Monday, June 30, 2008

More on Hamilton's Crash

Nice story in the Times here, from on board Hugo Boss with Lewis Hamilton during the mast busting collision.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sunday Short 4: Wandle Wreck

Bonnie's been doing some posts on Frogma on river wrecks, so here's one I saw earlier, sinking into the River Wandle.

Sunday Short 3: Ugly Boat or What?

Sorry, it just is. And what is really a shame is the hull looks so much better!

Sunday Short 2: Star Crashed Boat

Our car star in a more than reasonable boat has been involved in a crash. Yes, the IMOCA 60 Hugo Boss with Alex Thompson and driving legend Lewis Hamilton were involved in a prang during the Round the Island Race.

More on that story here.

Oh, and the credit for finding the above cool video should go to Adam over at "Messing About..." - much better than the Beeb video posted yesterday

Sunday Short 1: Vikings Go Home!

The Viking boat I saw in Dublin is heading home! It's meant to be stopping off in Portsmouth - but think am off sailing that weekend.

You can follow its progress via a Google Map mashup here.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Not Going Round The Island

I wasn't able to do today's Round the Island extravaganza this year due to family commitments but there was a record number of boats out there and a new circumnavigation record from ICAP Leopard.

There was even a car star in a more than reasonable boat: the legendary Lewis Hamilton on-board the IMOCA 60 Hugo Boss with Alex Thompson.

Nice video here from the Beeb and stories at the official site here.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Three River Shorts

1. Look at this is a bit of risky parking on the Putney Embankment! Ok, it is a Range Rover and probably Jeremy Clarkson has driven one up a mountain or something. But a bit more tide and the wash from a passing boat and it could end up floating down the river....

2. It struck me as I was asked for and was able to give directions (to the pub The Boathouse - not that hard!) how after 18 months here now feel at home. And like Tillerman with "his bay" I have my curve of the Thames.

3. One of the nice things about river life is watching the wild life, in particular the birds. The largest and most elegant is the heron, which gives the impression of being a very stately animal, standing statue like as it waits for the fish to come by. But these amazing photos show another side to the bird, as a hunter - killer.

Do NOT open this link if you're a mother duck as you'll be waking quacking and quaking from nightmares for weeks to come!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Courses I have known

There was an interesting post over on frogma about the relative merits of US and UK training courses for kayakers.

I'm rather a course junky, having done under the RYA alone the:
- Day Skipper practical
- Coastal Skipper / Yachtmaster practical (most of)
- Coastal Skipper / Yachtmaster theory
- VHF Radio
- Diesel Engine
- Sea Survival

Doing these courses is great as you almost always have a lot of fun while learning something. So you come back with that feeling of accomplishment as well has having a good sail.

I remember ticking of the "Is able to handle a dinghy under oars" box paddling around Cowes during the 150th anniversary of the America's Cup. We did our demo by rowing over to NZ's Black Magic and then stopping off on the way back to see Australia II!

These courses do sometimes get a bad name. The letters pages of Yachting World seem to have a regular stream of old salts muttering about the RYA trained Sunday sailor trusting on a piece of paper rather than the experience of many hard years before the mast.

In a way they are right - after 5 days training you're pretty green and it would be a bad idea to go out unless conditions are pretty good. But all sailors have to start somewhere - even Tristan Jones was originally a land-lubbing farmer.

Now I'm doing a different course - the BCU two star kayak course - and again I'm enjoying it a lot. Though as yet haven't paddled passed any famous yachts!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Thames Drifter

Ok there is such as thing as too small a boat! This was one of two craft seen drifting down the Thames this morning.

Not that manoeuvrable and all too easily overturned I do wonder how they would have managed in the congested river of central London!

"Good old Broadstairs!"

Pressure of work (and kayak class) mean will have to ask another guest writer to post an account of this weekends trip further along the coast from Whitstable to Broadstairs. Luckily managed to get the one and only Charles Pooter to give his words on the subject.

Mr Pooter is indeed a legend of the blogging world. His early paper based blog - or "diary" as he called it - recorded his day to day life in north London. He created a whole new style of blog, Pooteresque, which focusses on the minuta of day to day life, recording what he ate and drank.

Take it away Mr P!

Hurrah! at Broadstairs. Very nice apartments near the station. (Ed: sorry, must just point out that Mr P is mistaken - it was actually a day trip)

The landlady had a nice five o’clock dinner and tea ready, which we all enjoyed (Ed: oh dear another mistake. It was lunch at this restaurant where had an excellent Spaghetti a Vongole, though the nephews and neices did take most of the clams, washed down with rather good Pino Grigio. Sorry - really won't interupt any more).

Lupin positively refused to walk down the Parade with me because I was wearing my new straw helmet with my frock-coat. I don’t know what the boy is coming to. (Ed: short one - you can see why from the picture above. I think afterwards Carrie must have had a word because you can see below he's got a more traditional top hat on)

Lupin not falling in with our views, Carrie and I went for a sail. It was a relief to be with her alone; for when Lupin irritates me, she always sides with him. (Ed - alas must have been playing with nephews and neices at the time, so missed that. But did get to see these kayakers head out into rather choppy waters).

I am glad our last day at the seaside was fine, though clouded overhead. (Ed - how right he was ! A lovely day to lie back in the sand and watch the sea gulls fly overhead).

We missed the last train, and had to drive back (Ed: oh no, that's another mistake as the train journey back was just fine. To be honest, not sure Mr Pooter's really been that much of a help as a fill in blogger. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible!)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Lobsters under cloudy skies

This has happened before.

Saturday morning - after the kayaker's back drama at the pool - started wet, and afterwards I looked out at the heavy grey sky full of clouds that seemed go on for ever and thought its going to be one of those days and headed out with long trousers and rain coats not shorts and sun cream.

For I was off to the Kent coast for a 40th Birthday Beach Party and feared that umbrellas would be in more demand than sausages from the BBQ.

But then the clouds cleared and the sun came out, there was swimming and even one skinny dipper (bravo brave lass!) and by the end of the day fair English skins were stinging and going a rather bring red colour.

The problem is with a fresh wind and frequent clouds you don't notice the heat of the sun - it reminded me of a Round-The-Island race on a cloudy day where I got bad sun burn even though shivering on the rail as the UV still got through.

But it was a great bash with fresh local fruit and lots of bubbly to drink and a lovely location to chat or as above just sit and watch the sea. Whitstable is a great little town with bags full of character and a lots of sailing and with the fresh wind the Darts and Lasers were flying along.

This chap seems a bit more leisurely - probably Tillerman's long lost cousin or something.......

Saturday, June 21, 2008

There are worse things than getting wet

The lovely British summer brought the rain again. So biking through the rain to the pool for the kayak lesson got wet. In the pool for the kayak lesson of course got very wet.

But there are worse things. Afterwards in the changing room one of the instructors leant down to put on his shoes and his back went, completely, leaving him an agony.

Its one of those most horrid feelings - to see or know someone is in pain and to be unable to do anything. I hope he gets better soon!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Hip, thigh, and bum exercises for kayakers

More fun on the Thames yesterday doing various kayak exercises. We jammed those thighs into the hull to get grip and edge in the upstream direction - or as the instructor put it, pointed our bum towards the current. And then rotated around our hips to face downstream while doing those low brace turns.

We were a bit alarmed to hear we'd have to actually roll-over and do an escape in the Thames itself! However the water is definitely warming up and as we keep hearing its a lot cleaner than it looks. But will make sure practice enough in pool so that get back in first time.

Another reason for practising these skills was in the news with the release of the coroners report into the tragic death of a 9 year old girl while canoeing down the River Wye. As the British Canoe Union put it while this accident is a very sad it is also very rare - and no activity can be completely risk free.

But you can certainly reduce the risks by proper preparation and I'd advise any parent to ensure their children have done basic safety training before letting them head onto the water. As well as improved peace of mind it can also be a lot of fun!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Walkabout with Dampier

Amiable bush craft and survival in the wild expert Ray Mears has been going walkabout down under in a series of programs for the BBC recently. It was wonderful to discover how you could survive on bugs and fight off swarms of mosquito's without actually having to.

In the last episode he was in the far North West of the Northern Territories partially looking into Aborigine art but also following the footsteps of that alleged ancestor of mine, William Dampier.

Dampier was one of the early circumnavigators, part time pirate, botanist and writer, and is oft considered to be the first Englishman to land on Australia back in 1688. The program noted his mistakes (confusing termite mounds for rock) and skipped over his descriptions of the locals (which were not complementary).

But the two themes of early explorers and Aborigine rock art had an intriguing connection - the early European voyages were recorded, and deep within caves of a remote part of the Australian Northern Territories Mears found paintings clearly showing a two masted ship.

Was it one of Dampier's ships? We'll never know.

I've often wanted to follow in Dampier's footsteps and the images of some of the places he visited along Australia's long north coast looked incredible tempting: unspoilt deserted islands with turquoise waters and sandy beaches.

And as Mears noted, the land in that far off corner of Australia looks untouched since that far off day that Dampier first walked there and wrote about what he saw in his diary.

If you have access to the BBC's iPlayer you can watch again by clicking here.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Wrecks of History

Couple of stories about discovery of the wrecks of British Navy ships making the news this week. There was this story of a wreck off the island of Alderney, believed to have sunk in the years after the Spanish Armada.

And there was this story of the HMS Ontario that sank during the American Revolution.

As well as the tragedy for the crew, there is always the wonder what might have been different if the boats had lived to sail another day.

Might the Ontario have made even a subtly change to the course of American - British relations? Would it have been enough to save London from a visit by the Toxic Texan?

I guess there are historical wrecks and wrecks of history!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Who's this sailor?

Quiz for Friday evening (or Saturday morning for you Aussies).

Who's this sailor?

He was first mate aboard the three master, the Pharon. On his wedding day to the fair Mercedes he was falsely charged for being a supporter of Napoleon and incarcerated in the dread fortress of Chateau d'If.

What name did he gave himself on his dramatic escape? And what is his titular name? And what is his real name?

And a clue - its a book. And a plea - don't say what happens as I've only got a third of the way through!

No prizes, just glory. And added glory for explaining the picture above.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Two Stars Golden Evening

A couple of weeks ago I posted this picture about motivation and why its worth getting up at 8 am on a Saturday - namely to be in this picture, on the river at sunset.

Well Tuesday was a bit like this. I know stories of pleasant times are not as exciting as tales of hardships and struggles, so sorry to say it felt like being on holiday while remaining within sight of home. Blue sky, setting sun, moon high up, trees green and pleasant soft breeze.

And a good kayak - unlike the previous one that seemed all too happy to spin on a spot and then lurch to one side as if trying to chuck me out.

It was part of a series of similar sessions covering the kayaking basic two star syllabus.

Though was seriously distracted when saw an Enterprise glide by hoisting its spinnaker.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Street Art and Good Food

Just up river from the Telectrascope is the Tate Modern's latest exhibition - though its not actually in the Tate Modern.

In the narrow streets of Southwark, where historic sites like the Globe Theatre rub shoulders with modern offices and derelict housing, can be found a disparate collection of Street Art.

As the Henry Moores at Kew showed, some art deserves to be shown in context out of the confines of white boxes of today's galleries, and street art certainly benefits from being encountered in odd corners of south London.

While this is not in the same league as the sublime Henry Moore exhibition, it was interesting to catch it - especially as it can be combined with that ultimate foodie experience.

For the walking tour of Street Art goes through Borough Market, which is London's oldest (an estimated 2,000 years old - see here!) and best, and to be honest that was the highlight of the afternoon!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Walking in the Tree Tops

The wonderful Henry Moores may have gone from Kew but there they've just opened this - a tree top walk.

It was rather wonderful - you get a great feeling of peace, walking at the same height as the tops of the trees, looking over south-west London, listening to the rustle of leaves. The structure is built of iron but with surface rusted so it blends nicely into the park lands around, and was designed by the same team as the London Eye.

Well worth the trip up river if you're visiting and want to escape the rush and crush of the city for a few hours.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Sailing Goals - What Goals?

Another Tillerman group writing challenge - what are your sailing goals?

Err... bit of scratching head to that one. Seems a bit too organised for a hobby which is by nature more ad-hoc, and having one is slightly against the whole spirit of just doing it for the fun of it.

Though goals are good ways of a) pushing yourself and b) getting that warm buzz of achievement at the end.

But it doesn't seem to work like that. I either go kayaking or, if its raining, not. If someone invites me to go sailing on a cool looking boat I say yes. And if neither are doable head off to see one of the many sights and sounds available in London.

The only specific target I have got is the minor one of catching up with the local dinghy racing club as I've twice missed them - once for being too early and once for arriving as the commodore was jumping into his boat just a few minutes before the start gun.

Maybe its because I'm still working which way to go in sailing - more offshore racing? dinghy racing? crewing? skippering?

So its back to "have fun and try new things" - yup, thats always a good one. I'll stick with that for the goal for 2008.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Incredible Discovery - Victorian Engineer Built Trans-Atlantic Viewing Device!

A most wonderous device has been discovered beneath the streets of old London Town, evidence yet again of the engineering triumphs of the reign of the great and the good Queen Victoria (hurrah!)

In the time of the Great Engineer Brunel the celebrated wonders of the Empire were his famous creations of iron and steel - bridges, tunnels, ships and of course God's Wonderful Railway itself.

But it appears an apprentice of his has exceeded even these marvels! For the till-now unknown Alexander Stanhope St George succeeded in drilling a most surprisingly long tunnel, connecting the Ancient and Most Noble of cities, London, with that upstart from the colonies, New York.

Within this tunnel he fashioned a system of ingenious mirrors and lenses into the Telectroscope - by which one might peer across the ocean to see the strange behaviours of our cousins in America.

If you take a Hackney Carriage or the new fangled underground railway down to Tower Bridge you can see a crowd of most excited onlookers exchanging messages with strangers standing by the famous Brooklyn Bridge!

Alas I fear these people are quite open in communicating with those that they haven't even been introduced. Such lack of decorum would no doubt not amuse our dear Monarch.

But even the fiercest critic can not but be amazed at this most wondrous invention!
Those with inquiring minds wanting to know more can use the great global telegraph network to click here.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

White Cliffs of Dover

Yesterday went for a walk along the great White Cliffs of Dover. We peered into the hazy Channel and failed to see France, and looked down on the bustling port with ferries continually coming and going.

And we remembered the long history of this town. From Caesar arriving from Rome to invade these isles to Winston Churchill gazing across at occupied Europe as the Battle of Britain raged overhead.

And its position in culture, from Malcolm Arnold's great poem "Dover Beach" to Vera Lynn singing "There'll be bluebirds over, the White Cliffs of Dover"

Then we'd had enough so went home for tea!