Sunday, July 05, 2015

Sailing out of Annapolis

 Any guesses as to the name and history of the boat glimpsed here?

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Photos of Annapolis

A couple of photos for the Americans readers from my trip back in May to Annapolis.
Historic with lots of boats - what a nice place.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Volvo Ocean Race Video

If you haven't seen it already, worth checking out this 10 minutes video of the recently finished VOR - great stuff!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Picture puzzle

What's this rather hazy feature and which side of the channel were the red lights?

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Westeros Cup: The Hall of Memories

"And this is the Hall of Memories" said Sam, candle in hand.

Gilly looked around, intrigued.

"All these books" she said.

"And drawings" said Sam. "Records of the greatest ever yachts to enter the Westeros Cup. Each tells a story."

Gilly looked at the first, a gaff rigged cutter. "So what happ'n to 'em?"

"They won" said Sam. "But then the crew were kissed with poisonous lipstick and they all died."


She moved onto the next, an elegant catamaran in what looked like tropical waters.

"And this?"

"It would have won, but was attacked by a dragon and burnt to the water-line, along with the crew".

She made a face, but then cheered up at sight of a lovingly drawn picture of a young girl sailing a tiny dinghy.

"Oh, she's so sweet! Not dragon fire I hope?"

Sam made a face. "No, not a dragon" and steered her onwards.

The next was a noble yacht, schooner rig with a giant stag on its sail.

"So what happened here?" she asked.

"On the final leg of the deciding race they turned the windward mark first and thought they had it in the bag. Then the other yacht rammed into them, boarded, and slew all of them."

It was Gilly's turn to make a face.

"Every race, they seem to end the same."

"Not the same, this wasn't dragon fire. Swords, daggers and lances...." his voice trailed off.

There was one drawing left, of a yacht with darkened timbers and the sign of the Night's Watch.

"Oooh, did you sail this one?" asked Gilly.

"Was that baby Sam?" asked Sam.

"I didn't hear anything."

"You better go and check."

She left, leaving Sam alone, staring at the yacht with darkened timbers. Outside the light was fading.

The silence was broken by the craw of a crow.

"Never more" it cried and the candle flickered and went out.

Sam was alone in the cold with his thoughts as dark as night.

Winter is coming.


Tuesday, June 09, 2015

The Westeros Cup: The winter challenge

The two guards looked out across the snow covered landscape, sheltering from the wind. Neither said a word.

One stirred to shake the snow from his straggly beard. "Oi, mush, wake up" he said.

"I was awake" said the other. "You think I'd sleep after what happened to ... you know."

There was a pause.

"Don't want to think about it."

"She did no wrong. They did no wrong."

There was no reply, and no sound but the soft patter of flakes compressing.

"You want to hear a story" said the one with the beard. "Of what happened here hundreds of years ago - the Westeros Cup's winter challenge!"

"Here?" asked the other. "There's no water! It's fecking freezing! You're making it up!"

"True story."

"How could they have held a yacht race here?"

"Didn't say they had a yacht race, just they hosted the Westeros Cup. It was the idea of the Lords of FIFA, to hold a yacht race where no yacht race should be held. They got bags of gold from the Lannister mines and buggered off to Dorne."

The other spat. "The lords of FIFA!"

"Aye, that's the anger that keeps you warm during a long, cold watch."

The two men watched as the snow fell ever deeper around their Lord's camp.


Tuesday, June 02, 2015

The Westeros Cup: The Targaryen Challenge

"So where is this wonder yacht?" asked Tyrion.

Daenerys shielded her eyes from the bright sun with her fair hand and searched the bay.

"There!" she said, pointing.

Tyrion followed her outstretched arm and squinted.

"Jolly bright" he grunted, wincing slightly.

"You drank far too much wine last night" said Dany.

Then he saw it: he had taken it for a gull, so fast and graceful did it move, the curve of its white cloth sail like a giant wing.

"It has two hulls" he said, as if complaining, as if his eyes weren't to be trusted.

"Catamarans are faster, lighter" she said. "This is how they sail in the southern isles."

Tyrion watched, entranced. It seemed to fly over waters, free. Yes, with this yacht she could indeed win the Westeros Cup.

"It's amazing" he said, grinning.

Then the sun's heat and light were eclipsed as a shadow fell over the bay.

"Drogon!" cried Daenerys.

The black dragon swooped down and engulfed the little yacht in a ball of fire. Even from this far distance they could hear the screams. In rage it snorted again and again, kicking the ablaze mast into the waters.

When there was nothing left but ash scattered across the waves it flew off, south.

As tears ran down Dany's face there was no sounds but the gentle lap of waves on the shore.


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Westeros Cup: The Fighting Races

"This isn't how we race back in King's Landing."

"You're a long way from King's Landing."

Tyrion grunted: Jorah had a point.

"And entering the fighting race was your idea."

"Yes, but the alternative was death and castration - in that order. You can see how I was against the whole concept."

The starting horn sounded and Jorah tacked on the start line.

"Of course I usually sail with Jamie, double-handed, but that's where he'd fall short now, if you know what I mean."

Jorah said nothing, eyeing the opposition.

"They're on port, we're on starboard: do you think they'll give way?"


"Nor me."

The two racing skiffs collided, and the slaver's prize fighters jumped across the gunwales, swords in one hand and knives in the other. Tyrion ran to the stern while Jorah kicked the feet away under one then stabbed in his right eye. He was about to tackle the other when the skiff accidentally gybed and the boom knocked him over-board.

"Shit" said Tyrion, as the prize fighter approached, grinning. Tyrion grabbed the tiller and pulled it across, forcing another gybe, but the fighter ducked under the boom, approaching closer. Tyrion retreated behind the back-stays and the fighters sword flashed, cutting it in two. The mast collapsed and the fighter was covered in the mainsail. Tyrion teetered on the edge of loosing his balance and falling overboard, but his foot was caught by the tiller and he flipped inwards, landing on the prize fighter.


He jumped up and ran to the bow, trying to hide under jib.

"Got you runt" said the prize fighter, moving forward sword in hand and grin on face.

"Bugger" said Tyrion. He looked left and right for escape but there was none: the other skiff was drifting away and he had no weapons.

Then an arm reached from out of the sea and grabbed the fighters foot dragging him over-board. There was a swirl of spray that turned bloody red, then Jorah Mormont crawled over the stern.

"We will take their boat and win this race."

Tyrion nodded, for once lost for words.


Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Westeros Cup: The Mark on the Spinnaker

There waterside at King's Landing thronged with the undesirables, desirables and the simply plain.

Hawkers cried out for grilled rats, smoked goat's tongue, fried eels and jellied locust. Pockets were picked, roving eyes were caught, honours lost, gossip exchanged and a thousand barrels of mead emptied.

It was the day of the second race of the Westeros Cup, when the great racing yachts of House Lannister and House Baratheon would go head to head for the first time. The betting shops were doing a roaring trade, gold and silver stacked high, odds fluctuating by the minute.

Suddenly a great cheer arose as the two boats were sighted. They were to sail close by the quay-side, as close as possible, as fast as possible, to hear the cheers and receive the bouquets of flowers that would thrown by admirers, both men and women, to the sailors.

It would be a fine spectacle, with the wind on their quarter, maximing their speed, and the conditions were perfect: each would be raising their largest most impressive sail.

First the Lannister yacht, "Hear Me Roar" approached first, followed closely, almost touching, by the Baratheon of Dragonfire yacht "The Furious Fire".

They battled for inches, racing parallel to the enthusiastic, cheering crowd.

Then they raised their great spinnakers.

"They will show a lion and a stag" said a voice from the crowd, male, trying to impress the young woman on his arm.

But when with a crack the great canvases unfurled both were identical. Two triangles, interleaved as an hour-glass, with hands one either side.

The Iron Bank of Braavos.

Which ever yacht was fastest, there would be but one winner today.


Sunday, May 03, 2015

The Westeros Cup: The Protest

Varys missed Tyrion's wit. Meetings were not just boring without his quips but lacking in ideas and vision. In particular, Pycelle was a moron!

"Let's get this over with" said Varys. "Remind me exactly why we are holding the race protest hearing in Lord Baelish's.... establishment? Err.... hello... Pycelle, concentrate."

Pycelle turned back from exchanging smiles with one of the young ladies and would have blushed if his pulse or conscience had been strong enough.

"Well, it was thought he'd be here and not... where ever he is. And also on the committee there is Tyrion, it was considered it would be convenient for him but he is .... somewhere else. Finally we expected the crews to be here."

"So where are they?"

"Well the Black Watch have returned to their Wall and the Wildlings were either killed in the incident or captured."

"Well, I suppose we better hear from some of the captured Wildlings."

"There would be a problem there: it appears they all fell on a sword and died except one who dunked his head in a cauldron of molten lead."


"Well, who was going to pay for their food?"

"I see your point."

"But there are these reports."

Varys looked at the scrolls, picking up one with a sneer. "As if they matter. The key question is who we want to win."

"On the one hand the Black Watch serve the King while Stannis Baratheon is a rebel."

"That is true."

"But if we disallow the Black Watch's win then there's no chance of them defeating Stannis in their semi."

"Tricky. Are there are any mitigating circumstances?"

"The bribes are equally impressive."

"Even more tricky."

Varys wondered what Tyrion would have done, then it came to him.

"I say we accept both bribes and decide the result is there must be a re-race and if there isn't a winner then the previous result stands."

"But neither crew are available."

"Exactly: win - win"

"Very good" said Pycelle. He picked up the bribe purse.

"If you'll just excuse me" he said, totting out in the direction the young lady had left.

Moron, thought Varys.

Where was Tyrion?


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Westeros Cup: The Yacht of Queens

Cersei Lannister gave the simpering snake her warmest smile and the room grew colder.

So what if all those common people had died? Why was Margaery telling her about this?

"And who invited Lord Walder Frey anyhow?" she said. "I mean, he looks like a caretaker."

She laughed at her own joke, the fool.

"I wouldn't know" said Cersei. "I am not familiar with caretakers let alone what rags they choose to wear. What matters to me is the Cup, our Cup."

"Indeed" said Margaery. "And our yacht. The Yacht of the Queen."

Her chin went up a faction at the word, but Cersei spotted it. Queen indeed: there'd be only one queen here, just as there could only be one captain on a boat.

"Or should that be Queens." Margaery was being diplomatic. "There'll be no talk of the girls boat, will there?"

Cersei snorted at the idea. Not if they wanted to live. "You say such sweet things" she said, while wondering if Qyburn would sew the troubling trollop's lips together forever if she asked.

"Of course not, after all you're the Queen Mother now, not some slip of a girl."

Cersei's lips tightened. Sewing was too good for her.

"I will be in command" she said. "As you are so kind to remind me, I am the senior."

"No, I am the Queen. You can be in charge of the foredeck, as you are so strong. I will be in charge of the afterdeck."

It was like a tacking duel, move and counter-move until in the end they each received a DNF.

There never would be a yacht of queens, but it didn't matter as long as that upstart wasn't helming.

Jamie would sail for her.


Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Westeros Cup: the Iron Cup

Tommen Barartheon was alone in the Great Hall with the body of his grandfather, Lord Tywin Lannister.

Alone, but not free.

He had the power to order the courtiers out, that was new. He no longer feared the random cruelties of his brother, Joffrey. His mother might control everything but Margaery was opening his eyes.

But not free, never that.

He turned his back on the body and walked down the hall towards the great Iron Cup. Forged from the anchors of a thousand yachts, it was said, melted by the fire of the great dragon Balerion, hundreds of years ago.

His grandfather might be dead but his voice echoed in Tommen's head. "It is our Cup, it is ours by right, never to be lost."

Nothing was forbidden when it came to the Cup. "You race or you drown", so mother said.

He sighed and raised a hand to touch its surface. The harsh iron sucked the heat from his hand, ice cold that only dragon fire could warm.

He would never be free of the Iron Cup.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Westeros America's Cup: The After Party

"A little more red? Ser? Your grace?"

Arya Stark circulated the party, the perfect serving boy. It was a risk, she knew, someone might recognise her, though it was a risk worth taking. Jon Snow might be here! She longed to see her half-brother. So many tales to tell, so long since Winterfell. And he'd won his race, the first in the Westeros America's Cup!

She knew what to do, having been taught by none other than Lord Tywin Lannister. Be invisible but watchful, which suited her, so she could listen in and hear of news of the Starks.

"Yes, the race committee is to meet: there has been a protest."

She spotted a well filled purse on the belt of one guest and was tempted: she hadn't eaten for several days now.

"L plus R equals J" said a monk, face hidden in the shadow of his cape. "Now where did you hear that?"

Suddenly one guest gasped, choking. Green foam formed around his mouth, eyes went red then tears of blood were streaming down his face. Hands grasped at neck, nails attempting to dig inwards. Then the body collapsed on the ground and began to twitch, shudders that grew and then slackened, easing into death.

There was a scream, several screams, then dozens and the guests were falling like cattle on feast night.

Ayra tried to pull back, in case it was contagious, but then she realised: the wine! It had been poisoned!


A voice was triumphant.

"Ha ha ha ha ha! That will teach you, scum, worthless sons and daughters of swine!"

Ayra turned to recognise Lord Walder Frey, Lord of the Crossing, addressing the corpses.

"So! You think you can change the Westeros America's Cup class and not receive justice! Many years I worked on monohulls and hah! you think you can change them to multi-hulls just like that! No, no no! It will no be! You will not treat me like that!"

She had to escape: there would be questions. But first that purse.

Tonight she would eat the finest roast meats.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Westeros America's Cup: Round 1

There were two crows on the ridge over looking Kings Landing and the rotting carcass of a sheep. One crow dug at the sheep's eyeball, loosening it, cawing in triumph. The other watched, as if waiting. Then a figure clambered from beyond, a giant, dragging a boy on a sled.

"Hurry" the boy said. "They might have started!"

The giant looked out over the city towards the sea, then started, pointing at the glistening waters.

"Hodor!" he said. "Hodor!!"

"So! It has begun" said Bran. "The Westeros America's Cup has begun. May the seven gods save us all!"

Out at sea two trimarans raced towards the mark. In one were grim men, lost, far from their home, their Wall.

"We are are starboard tack" said Jon Snow. "They must give way to us."

"You know nothing, Jon Snow" said a beautiful red haired woman. "Do you think the Wildlings will play by the rules? Are you such a fool?"

As if in answer there was a crash and over the hull's edge poured a flood of warriors, yelling screaming. The Black Watch battled hard and valiantly but were doomed, outnumbered. The foredeck team were beheaded, blood splattering across the number 1 genoa as torsos collapsed tangled in the sheets. The trimmers had time to get swords up but their enemies had spears, one of which was already jammed through a black coated chest, protruding out the back, glistening bright red in the sunshine.

But then there were trumpets and gleams of light as on either side rescuers arrived on racing skiffs, cutting down like grass the Wildlings, their limbs scattered like straw into the ship's wake. Two figures jumped onto the Black Watch's afterdeck, Stannis Baratheon of Dragonstone and Davos Seaworth.

"This is done" said Stannis. "Finnish it!"

And so the first race was won.