d rather listen to the drone for 5 minutes than a helicopter for 1 minute. It’s really not that loud but can’t be missed, at least at low heights.

A helicopter is all very well but they are hideously expensive, to buy, own and maintain, never mind the huge amounts of fuel they use. If you wanted your posh villa filmed a helicopter could do it, probably with only one pass only and it will be very expensive. The drone has the added advantage that the customer can see the view from the drone and get involved with the end result.

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The drone on display at Port Grimaud. It has red and blue led lights so you can see it easily when flying it at night. Seems strange to see wood on such a technical bit of kit but they cut flesh much less than the plastic ones I’m told.

Airmotion’s drone is a serious and professional bit of kit with a wingspan of over a metre. This gives solidity and stability. Even with the drone flying about all over the place the image remains stable and smooth. There are not many of these drones about and there may not be. The reason is more to do with the skill needed to fly one of these things than the financing required although that is a major consideration.

It costs 1000€ a day to hire the drone which seems expensive until you consider the alternatives and if the alternatives can’t work where you are for any number of reasons, then a drone might be the only realistic way to get the job done. When you consider that you are paying for one pilot and one artistic director/photographer and the use of a very expensive bit of kit it starts to look like very good value indeed.

We had a lot of fun and attracted hundreds of people which leads me on to the main disadvantage of this as a photographic tool which is that people will point, stare and take pictures of it. It never occurs to them that here is a big bit of kit flying at speed with no less than 8 fast rotating blades (they are not called blades for nothing!) and seem to have no fear.

On one trip we did at sea one old man on the foredeck of a French cruising boat dropped his pants and stood there proudly presenting his manhood for us to film. Maybe the novelty will wear off but I doubt it. There is no doubt that airmotion will have a lot of success in the south of France if this week is anything to go by. If you need their services, just get in touch. I am sure they can help you.