Thursday, June 21, 2018

Book Review: Arthur Ransome on the Broads

Previously I reviewed Ransome's "Radundra's First Cruise" and alas found it seriously boring.

It was a bit like having to listen to someone's holiday story about this great taverna where the owner was such a character and would give them free retsina .... you really had to be there otherwise it was all a bit switch off.

But Arthur Ransome on the Broads by Roger Wardale I rather enjoyed. Partly because it was short, summarising the numerous visits rather than describing each tack, but mostly as it gave an insight into the character and ways of the Broads in the 1930s and how the books came to be written.

Both Coot Club and The Big Six came from his holidays there and you can see the elements emerge, the different types of boats: punts, dinghies, racing yachts, wherries, motor cruisers, motor tugs.... all were there in the diaries and came alive in the stories. Tom's father was a GP and Ransome was to have not one but three medical emergencies on his trip, namely bang to head, appendicitis and hernia so did indeed get to know the local doctor well. There were missed telegrams, storms in Broads, fish caught, falling in (a lot), Horning, bird watching, eel catching, pirate flags, racing....

The backgrounds to the books were especially interesting - such as how The Big Six was almost called The Death and Glories, which to be honest would have worked a lot better as The Big Six needs a certain amount of explaining now.

There were some intriguing insights into Ransome's relationship to his wife Evgena, who seemed somewhere between formidable, domineering even, summoning him with a sharp blow on her whistle!

There was a mysterious reference to how they "turned out to watch the eclipse of the sun" during the 1939 trip which I'm struggling to match with astronomical references - any suggestions?

Overall a useful reference for those interested in Ransome's sailing and writing without having to go through all the original sources.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Paddling on the Thames

Far too long since was out on the Thames. This time out on the inflatable kayak that is sure but slow, particularly into the wind.

Fortunately this time managed to avoid the deflating (literally) sound of "ssssssss....." from a previous trip that required an urgent paddle to shore to avoid having to swim.

Spot the helicopter (above). For some reason the camera had gone into 16:9 mode so not taking the full resolution photos.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Boats! Boats! Bridge! ... in Shrewsbury

Recently I had a very brief trip to Shrewsbury and there was just time for a short walk by the River Severn, so only got two of the usual three boat pics. But the Porthill Bridge was rather picturesque and nearly 100 years old:

And here's a boat + bridge pic:

There are all sorts of boats usually on the Severn, such as kayaks, canoes and rowing boats (of various sorts) but not on a Monday lunch-time apparently.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Tall Ship Stad Amsterdam visits London

I might have mentioned before how much I enjoy using the Thames Clipper Riverbus to get around in London. The views are always fantastic and sometimes you get a special treat, such as earlier this week when looked to starboard and saw us passing the Stad Amsterdam (City of Amsterdam).

This is a three-masted clipper that was built in the city of that name in 2000, and it is currently visiting London.

What a great sight!

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Heron on the Thames

There are many herons on the Thames, and some of them are surprisingly ok about humans getting close up with a camera:

Saturday, June 02, 2018

Books of the Blue Funnel Line - Updated

Previously I've done a post describing books about the Blue Funnel Line but since then I've read quite a few more so thought I'd give an update.

For those wanting to know more about the Blue Funnel Line there is a reasonable range of books on this topic, including those in the photos above and below. I've only reviewed a handful of them, though more might follow in the future.

Company Histories

Three of these books are histories, that set out to record what happened in the company over specific times, and each achieves its goal:
  • Blue Funnel, A history of Alfred Hold & Company of Liverpool, 1865 - 1914 by Francis E. Hyde
  • A Merchant Fleet in War, Alfred Holt & Co 1939 - 1945, by Captain S. W. Roskill
  • The Blue Funnel Legend, A History of the Ocean Steam Ship Company 1865 - 1973, by Malcom Falkus
  • The Blue Funnel Line, issued by Alfred Holt & Company, 1938

Travelogues and Life on Board

These are highly readable descriptions of life on-board a Blue Funnel ship as it travels between Liverpool and the Far East. The first three are particularly of note: the first one is disguised but apparently is S.S. Polyphemus in 1907 and the second an amalgam of several voyages on similar vessels in the 1960s. The third is the description of what is indeed a remarkable life, the first female marine engineer:

Reference Books

Finally there are reference books with lists of ships often with photos:
  • Blue Funnel Line, A Photographic History by Ian Collard
  • Ships in Focus: The Blue Funnel Line by John Clarkson, Bill Harvey and Roy Fenton (below)
  • Ships of the Blue Funnel Line by H. M. Le Fleming
  • Merchant Fleets 6: Blue Funnel Line, by Duncan Haws
  • Blue Funnel & Glen Lines Bulletin: Centenary Edition 1865 - 1965
  • The Blue Funnel Line: A Portrait in Photographs & Old Picture Post Postcards by Terry Moore
Let me know if there are any others out there I should be collecting or if you'd like more detailed reviews.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

History of Navigation Conference at the National Maritime Museum

After my visit for an update on progress on the Painted Hall restoration last week, I went to the main reason for my trip to Greenwich, which was a conference on the History of Navigation at the National Maritime Museum.

Jolly interesting it was too. Over the next one and half days heard 14 or so talks about subjects as varied as:
  • How to become a Hero
  • A Heroic Pirate? William Dampier’s contemporary reputation and historical legacy as a navigator
  • Lady Franklin in the Victorian Canon of Naval Heroism
  • The weather, failure and success on Cook´s third voyage
  • “It’s all Fake News!”: James Cook and the making of an 18th century media hero
  • The Validity of Replica Voyages
  • Charisma and Routine in Nineteenth-century Hydrography
  • A century of pain and gain: chartering and opening the Torres Strait in the nineteenth century 
  • ‘Plane-tabling Mitcham Common is hardly sufficient’: Instruments in the Identity of Exploration 
  • A History of Navigation in the Western Desert prior to the GPS age
  • Hero or Villain? The conundrum for the military in using GNSS as an aid to navigation
The one I was most interested in was of course William Dampier, that being a favourite topic of mine, and had a great chat with the author, Katherine Parker, afterwards about whether his later failings were due to drink or some tropical disease.

The most fun was the one from Vanessa Collingridge about Fake News and James Cook's voyages in which learnt a lot about the cut-throat world of journalism in those early days of newspapers in the UK.

A special mention goes to the author of the Lady Franklin paper, Alexa Price, for managing to bring the Princess Bride into her talk (in context).

There were a bit too many old guard duffers and rather a shortage of fluent men, apart from Neil Dicken, who also, in his talk on GNSS, referenced Tristan and his natural navigation techniques (in the context of urban navigation without GPS).

Thanks to the National Maritime Museum for organising it and I will keep an eye out for future conferences they arrange.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Restoration of the Old Royal Naval College Painted Hall: Update

Last year I visited the Painted Hall at the Old Royal Navel College in Greenwich to see the work being done to restore this fading masterpiece. Last week I was in Greenwich visiting the National Maritime and decided to pop in for an update.

At the time of my earlier visit, the conservation work had just started and they are still hard at it (above) a year later but the end is in sight. Much of the surface has been completed and you can clearly see the changes from my photos of the eclipse graphic from last year to this year:

Last year:

This year:

All those pealing paint has been touched up and its definitely looking cleaner though there are still the odd patches that are work in progress.

Some features that had become too faint to be seen were now visible, like this face blasted by the sight of Medusa:

I think the time table is to keep working until the autumn and then there'll be the long exercise of taking down all the scaffolding (apparently it weighs as much as the Space Shuttle) before the whole thing will be revealed in 2019:

Looking forward to seeing it then in all its glory!

Friday, May 25, 2018

Distant Shores at London on Water

Also at London on Water I met up with Paul and Sheryl Shard who are the Canadian couple behind the TV / Vimeo / YouTube show Distant Shores.

If you haven't caught Distant Shores here is their trailer:

They were both super nice and photo at the top shows their new yacht which they're about to sail off in for their next adventures. Distant Shores III is a Southerly 480 with lifting keel and below deck had that lovely new yacht smell with everything looking immaculate.

They also have a YouTube channel (of course) and you can get a flavour of their voyages through Scotland to Norway here:

They've even managed to put together a video of their visit to London:

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Henry from Kraken & sailing to Svalbard

Also at London on Water and much more enjoyable and running a lot smoother was the talk by Henry from Kraken Travel about a trip to Norway and up to Svalbard.

If you don't know about them its worth checking out their web site to discover some of the most interesting sailing trips around, including some to those arctic destinations I do so love visiting.

I have actually booked one of their trips but won't say which as don't want to jinx it after last year's bad luck in getting sick at the wrong time.

Anyhow, lots of good stories from Henry about sailing and skiing including a hot tub at the top of a mountain which sounds just brilliant plus great photos (alas the one above has nasty reflection) but you can get an idea from this blog post.

Had fun just chatting about sailing to the far north and people we both either knew or had heard of.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Jimmy Cornell talks about the North West Passage, again

The first of the talks at London on Water turned out to be one that I'd already seen and heard before at the Cruising Association 18 months ago, so check out the post for more details.

Two things stuck in my mind from that earlier presentation. Firstly, Cornell came across as a bit fussy, worrying about things not being right, from the lighting to the microphone to people eating away, and secondly that as skipper he said he couldn't "afford to be nice all the time" which sounded a bit ominous for the crew.

This talk didn't really add to this, though it wasn't helped by technical issues with the laptop and microphone, background noise from the bar of people chatting, the sound of rain on the tent and people eating too close to the table where Cornell had his books.

There was something appropriate about hearing this talk at St. Katharine Docks as Cornell's voyage started and ended by going through the nearby Tower Bridge.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Boats! Boats! Boats! ... in Windsor

A couple of years ago I went to Windsor to see the castle and the Thames. It was a lovely day and went home looking forward to checking out my photos. Alas there was some sort of memory card issue and there were none.

So I went back a bit later but alas it was grey and raining. There weren't many boats out on the river and none of those nice wooden classics had hoped for:

While this weekend it is much nicer, with blue skies and warming sunshine, I do not intend to go back as understand it might be rather busy there today, for some reason.