Friday, February 29, 2008

Saving the Oceans Part III

On a cold winter's evening its tempting to think of rushing into the blue waters of the Med. But don't rush, take a moment to look out for those jelly fish. We don't like jelly fish, but others do, like swordfish and red tuna, for whom they're a tasty snack.

Trouble is swordfish and red tuna are tasty snacks for us human. And if we eat more of them then they eat less of those jellies. Add to that the warming oceans and as this reports says we have the recipe for a plague.

As someone who loves his fish, and not just on Fridays, this means must be careful when heading to the supermarket. So tonight there's a mini plug (and a till receipt) for M&S, whose fish has consistently received high marks for its sustainability.

M&S also have a new campaign to reduce the number of plastic bags clogging up the country and seas - they will start to charge for them.

Both are small steps - and there might be those questioning the benefits: how can such small changes save the planet? But anyone who cares about the world around us and the future of the planet for later generations it must be morally wrong to not even try to do something.

A siblings in-law family member had a bad stroke this week, something which always raises the big questions. One day you and me will both be dead (sorry to say) and our legacy will be the acts we perform. Lets try to make them good ones.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Sailing - sport or obsession?

It was a quiet evening last night so I ended up watching Wedding Crashers on Film 4. Its not the best film in the world, though the start with all the cashed weddings worked, and the boat (above) looked pretty cool.

One gag was about a couple that was so into sailing that their marriage vows were on the lines of "I take thee to be the first mate / skipper of my life". Ok, not exactly laugh out loud, more of a groan.

But it hits a spot - there are those that can become too narrowly focussed on sailing. It reminded me of the Industry Sailing Challenge race I did many years ago when one of the crew refused to talk about anything not related to the race. After 12 hours of rather single noted conversation time began to drag.....

Sailing is fun, but there is life outside.

Which is just as well given how little sailing had a chance to do recently!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


The post yesterday talked about how weirs can be used to manage silt. There is of course a more direct way of getting rid of silt - dredging.

Here you can see recent dredging of one of the river bus quays. The barge has the ball-diamond-ball of a vessel restricted in its ability to manoever. And at night it has the red-green-red lights - even when anchored (hmm - well at least you notice it).

Monday, February 25, 2008

Why have a weir on the Wandle?

I've been wondering why there is a weir at all at the mouth of Wandle. The Wiki entry on weirs gives a number of reasons, from navigation to fishing, neither of which seem that convincing. Given the low rain fall over the last few weeks it can't be to manage flood levels.

A more plausible explanation could be to manage silt, of which there is quite a lot. The Thames is a thick, brown soup, suspended mud particles making the water opaque. The view above shows a bank of it deposited just by the Wandle.

This is very low tide - if you look at the tide tables on the PLA site you'll see the range between low and high tide reached a peak of 7m at London Bridge at around the time of the Lunar eclipse, when the picture was taken. This isn't that surprising, given that the all-in-a-line geometry that caused the eclipse also maximises the gravitational drag.

The Thames is just visible over a pile of silt, rocks, rubbish and that horrible smelling mud. To give an idea how much higher the water goes in this picture, the orange ring of the life belts at the end of each of the houseboat moorings will and did get to the top of the white of the pile.

So this spot would be under several metres of water at high tide!

Limiting the flow into the Thames over the weir will reduce the flow of silt from the Wandle, giving the Thames a chance to flush just a little of it out.

Well, thats my theory anyhow - could be completely wrong!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Wandle Navigation Markers

Two photos to clear up the navigation when heading up the Wandle off the Thames.

On the left is the red port triangular market and right the green starboard (as per IALA A, heading up the river). Also on poles are lights indicating state of the weir.

Below you can see the same signs from the other side, at a bit later as the tide has only just reached the top of the weir.

You can just make out the concrete slabs on either side of the top weir supports poking out of the water.

The tide will rise a further 1m, so the weir will become an invisible, dangerous, barrier if the lights weren't there.

Friday, February 22, 2008

London's Waterfall

When you think of waterfall's you don't often think of London. But they are there - sometimes.

Like this one where the Wandle meets the Thames, which is only there when they raise the weir, which they did last week.

Ok its not Niagara, but its a shame its hidden away where no one can see it unless they, like I did, venture out at low tide onto the Thames with its very smelly mud.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Alone at sea

So Soayna has had enough and is heading back to NY, leaving Reid alone to keep going for those 1,000 days at sea.

I am very sympathetic as it sounds like she never got over sea sickness: it must be terrible to be that sick for that long. I have some sailing friends who get sick every time they head out and it amazes me they keep coming back for more: sailing can be uncomfortable, cold and wet which is hard enough but to be sick too.....

I haven't followed the journey that closely (so thanks to frogma for the heads-up) but not because I'm one of those posters on Sailing Anarchy that endlessly takes the micky and belittles what they try to achieve. Its clearly not an easy thing to do!

And the inner space cadet likes the tag about it being like a mission to Mars - a similar duration involving endurance in a confined space.

So I hope Reid manages to keep going. But for a full further two years, by himself - now that really is a challenge.

Sailing Video

Cool YouTube video here of Thomson and Cape breaking the 500 miles in 24 hours record.

But don't they know the golden rule of sailing fast videos: it must be accompanied by thumping rock sound track!

Aliens invade our Oceans!

More environmental problems in our oceans, this time from aliens.

Forget little green men and think on the lines of species ranging from "giant jellyfish and toxic seaweed to muscle-bound mussels and oysters" according to this week's New Scientist (alas subscription required for full article). These invasive species are being transported by ocean going container ships and causing up to $120 billion per year of damages!

But the end of the article also says there are things that can be done to slow further spreading - such as more regular cleaning and destroying any organisms in ballast water before its discharge.

Seems like a very good idea to me.

Also there was this article about the extinction danger to amphibians - the cause has been identified and its loss of habitat. Give those frogs some space!

Missed the Moon

So I didn't get up at 3am to see the eclipse.

Thing is, it was cloudy, it was cold, it was on the other side of the building so couldn't just look our of the window, and it was mid-week with work the next day.

However others managed to see it and take some pictures like the one above that came from here.

Next time!

Monday, February 18, 2008

More on the moon

After posting a picy of the moon was interested to find out there'll be a Lunar eclipse Wednesday night / Thursday morning.

If you want to see it the exact times for your location can be found on this NASA site.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Sunset with plane

To go with the earlier Moon and plane photo.

Jamming GPS

GPS has become so essential to navigation its been a bit of shock to some to hear that the UK Ministry of Defence has been deliberately jamming it. However it is vital to determine how vulnerable our military's equipment is to jamming, to be able to identify when it is happening and suggest possible mitigations, so I have a lot of sympathy to a limited and controlled real world test.

There was a letter in this months Yachting World on the subject that quoted extensively from this story on the RYA web site.

The letter, unlike the RYA web site, missed out the most useful fact that warnings of these exercises are published beforehand, and there is a free email alert system operated by Ofcom that anyone can signed up to.

You can sign up via this page, and the next two exercises are these:

Dates: 31 March to 4 April 2008
Times: between 08:00 and 18:00 hrs
Location: To sea from Bridlington - N54° 06.842’ W000° 05.045’
Contact: Trial Manager - 07766 134758

Dates: 20-21 April 2008 (26 April 2008 reserve day)
Times: between 09:00 and 17:00 hrs
Location: To sea from The Hebrides - N57° 14.4’ W007° 26.7’
Contact (during jamming exercise only) 07766 134520

Moon shot

After blogging posts on global warming and tides I looked up and saw this - a CO2 emitting plane flying past the main sources of our tides, the Moon.

Seemed rather symbolic!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Wind against tide

These waves might be small and perfectly formed but they are good examples of a classic.

If it were a boat it would be made of wood and probably commissioned by Sir Thomas Lipton, if it were a car it would probably have been driven by Inspector Morse.

It is of course that old favourite wind against tide, in this case the out-going tide battling against an easterly wind.

It is no excuse for not going on the water, as this brave dinghy sailor shows:

What the photo can't show is that today's easterly wind is bitingly cold.

However tempting it might look I'm not going to be joining him.

Save the Oceans - Part 2

More stories of the seas stressed by our impact on the environment.

Firstly this one about global warming raising the sea temperatures around the Antarctic potentially letting in predators like the crab above into the fragile eco-systems. Or, as the Sun headline screams, "Ice thaw killer crab claw war"!

Then this one, again about the impact of warming waters, on the increasing plagues of jelly fish that are thriving in the Med.

And finally two more reminders that biofuels are absolutely not the answer to our energy needs - they not only make global warming worse they are driving up food prices for the poorest too.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Save the Oceans

How many plastic bags have you got? Today I went shopping for a book and card and got two little ones, which will no doubt end up in the rubbish.

I should have said no to both, for waste plastic is poisoning our oceans. Earlier in the week I read this and this article about the world's rubbish trapped by the currents in the Pacific, as the article puts it "a garbage tip stretching from Hawaii to Japan".

So much plastic, so much rubbish.

And then today there was this article on the BBC site about how only 4% of the oceans are undamaged by human activity.

Its pretty shocking stuff - and makes me angry at how we are trashing our planet. And more than ever fired up to recycle more and waste less.

April's February's March's Yachting World

This month's Yachting World, which is of course March's, but on sale now, in February, has a summary of Tristan's trans-Atlantic, describing him as "another super adventurer in the making"

Whow, easy Elaine - don't tempt him! Not sure Tristan's wife and kids would be that happy if he heads off straight away.

Hopefully more next month which will be MarchApril's

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Dampier's true love

The explorer and traveling William Dampier was in no sense a traditional romantic. He married in 1678 but only a few months later left his wife, Judith, to go seeking adventure - a buccaneer voyaging all the way around the world. He didn't return for 12 years.

He certainly didn't seem to rush back, and only mentioned his wife once in his journals. He must have had several opportunities to return but chose to keep going, forever onwards.

Or maybe he didn't want to - maybe he was fleeing from the strength of her character. He is known to communicate difficult decisions to her by letter.

Did he find solace on the way? In Mindanaon, in the Philippines, having crossed the long expenses of the Pacific, he, like the rest of the crew, made friendships with local women, a so-called pagally. Did he remain just friends with his pagally?

The chapters of his book that describe their time in Mindanaon are the most vibrant, the most alive of any of his book. So maybe far away from his home in England he did find some romance.

But his true love was to travel. His mind and heart was lost to the horizon and wondering what was beyond it.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Red Sky At Night, Gunners Delight

About the time I took this photo there was a cheer in the distance from the Chelsea ground where they were playing Liverpool. But no goals at that game where the crowd was reacting to a clumsy ref, on an afternoon when Man U lost.

The results were a delight to London's top team, the Arsenal, known as the Gunners, who tonight have just gone 5 points clear at the top of the Premiership.

What a pretty picture!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Bird Boat

This is a rather unusual boat. A barge moored on the Thames just offshore between two posts it is home to the ducks and geese, for this is a floating bird house.

Its been a lovely spring day here - weirdly warm, where we can walk around without coats in early February.

The river bank was full of families and couples out for a Sunday afternoon walk - or in the case of this elegant pair, a paddle:

Monday, February 04, 2008

Waterspout in Wales

This photo of a water spout comes again from the BBC and was spotted recently in Wales. They may, as the article suggested, be "fairly common" but I've never seen one!

Its a slow time of year for sailing and work is pretty intense so likely to be posting less frequently than normal for a bit.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

April's Yachting World

Update on Tristan's solo trans-Atlantic - er, he made it!

Yup, that's all I'm going to say, despite catching up with him over a drink during the week. Because if you want to know the rest you can read all about it in April's Yachting World, as Tristan has written up his story for that magazine - and whats more got paid for it (impressive again).

Chocs Away!

More gifts from the sea for the wreckers. In Scotland they had Whisky Galore, but in England now its a case of Biscuits Galore with chocolate McVities spilt by the Riverdance (above, Flickr photo) all over the beach at Blackpool.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Stormy Weather

Bit of stormy weather here in old blighty today.

The above rather cool wind-surfing photo comes from Ireland via the BBC web site. But not all out on the water are having such a good time.

As reported here, a ferry was beached by a freak wave off Blackpool and a Spanish trawler ran aground on rocks on one islands of the St Kilda Archipelago. There's some rather impressive night time video taken by the RAF also at that BBC news page.

We might have to get used to it. Research at University College London in todays FT suggested that a 0.5°C increase in sea surface temperature - which is within the range expected over the next few years due to global warming - would cause a 40 per cent increase in North Atlantic hurricanes.

Aunty Beeb was also reporting two other risks due to global warming - the danger to the London due to flooding and devastation of food crops in developing countries.

And brrrr its cold tonight too. Time either for a mug of cocoa or a hot bath!