Friday, January 30, 2009

No more drunken sailors

Apparently there's a book of nursery rhymes been released but they've changed to words from "What shall we do to the drunken sailor" to "What shall we do with the grumpy pirate".

Got to say that seems a bit odd to me - being a pirate, robbing boats, terrorising the sea is ok, but drinking is a no no.

And what happened to the Captain's Daughter?


Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Colour of the Thames

No pics today, you'll just have to imagine the colours of the Thames.

Its not always the same colour, you see. It will never of course be that sparkling blue of a tropical sea nor the clear translucence of a young spring fed river. The Thames will always be a muddy river.

But it colour does change, and the best analogy I've come up with to date is a range of hot drinks. All too often its the dark brown of a thick coffee with spot of milk in it or even hot chocolate. However this week its been the colour of tea - one day black and on another very milky.

I'm trying to work out what influences it. The sky, obviously, but other factors could be amount of rain, tidal direction (heading in or out) and current strength (changing degree of stirring of the mud). Maybe, sad to say, also the amount of pollution and sewage.

Just remember that whatever drink it looks like its not recommended to try a tasting

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sailing invitation

I got an invitation to go sailing yesterday. It was from Clipper Round the World races - must have signed up to their email list at some point.

Met them again at the London Boat Show and we discussed how you can do a full circumnavigation or just part, and we worked out friends of mine must have done the Perth to Qingdao leg. And the email was all about that particular leg - boasting that it was great as "If you choose leg 4 you will be facing exactly the same conditions that the Volvo sailors are battling now" (pictured above).

Hmmm.... is that really the best of sales techniques? Some phrases today from the VOR web site "E3 safe after terrifying ordeal" and "horrific night when [E3] suffered extensive hull damage and began taking on water". And the wasn't the wave height 14m or something?

What looks a lot more inviting sailing conditions is this video of Sam overtaking Safran to take fourth. To be honest her French is trop vite for me but words like chocolate need no translating!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Food for Thought

Went to the pool for a Saturday morning kayak session which as ever was well worth the loss of one weekend morning lie in. Rewarding in two other ways as well: learnt something from someone who knew a lot more than me and explained something to someone who was just starting.

Today had lunch with an old sailing chum who has recovered remarkably quickly from breaking her back (really!) and discussed what we each might be planning this year. Ideas bounced around ranged from doing the Fastnet again (though honestly a bit unlikely), cruising off Scotland, Cowes week big boats and dinghies on the Thames. Decisions decisions!

Its a bit like this upcoming trip to country Y - what to do within a short time there? Is sailing really the best way to discover what its like even though it would be amazing?

Some good questions to chew over while enjoying a traditional roast with all the trimmings at the Duke's Head (above) while watching heavy rain pound a grey Thames.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Sam Davies & the Media

Something very odd happened on Monday. I was chatting on the phone to my sister and she said - unprompted in any way - "Isn't it great about that sailor, you know, what's her name? In that race?

"Sam Davies?" says I (ok, there was some prompting).

"Yes - she's amazing!" says said sister.

My sister doesn't visit sailing web sites and doesn't read sailing magazines - indeed she doesn't actually sail.

But Sam is getting noticed and that can only be a good thing. See this article in The Guardian (which my sister does read) and this on the Yachting World site.

Some good quotes - such as "while they like sailing boats, she loves being at sea" from her boyfriend (sorry chaps).

Of course its a shame about Safran sneaking though along the Brazilian coast, but even so Sam is having a great race.

Though mustn't start counting chickens as its still a long way to home.

Update Saturday: and there's more! Sam Davies PR must be working overdrive. This from The Independent under the title "Bloggin' all over the world", though I'd have replaced the word "over" with "around".

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Vendee Globe Story

Most big ocean races have a story to them. You usually don't find out what it is till after the race is finished. It might be the super duper next generation yacht flattens opposition (ABN 1 in last Volvo). It might be saga of masts breaking (last Clipper around the World).

But there is always a story as sailing involve us humans, and we love stories. We tell stories, we make them up, we love to listen, and given a drama such as a sailing across the wide seas, hunt for it until we find it.

So what is the story of this Vendee Globe? Well it can be useful to look at the exception, which is what is happening now. Sam Davies is fighting for 4th place against Marc Guillemot and they are using all their routing skills - or luck - to battle though some lows that are sitting just in their way (as in chart above).

And that's been rare in the last few weeks. It's pretty much been a precession of yachts across the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.

So what has this Vendee Globe been about? Well for me the main stories so far are:

1) The high drop out rate: many more boats than expected seem to be hit by serious failures, from keel's dropping off to masts tumbling down.

2) The emergencies - Vincent Riou's demasting in rescuing LeCam and Elies's ghastly broken leg

3) The characters: this is a solo round the world race, where each of the skippers are individuals competing against each other, the weather, and the odds.

And that is where Sam shines: dancing around the deck, growing bean shoots, sending emails and photos, and telling us her thoughts and feelings.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

It's time for Change!

Yes, its the day of change!

Not just in Washington DC, but also in the Vendee Globe where Sam (above, in a change of clothing from her roaring forties all weather gear) is surely hoping for a change in the weather off South America which is currently trapping her.

Go, Sam, go!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Review: Navionics Charts

Wasn't 100% sure could justify buying those Navionics charts but in then end was just too intrigued as to what would get to resist.

So what do you get for £ 37.99? Well for a start you get a LOT of charts. The screenshot above shows just the top level charts and you can see they cover not just a single folder such as the Solent, and not just the UK, but Ireland and the Channel from Brittany to Denmark.

It links in with the iPhone's GPS so you could use it to navigate from my apartment in London, travel down the Thames, across to France, potter along the coast, into the ports of Jersey and Alderney, back across to Cornwall, across to the Fastnet Rock, up the Irish Sea, and then on up to Scotland. With all ports, all passages, all charts stored internally on the iPhone.

And this from an iPhone that is also doing email, web, browser, spreadsheets, games, photos, music, and of course the odd phone call. Amazing!

Its certainly a lot of chart data for your money and its all vector not raster data so zooming in and out and panning from side to side is quick and icons such as buoys are scaled right.

But there are some things missing that makes it a "chart viewer" rather than navigation piece of software. You can't put in any waypoints or use it to work out course over ground. It doesn't have an instruments view like the iNavX application. You can't use it to work out tide triangles and course to steer: it is a static this is where you are and this is what is out there application.

I'm hoping that like most iPhone applications it will be updated and all these good things come. For the time being if you are in the US the iNavX app looks a better choice and includes all the US charts. However they don't have data covering Europe.

So for European sailors wanting to navigate on your iPhone this is the one to get. If nothing else you'll have a lot of fun as an armchair sailor remembering voyages of the past and planning future ones.

Update: also see my review of update to the software here.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

UK Charts on Sale

The chap on the Navionics stand was right - the charts for the UK and Holland are now available for download from iTunes at the discounted rate of £ 37.99. To find them just go to the App store and search for Navionics.

Worth a punt even if they don't seem to have the ability to set way points yet (hopefully that is on its way). Will report on how they look shortly.

Mike Golding Happy Now

Poor old Mike Golding has had a bad couple of months. Having worked hard to be ready for the Vendee Globe, battle thousands of miles keeping in the leading pack, finally grabbing the lead, only to have his mast break, that must be tough.

But here he is at the boat show standing next to the model and presenter Kelly Brook, and now he's smiling - for some reason.....

New Ocean Rower

Didn't get to see any rowers at the London Boat Show but apparently some of the Ocean Angels were there somewhere and there was apparently some interesting discussions going on....

Friday, January 16, 2009

Impressions from the London Boat Show

First impressions from yesterday at the London Boat Show.

Noticeably quieter than previous years with some notable faces missing. No rowing girls (more on them later), no one from Blue Spirit Yachting (old chums there), and no one from the Corinthian Sailing club. There were fewer sailing clubs and schools in general - actually there were probably fewer of everything.

But of course Guinness was still flowing and the Princesses were as humongous as always. Nice Bond theme (above) in the big boat hall, but rather than a full band there was simply a DJ.

I went along on Thursday evening which has a nice feel to it. There aren't the crowds of Saturday and there's often drinks on offer if you know where to go.

My nice glass of bubbly came from Simon from On Deck Sailing with whom I went on the Volvo 60 Pindar at last year's Cowes week. He says he's working on something even bigger and better this time round but we'll have to wait and see. There was the usual "what's it looking like for Antigua week" discussion to which there was no conclusion apart from how cool would that be but there's the whole money and time problem.

Another perenial wouldn't that be cool if it wasn't for time and money was the Clipper Round the World yacht race stand which know people who have done and it looks like a great adventure. Another time alas.

Had a certain amount of fun asking the various yacht charter and sailing holiday companies if they have anything in country Y, which am planning visiting on business soon (you'll have to stay tuned to find out where that is). Most went "where?" or "huh?" and then said "no" but one handed me a business card with an email address of someone that might, so not a complete waste.

One person who wasn't phased to be asked about country Y was Liza Copeland of "Just Cruising", and she knew all about it and could tell me which islands are safe and which dangerous (oops, giving you some clues there). It was really useful stuff and bought her book "Europe to Australia" which covers that country amongst many others (so not much of a clue in that). She went sailing round the world with her husband Andy and three children ages 2, 6, and 9 - sounds like a great adventure.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

iPhone Apps: JP's MI3s

Yesterday in the Boathouse had one of those "what Apps have you got" sessions with fellow iPhone owning Kris. As usually happens in these occasions we found we had slightly different sets, even for those relating to boating.

But that's good as leant something and now have another cool iPhone app. In honour of Greg's last comment I'm calling them JP's MI3s, which of course stands for the "maritime iPhone 3" applications:

1) Knots - hadn't thought to look but Kris pointed out you can get Apps that show you how to do the most common knots. I downloaded one this morning while half asleep and discovered it wasn't the same as hers. However "Knot Time", as the one I've installed is called, is pretty cool as it has videos of someone tying the knot. I therefore have no excuse!

2) Navigation - I'd been looking into these previously and found this great one that had free US NOAA charts but of course thats not much good for those this side of the pond. Then found Navionics which is promising Euro charts and gives for free those around North West Italy. So if you want to do a spot of pilotage into or out of Genoa and have an iPhone get it 'cos its all free.

3) Race trackers - thanks to Sam and co I am of course following the Vendee Globe not the Volvo but Ericsson have developed a neat WebApp (as they are called) that shows on the iPhone news, videos, rankings etc. Jolly clever and a good Christmas present to the sailing community, hence photo above. A must for VOR following iPhone users. WebApps have huge potential, but thats the techy in me speaking.

So thats JP's MI3 - any others you can recommend?

I am again amazed at what can be achieved by devices like the iPhone. Web, email, GPS, graphics etc etc all in the palm of your hand.

Q would have been really impressed.

Update: am actually posting this in the London Boat Show (more of later), on my also very cool Dell Mini 9 Netbook, where have just had useful chat with Claudio on the Navionics stand and they have just released charts for the UK - discounted for the rest of the month! Sounds like top tip and a fun thing to try out this weekend.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Boathouse Meet-up

Had great time last night meeting up with both Greg and Kris at the Boathouse in Putney (in the photo above, taken back in September) over a couple of pints.

Great to hear all their stories - including sailing the racing schooner Adirondack II in Key West and meeting up with Jolea. Sounded a lot warmer and wilder than what was a chilly night in London.

During the evening had one of those isn't it a small world moments when Kris's friend who joined us for the evening turned out to be living one street away from my sister.

We also had fun comparing iPhone apps - more on that in a later post.

Good luck to Greg and Kris on their journeys on to Europe!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Volvo Ocean Race saves the World (almost)

While the Vendee Globe has caught my imagination there is of course another round the world yacht race on at the moment, the Volvo.

We are hampered here in the UK in that the main TV rights are owned by the subscription channel Sky, and even before the credit crunch hit us had no intention to pay Rupert Murdoch anything if could help it.

But there was a segment on the brilliant as usual Channel 4 News at 7pm last Thursday which found very interesting. It started with the usual life at the extreme talk, with shots of Volvo 70's surfing down waves at 30 knots or something.

However then it got serious. The fleet might be waiting in Singapore for the next leg, but the reporter was more interested in the scientific work they are doing to track invasive marine species, in particular those that get carried in the ballast of commercial shipping.

The damage already done is huge, with a jelly fish invasion of the Black Sea, killing of 90% of the fish and the Zebra mussel (above) returning the favour in the US and Europe. Its already a problem in London as posted before here and here.

The economic and environmental damage can be horrific. Any information that can help scientists track how far these invaders has got to be a good thing, and that's where the crews of the Volvo yachts come in. Each has a crew member trained to take samples.

Alas the shipping industry has been far to slow in reacting to this and putting in place the technical measures that could stop these alien invaders. One hopes they will soon pull their fingers out.

You can watch the report for a few days more at the C4 News web site by clicking this link here (note: it might be UK only, let me know if it works elsewhere).

The player should look like this:

There's also an piece on the Volvo web site itself from back in August last year here.

Sam at Cape Horn

This Sam sailing rounds Cape Horn. Hurruh for Sam

But, erm, can anyone actually see the Cape in the photo above. Not that I doubt our Sam for a moment. It just would be nice to see the historic rock somewhere on the horizon.

Onwards an upwards, back to the warmth of the tropics again.

Another Sam picture just for fun:

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sam heads North

So Sam has passed Cape Horn and is now heading north into the Atlantic in forth place in the Vendee Globe. Surviving a knock down in the final few hours in the Pacific she can cross off one of her New Year Resolutions - to take a photo of Cape Horn.

At least I hope she took a photo as she went round at 09:30 UT and it must have been dawnish at the Cape then. It would be a bit of a shame if she has to go back and do it again when its daylight! She said she saw it so there must have been a bit of light.

For those following Sam you might be interested in this interview by satellite phone. And you must check out the video of her dancing to "Girls just want to have fun".

Go Sam Go!

Lost in the London fog

Lost in the London fog, somewhere out there across the Thames is the north - north London that is.

But where is it....

There it is! Looks cold, very very cold.

Well it is the north after all.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Pirates, oil, and the waste of the West

By now you might well have seen this photo of an air drop of $3 million dollars being paid in return for the Saudi super tanker full of oil - full story at the BBC here.

Piracy does pay then, even in the modern world. Given the sorry state of the boating industry that must rub salt in the open wounds of those trying to flog their wares honestly at the London Boat Show that has just started. As this article describes, the yacht manufacturers and laying off staff and working shorter weeks - an all too familiar story in these days.

But there is also an interesting alternative angle to the Somali piracy problem - namely us. According to this article (which haven't had a chance to cross check from other sources), we the west are part of the problem, and not just by interfering and undermining any attempt at central government.

We are dumping our waste - including nuclear waste such as heavy metals used in hospitals - and in return hoovering up the fish. As the article puts it "This is the context in which the "pirates" have emerged. Somalian fishermen took speedboats to try to dissuade the dumpers and trawlers, or at least levy a "tax" on them".

As the saying goes, you reap what you sow.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Fog on Thames - North London cut off!

It's a foggy evening here, with the far, North, shore of the Thames hazy in the mist.

Reminds me of that classic newspaper headline "Fog in channel, continent cut off", but with the divide between North and South London.

Of course no doubt the North Londoners would claim its a case of "Fog on Thames - South London cut off".

But they would wouldn't they?

Life and the Vendee Globe

Life is not like the movies: it is not fair. On the big screen a little act of kindness will be rewarded, right will overcome wrong, and the good guys beat the bad.

But that is not the way the world always works.

In the real world good people get lurgies they shouldn't.

In the real world when one reads in the news of a Gaza school being bombed and of staved children holding onto the dead body of their mothers, one also hears how the victims are blamed and the attackers get the unquestioned support of the world's most powerful nation and the world's most powerful man.

So the Vendee Globe too is unfair, as after Vincent Riou went out of his way to rescue Jean Le Cam, rather than being rewarded, his boat PRB broke its mast.

All we can do, and should do, is honour Vincent's brave, valiant, and successful rescue effort and give him all our support at the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune".

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Sam bounds for the Horn

Lovely post over on Sam's blog today. As you might expect the thought of Jean Le Cam trapped underneath his boat in the chilly depths of the southern ocean had a huge impact on her, and she admitted being unable to sleep until she knew that Vincent had successfully rescued him.

Now Roxy is heading toward the Horn, bounding across the waves "like a kangaroo". Neat imagery - uncomfortable but fast.

Go Sam Go!

There was an interesting post on the Vendee Globe web site about the mythology around the Horn. But it starts with the line "If we're going to talk about Cape Horn, we must begin with "The Long Way" by Bernard Moitessier."

I don't think that's right at all. If we're to talk about Cape Horn lets start with those that first battled around it, explorers like Magellaan and Drake, and of course the buccaneers that came after them hungry for gold.

And let's talk about the big difference between them and the Vendee fleet today - they went the wrong way. All the old sailors tended to go round Cape Horn from East to West, and wasn't that making life hard. Watch "Master and Commander" again (ok its fiction but its jolly good) and get an idea of the struggle that was.

By the time of the First Fleet that went to Australia 1788 they knew better. The ships came out to Australia across the Indian Ocean but came back all the way across the wide Pacific. It might have been longer but the winds were with them.

So the "standard" way round Cape Horn became the other direction, from West to East.

One of the main reference books that described the prevailing winds was called a "Discourse on Trade Winds" written by another of those old sailors, William Dampier.

He went round the world three times, always heading West, always against the prevailing winds. Maybe that's why it took him so much longer - twelve years in one case!

Even though the Vendee Globe fleet is suffering a battering down there at least it can be comforted by two thoughts: they will be heading round Cape Horn the right way, and they will be back home much, much quicker than the early circumnavigators!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Vendee Globe Update^3

Golly, it does all seem to happening in the Vendee Globe fleet!

Drama after drama but, thank God, Vincent Riou was able to rescue Jean Le Cam after the keel bulb fell off his boat (above).

But Sam is still in the race and moving up to 5th :)

How to make an angry sailor happy

Above is Griff Rys Jones getting angry when racing his classic yacht off Cowes. As posted previously he got really really angry - and admits he has a bit of an "anger management issue"

Yet the picture below is again Griff, and again at the wheel of a boat but this time, yes, he's definitely smiling!

What caused this cure? Well he's lucky enough to be a the helm of the Open 60 Artemis doing 20 knots or something. And yes that looks like a lot of fun.

They ought to prescribe that on the NHS (our the National Health Service). I can see the scene now:

Me: Doctor, I'm feeling very angry, its the news you see

Doctor: I see. Maybe we should try a day sail on an Open 60, hmm?

Me: But I keep reading articles like this one and this, its really getting to me

Doctor: Oh dear, that sounds bad. Better make it a long weekend with plenty of high speed offshore racing

See? Sure that would do me a lot of good and make up for loosing the charity auction...... sigh.....

If only all doctors were so obliging, with diagnosis and prescriptions so welcome!

The episode with Griff on Artemis (above) was the second part of the TV series Three Men in More than One Boat in which they made their way along the Cornish coast ending up at the Scilly isles. Unfortunately their spin on Artemis was cut short by an incoming storm, which almost prevented them reaching their destination.

They only made it by picking up a lift on the Trinity House supply ship Galatea which I remember seeing by Tower Bridge in central London when it was named by the Queen.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Twelfth Night and the Thames

Tonight its Twelfth Night, when Christmas decorations must be taken down or risk a year of bad luck, the wrath of witches on the warpath etc etc.

My little tree has just been packed away for another year along (it is I'm afraid plastic) together with the tinsel and glass balls.

The management has made it clear that real trees must be put in a special place for disposal or else.

Alas the owner of the tree above did not follow instructions but let it loose in the icy waters of the Thames - not the right thing to do at all!

And they did this not just today and not just this weekend but actually just before Christmas! They must have been really scared of those old witches.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

What is this?

I do sometimes wonder about this blogging thing. You know - why spend so much time typing away and the connected question of what sort of blog it should be?

And New Years are a good time to be asking these questions again, though like resolutions without necessarily being successful.

Originally (for those with very long memories) this was an everything blog but it became a slightly more focussed sailing blog. But then the problem was that I don't actually do enough sailing to fill the pages, so other stuff crept in, starting with fiction. Then after the move life by the Thames was a theme, followed by kayaking.

But hopefully there was enough watersports related to be part of the wider sailing and kayaking blogging community - which is one intention. And at least one fellow blogger down under is now a good friend "in real life".

I'm aware that friends and family also read this blog and they're not so much into sailing but do like to hear about where I am in my travels. To be honest when off on business trips there usually isn't much time for anything else so might as well let this become a travel blog.

Though funny things do seem to bring people to it. The highest ranking entry page is almost always "Non laser sailor sails laser" but not for the reasons you might think. This page is favoured by Google images due to the picture of my spectacularly bruised upper arm. Fame of sort I suppose. Though who is searching for pictures of "bruises" and why?

Some pictures do seem to keep bring hits - like the photos of Karachi Railway station. Book reviews seem to get some interest. And last last week got a hit from Kabul of all places (hello there) for "Natural Navigation".

Alas no conclusion or change - random ponderings, and would be interested in your views. Its the time of year to make plans and priorities - for holidays and other stuff, though credit crunch means might be less ambitious than previous years.

I have a feeling should do some more fictional stuff - particularly while the freezing temperatures makes outdoor activities less attractive.

ps. This is the last of the posts drafted on one of those long train journeys over Christmas. Might have to start thinking again now. Also its back to work tomorrow (sigh).

Friday, January 02, 2009

Angry sailor on TV again

Last year the BBC showed a series of programmes in which Griff Rys Jones firstly raced his classic yacht off Cowes then offered a more revealing glimpse of Griff as he struggled to manage the anger that all too often over-powers him when under the stress of race conditions.

Yesterday the Beeb broadcast the first of a two parter, Three men in more than one boat, in which the same companions of Dara O Briain and Rory McGrath try to make their way from Plymouth to the Isles of Scilly. This time Griff wasn't in charge and so was more relaxed, even benign.

It was pleasant watching as they tried Rory's fishing boat, a modern Princess, rowing boat, and the lovely traditional craft above.

Of course you couldn't help but wonder about how artificial it probably was - something like this with neat connections at each port can only be planned well in advance.

And another downer (for me) was in the second half they will just happen to get a lift in the Open 60 Artemis - a day sail on which was one of the items in the Independent newspapers charity auction of the year and I narrowly lost out, loosing in the last second :(

Also on TV during the week was a one hour documentary about the last Clipper round the world race. The voice over was none other than Robin Knox-Johnson himself, though it must be admitted its not really his forte, as his intonation rarely varied.

A good sounding voice - even without a star name - would have helped, and you can see why they are worth a lot on TV and radio.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Sam's New Year Resolutions

Sam is now 6th (hurrah!) and is celebrating the New Year (above) and making a few resolutions.

However there seems to be something wrong with her satellite phone as there have been a few changes from what must be the correct list:
- Sail around the world
- Take a photo of Cape Horn
- Eat the Nutella out of the pot with my fingers
- Do not fall asleep with the motor on charging the batteries
- Sponge the bilges every day
- Brush hair more than once a week
- Eat more chocolate
- Eat better chocolate
- Catch up some miles on the leaders
- Be nice to Chuck, the autopilot
- Take no risks

Can you spot what the changes the Iridium phone has introduced?