Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Buff Christmas Carol

G'day all, Buff Staysail here - Buff by name and Buff by nature!

Yours truly has got a ripper of a story to tell: Buff's been visited by the 2010 ghosts of Bloggers Past, Present and Future!! No doubt they heard all that Bah Humbugs that JP was posting earlier this month!

And these three wraiths have shaken me to my core as they took me on a whirlwind tour of Buff's past, present and future.

The first took me back to the days of the pirates, when Buccaneer Buff went searching for Execution Dock along the dark streets of London.

The second took me to the present, and the creation of a new Phonetic Alphabet by Britney U2 Facebook Facebook (gedditt!!)

Finally the third took me into the future, and Buff Junior's post on the 2028 America's Cup: it was a shock to hear of my own death. Strewth, I'm a trembling still.

 For once ol' Buff is lost for words, so what can I say but:

"I am as giddy as a drunken man. A merry Christmas to everybody! A happy New Year to all the world! Hallo here! Whoop! Hallo!"

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

JP's review of 2010

It's the end of another year and time for another review of the wonderful world of blogging sailing and kayaking.

But it was also the year that JP joined the dark side, doing a power boat course, blasting through central London at 20 knots, going under Tower Bridge and through the Thames Barrier - cool!

It was a year of thrills, with the space age race between multi-hulls at the America's Cup, won by the BMW Oracle that looked as fast, thrilling and impracticable as a Lamborghini.

In May and June slowed down a bit for a trip up the Thames on a chartered motor boat, where I learned that lambs are navigational hazards.

But pulses hit new heights when first I found a gun up Beverly Brook and then got hit on the head by a boom when sailing at the Fowey Classics Regatta. But on a plus side had some thoughts about photographing the sailing experience.

After a quick break putting the feet up reading "The Swoop" watched some sailing away for the wrong reasons and some for the right reasons.

Finally British scientists discovered Winter!

Tomorrow: our good friend Buff on his 2010.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Three men in boats vs. three men in convertables

There seems to be some givens of Christmas.

Firstly, you can't please all the people all the time. According to an article I read on Wikipedia this is known as the Liberal Paradox which basically means if you give people the freedom to choose then you can't also guarantee you'll get the optimum result taking into account everyone's preferences.

Secondly, it is the time of the TV Christmas special, such as the "Three men in a boat" series, which in previous years has involved Griff Rhys Jones and pals muck about in boats off Cornwall, Ireland etc. and this time head up to Scotland.

The program was easy on the eye stuff with a nice old classic yacht (see above), but when I say a dramatic highlight was someone's hat been blown into the water you'll understand it wasn't that gripping.

It was blown out of the water, so to speak, by Clarkson and co on Top Gear, aka "the wise three men in convertibles", driving from Iraq to Bethlehem through Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Israel and finally the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Very entertaining! Trailer to be found here

Also worth checking out the Dr Who special, trailer for which can be found here.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

JP's new boat

It's got no name but looks like one of the old America's cup racing boats such as Columbia. The bowsprit is a bit the worse for wear, being in two pieces held together with tape. The resulting lack of tension forward means the mast isn't quite straight.

However it looks very impressive and any clues or suggestions as its true identity would be welcome.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Christmas 2010

Hope everyone has a Happy Christmas!

Still to come - a review of the year a bit like last years 10 favourite posts of 2009 (and how last year it looks now too).

Looking forward to seeing some other reviews of year too, so get posting so have something to good to read over those mince pies.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Dr Pangloss - frozen but alive!

Sensation in the Bah Humbug case when Dr Pangloss appears to be not murdered at all - as can be seen by this picture of him relaxing on a park bench.

Said Inspector Lestrade "This is not an uncommon event. I myself have on several occasions declared that a person had died when in fact they were just asleep. Apparently Dr Pangloss had closed his eyes for a moment as he attempted to work out why the insurance companies refusal to pay JP's bills was evidence of this being the best of all possible worlds".

As a result Professor Plum has been released by the police and later made the following statement: "I was in a bit of a stew thinking I'd been deserted but didn't crumble and am now leaving unbruised by the encounter."

A bit of Christmas cheer for all in which even the bah humbugs were seen to manage a smile.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Bah Humbug Murder Mystery

Afternoon all. Inspector Lestrade of the Yard here, asking for some assistance in a tricky case of murder. Earlier today the respected philosopher Dr Pangloss was found bashed to death by a lead pipe in his library. He had been writing the following note which we hope might include clues as to circumstances of his demise:

Hello all, welcome to you my friends in this the best of all possible worlds. I've just been having words with my dear friend JP who has been saying a lot of "bah humbug" comments recently and have tried to explain to him how recent events in his life prove this to be the best of all possible worlds (TBOAPW).

The evidence is as follows:

1. The snow a few weeks ago might as JP say make the round trip to his office 4 hours but that allowed him to explore new parts of London and imagine life on the Endurance with Shakleton. Clearly TBOAPW!

2. The fog delaying his flight at Heathrow two weeks ago gave him more time to read his book. Again, clearly TBOAPW!

3. The snow being washed away in Geneva might have meant JP wasn't able to go skiing, but going home early gave him time to do his Christmas shopping and cards. Surely another example that this is TBOAPW.

4. What he has been calling a week of crisis at the office is surely a misnomer. Instead he should say there were many challenges and as we all know a challenge is just an opportunity. So he should see this as more evidence of this being TBOAPW.

5. It might be snowing again (see above) and many relatives are suffering badly from flu, meaning JP is unable to travel this weekend, but that means he can do two more days of work and catch up on all the time lost due to those many "opportunities" he had during the week. Triumphantly an example of this being TBOAPW.

6. It might be true that due to the cold a water pipe burst causing many thousands of pounds of damagers to carpets, ceilings, beds, paintwork etc etc but surely even he could see this as a wonderful opportunity to do a bit of decorating. TBOAPW etc

7. Even if the insurance company is refusing to pay up for the damage this must be a good thing because -

Lestrade again here: that's where the note stopped. As you can see its a mystery and I remain baffled. Any clues to this case please forward to me c/o Scotland Yard.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The truth is out there - Part 2

Ok more from JP's X Files.

The Natural Navigator spotted this object near Venus - full background here - and he's looking for help identifying it.

I'm going with a satellite, but it wasn't a point like object.

Anyway - what do you think?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The truth is out there

A couple of days ago I posted Buff Spaceman's report on the "Spontaneous Crystalline DHMO Alien Sculpture Phenomena" or SCDASP in which he went on to suggest a link between SCDASP with the North Star, saying it was "the focus on an ongoing investigation."

Imagine my surprise when I read on the interwebby thing that NASA, as part of the SETI project, transmitted a message towards Polaris!

Spooky or what.

More on the search for ET in a great BBC4 documentary about the Drake Equation to be found on iPlayer here.

I was going to post a link to the Natural Navigator's puzzle about the picture above (basically asking what's wrong with it) but was too busy so the answer has already been supplied, by, err, me.

Anyhow, head over there so you can say "I could have told you that!"

Then you will see how these two stories are connected.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Trouble with Pirates

There's an interesting program on the BBC's iPlayer called "The Trouble with Pirates" - you should be able to get it by clicking here (but quickly, it runs out soon).

It tells the story of the pirates from many angles: the sailors they captured, the boat owners, the negotiators - in London and onsite, the navies sent against them and the pirates themselves. 

The irony is that the roots of the problem were caused by the actions of the West. The program notes how the first pirates were the fishermen, driven from their legal trade by factory ships from overseas and dumping of toxic waste. 
What the program didn't cover was what caused this: the West's decision to actively encourage Kenya to invade and attack the governing body, the Islamic Courts Union. The Bush's administrations hostility to the the I-word was to have an unexpected blow-back, with chaos spreading from the land out into the waters.

And there are an awful lot of waters to patrol. The Somali coastline is about the length of the USA's eastern seaboard and the pirates strike many hundreds of miles out to sea.

The "trade" has brought in millions upon millions of dollars. Those who do not participate suffer as inflation drives up the cost of essentials like rice and fish. Pirate enterprises are floated on a "stock market" so that communities can participate in the risk and gain some of the reward.

Two stories in particular were highlighted: the Lemacon's on the French yacht the Tanit and the British Chandlers.

Controversially the Tanit was stormed by French commando's and the skipper Florent Lemacon was killed in front of his wife and son. Ironically the only westerner killed so far was shot not by Somalis but by his own countrymen.
The news about the Chandlers is of course welcome but a long term solution is no closer.

Only by bringing some sort of order to the land can the pirates be tamed, and yet the provisional government is badly funded and peace will likely require some form of involvement of the ICU.

This won't be the last documentary about Somai pirates - though it is a good one, worth catching.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

An inspiring encounter

There's a lottery about airline seating: you hope for a beautiful young woman and fear a screaming baby but usually end up with an instantly forgettable stranger with whom you exchange little more than a nod.

On the way back from Geneva there was no way I was to forget who was sitting one seat from me: a man with no hands.

The seat in between was empty and I wondered about etiquette, trying to guess what Debrett's would say. I thought it would be something like "in such encounters no mention should be made of the other's circumstances and conversation should remain on neutral topics such as the weather and books."

Fortunately we both had brought a book to read and the weather was indeed a topical subject and so a polite exchange was possible with just the one "can I help?" But almost always my companion was able to - for example - open and eat bags of cheese puffs unaided.

There was just the one slight hesitation that I noted and afterwards speculated about when I mentioned Geneva and my inability to get up into the mountains to ski, and later after using the crumbs of information I'd gathered into Google searches I learnt why.

For I'd been talking to Jamie Andrew who'd lost not just his hands but all four limbs in those very peaks. As Wikipedia put it:

"In January 1999 Andrew and his friend Jamie Fisher were caught in a storm after having climbed the north face of Les Droites in the Mont Blanc massif. Having made it up the north face, the two men were trapped on the ridge above the face by snow, winds of 90 mph and temperatures of -30°C for four nights. On the last night Fisher died of hypothermia; despite having developed frostbite, Andrew survived the experience, being helicoptered off the mountain by the French rescue service."

Despite those horrific events Jamie has gone on to start a family and go climbing again, and now is a writer and motivational speaker. And I can say from personal experience able to cope amazingly well on his own, reading a book, packing it away in his bag and then carrying it off the plane, heading for his connecting flight.

These are hard times for many, and I've had several conversations in which friends and family have talked about loss of jobs and I've tried to reassure them that life will go on, that even in the worst case scenario it is not the end.

Jamie has shown what is possible even with much greater shocks to the plans we lay out for ourselves. As his web site says: "our greatest limitations are the ones we impose on ourselves. Remember: nothing is impossible!"

An inspiring story.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

No snow when you want it

This week is my one and only overseas trip of 2010, to Geneva.

I certainly miss the 2009 excitement of Venezuela, Baku and Georgia, but there is one thing that Geneva offers that these exotic destinations lack, which is the chance to go skiing.

All that you need is snow, and guess what there's been a lot of recently?

Alas the weather gods continue to toy with us mortals, with bad fog delaying the take off from London and heavy rain washing away the snow on arrival.


Did someone mention Hawaii?

Monday, December 06, 2010

Not sailing today

This was what the Natural Navigator's boat looked like on Friday.... which hopefully helps explain why walking looked like a better option for the weekend than sailing.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Walking not sailing

Slightly manic here so might be a couple of breaks between posts.

Anyhow it was a crisp weekend and there was some talk about sailing with the Natural Navigator but in the end there were all sorts of complications so we went walking instead.

Probably just as well as for a lot of Saturday the weather was crisp with little wind and I for one find drifting boring.

Anyhow good conditions for a refreshing walk.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

NASA Reveals Alien Message

There was great excitement recently when NASA has announced they were to hold a press conference to discuss alien life. This blog can exclusively reveal its contents having interviewed team leader Buff Spaceman (no relation). Take it away Buff:

Beep! Hello Houston and blog readers. Buff Spaceman here, Buff by name and A-Ok by nature!

We've been researching communications from aliens when we observed a phenomena in which large numbers of the members of the public are driven to create sculptures from crystalline dihydrogen monoxide (DHMO) for apparently no reason and - this is critical - having a similar structure!

Our research suggests that this can only be due to a psychic message from an alien life form that is being picked up by those with subconscious tuned to the right frequencies, a message that makes the recipient driven by forces beyond their knowledge to create solid objects.

This "Spontaneous Crystalline DHMO Alien Sculpture Phenomena" or SCDASP has been observed on a very large scale across high latitudes. This geometry suggests the aliens could live in the direction of the North Star, which is the focus on an ongoing investigation.

What is interesting is that they describe these SCDASP as a "Snow Man". The use of the word "snow" rather than the more correct Crystalline DHMO suggests a sophisticated branding effort by the aliens to make themselves more acceptable to the mass of human population, and the word "man" we are interpreting as an attempt to humanise the non-human.

Already xenobiologists are arguing about what the structure reveals about their life cycle, in particular how they move. One school of thought suggests they bounce on the lower sphere while another suggests they are actually aquatic, form similar to seals but with flippers evolved into arms and hands.

Further research is clearly needed and we would welcome any field observations you might have.

Remember - the truth is out there!

This is Buff Spaceman - A-Ok and out! Beep!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The Crystalline DHMO Projectile Menace

Today we welcome a guest columnist Glenn Beard, a man not afraid to speak out!

Friends, I am here today because I am mad! Mad at our do-nothing government that is putting our children, our country - which I love! - at risk.

The respected experts at Big Bills Inc have spoken out about the dangers of Crystalline DHMO Projectiles and the lack of preparedness of our country, and we should listen to them. For the truth is shocking - let me spell it out

(going to a blackboard and writing)

FACT:  crystalline DHMO is available NOW on the streets of London!

FACT: crystalline DHMO projectiles can be launched at a moments notice!

FACT: our children are at risk from crystalline DHMO projectiles!

(beginning to weep)

Friends, I love our country, and I fear for our children and their future. What must we do to alert the authorities of the danger of crystalline DHMO projectiles? When will the complacency end?

Could it be that the only thing that will waken this country from its slumber if the authorities themselves are targets for crystalline DHMO projectiles?

Now of course it is not for me to threaten, but if an honest member of the public were so enraged by the failings of the current administration to target a crystalline DHMO projectile at our leaders, then there would be many that would understand.

(drying tears)

For I still believe in this country, a land of warm beer and bad cricket!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

British scientists discover "Winter"!

Today's a proud day for Blighty as British Boffins make the discovery of the year - nay, the decade. Those big brains have been beavering away with their data sets and climate models and have just made a break-through of epic proportions.

Apparently there is evidence of a 365.25 day cycle between periods of low temperature or "winter" as they are describing it.

"We were shocked" said a man with a beard. "But the evidence is very strong for this phenomena."

However across the pond there was scepticisms and the results were described as "controversial". Alaskan MumsNet spokesperson was categorical "This so-called Winter is a plot by progressive liberals to scare the public into handing over hard working honest tax payers money to scientists and the Obama administration is using it to impose a socialistic dictatorship!!"

We are also hearing about reports of security implications. The beltway think-tank "Big Bills Inc" has warned that the impact of "Winter" is to turn Dihydrogen monoxide or DHMO - a lethal substance commonly used in nuclear reactors - into a crystalline form which can be converted by terrorists into projectiles that can be targeted at freedom loving Americans!

Said their spokesperson Mr Off The Record "It is shocking that Government agencies have no action plan for cystalline DHMO projectiles and we have prepared a $ 50 million study program to investigate."

The White House was unavailable for comment.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Not in St Lucia

I am not, as Tillerman has spotted, in St. Lucia, and not even sailing there - alas.

Instead today I battled the freezing cold and tube strike to get to work, which involved draft contracts and power point presentations (neither my favourites), before struggling back against biting winds and late trains.

Yes, St. Lucia does sound rather nice, but to be realistic it ain't going to happen. So instead lets focus on the positives and dinner tonight, which was cassoulet washed down with a glass of the Beaujolais Nouveau.

It wasn't the cassoulet of the recipe books, but I have a feeling that's how its meant to be - you cook with what you have to hand. But the basis was meat, sausages, haricot beans and a sprinkling of bread crumbs which means it should have been on the right track.

And very nice it was too and there's plenty left over for another day.

Living in a cold climate has its compensations.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Latitude 51N

Another bitterly cold day, with temperatures in parts of Britain dropping down to -17C (0.86F) overnight. So no, didn't go sailing or kayaking over the weekend.

Its worth remembering that we're actually at a higher latitude than most of Newfoundland, and its only the Gulf Stream that keeps our waters free of icebergs.

Time to wrap up warm and cook up something warming like a cassoulet.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Snowy Sheffield

Snow! In November!

Very pretty for walking, but layer up.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Hot tea not cold paddles

It is freezing cold tonight.

It's the weather to put the kettle on to make a nice hot cup of tea, which I just have and it really hit the spot, warming the cockles as they say. But I've also seen that there are some braving the weather and out paddling in the icy winds and chilly waters.

Rather them than me to be honest.... brrrrrr!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Forecast Snow

It's a cold night here in Blighty-land, with freezing temperatures forecast and even snow - up to 20 cm in Scotland.

So its with more than usual envy that I look at pictures of the start of the annual Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC), currently a few days out from the start on their way to the sunny Caribbean.

Oh to be in the sun, cool drink in hand, listening to the gurgle of water under the stern....

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Round the Island part 2

For once being polite worked and C4 posted part 2 of the Round the Island documentary, and pleasant, though undramatic, it was too.

Basically all four teams made it round and "achieved something" - some more than others. The Extreme 40 came 3rd (uncorrected) and the self-made boat came 7th overall - which is quite something given it was its maiden voyage. It turned out the builder did know a thing or two about sailing - he won gold at Atlanta.

Some more pics:

Looks like they had great weather! Those within the UK can watch it by clicking here.

Apparently next year is the 80th anniversary so might be worth pencilling it in the diary. Just hope the weather is as good.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Not available

After a tiring week it was good to be able to switch off that alarm and have a late start followed by reading the papers over a coffee. So wasn't up in time to watch the 2nd part of the TV series about the Round the Island Race (last week's episode blogged here).

No worries, thinks I, there's 4OD just for such eventualities. But alas apparently it is "not available" - not at all sure why, so unable to blog about what happened to the four boats it was following.

Bother! Don't C4 executives know how hard it is to find suitable material relating to sailing and kayaking to blog about in November?

Surely someone should say something!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

This is not soup

There seems to a soup theme today, and so I took this picture.

In the old days London used to suffer from they called  "pea-soupers" - a thick smog containing particles of soot coming off from coal fires, which at their peak killed thousands every year.

After the Clean Air Act of 1956 pollution went down and so we don't get smogs, but we still get the odd thick fog, as we did today, and which lasted most of the day.

So I took a photo.... not really a prize winner I'd admit.

Sailor gets engaged

Today a sailor (the one driving in the pic above) announced his engagement.

All together now....aaahhhhhhhh!

Sunday, November 14, 2010


A bit of good news out of Somalia - the British couple kidnapped by pirates over a year ago have just been released!

More on the story from the BBC here.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Britain's Favourite Yacht Race

Channel 4 has just started a new series called "Britain's favourite yacht race" all about the Round the Island race, which is apparently Britain's fourth largest participation sporting event.

Alas the TV chiefs care not how popular it might be, its about sailing and so have placed it in the schedules at 7.25 on Saturday morning. Fortunately there is C4's on demand service, 4OD, and so have just watch the first episode which covered the start.

Well at least up to it. They followed four teams as they made their preparations. Firstly there was the rookies doing their first race and learning how to hoist a spinnaker:
The figures on screen btw is how long it took them - gee, thanks C4, I'm sure they're glad you timed that.

Then there was someone who built his own boat just for the event - here getting it measured.
It's maiden sail was out to the start line - cutting it a bit fine if you asked me but at least it got there.

Then there was the dinghy sailing cancer survivor crewing on a charity boat and getting top tips from one of Britain's gold medal winners:
Finally there were some pros on an Extreme 40:
As is typical for Round the Island races their start was on the early side.

Hmmmm.... maybe 7.25 am isn't so bad and now I know its being broadcast I'll have no excuse for not watching it live next weekend.

Actually I should make a bigger effort and do it next year - its a great race.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

When was this - update

Ok, so there are two ways to answers to the question of "When was this?" for this picture

1. There are red double decker buses crossing Putney Bridge and no buildings in the background - as Tillerman worked out, that means it must be in the 50s. The sails are a red herring as they are likely to be from the Ranelagh Sailing Club that has been there since 1889 and its not possible to work out what class of boat they are

2. If you look on the back it says "Putney Bridge 1950s"

It also says its by Dick Lee who was part of the Camberwell School of Art. He loved the sea and during the war served in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve.

You can see more of his pictures here.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Picture quiz: where, when, what?

Ok, there maybe more questions than previous puzzles but it should be sufficiently recognisable that there won't be a prize apart from glory.

But, if you can work out the artist - then there'll be a prize (*). There is no signature or other indication so I have no idea.

(*) I dunno, dinner in Putney or something

Monday, November 08, 2010

Picture quiz: when was this?

Another picture puzzle.

One of the things I was in Shrewsbury for was this oil picture, which is clearly Putney Embankment. The question is can you gleam clues from it as to when it was painted? Nearest decade will do.

Knowing the big brains out there I might even wonder if you could get the school of art involved.

Kingsland Bridge Plaque

I think O'Docker means this one

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Picture quiz: where is this?

This is a rowing club, the picture was taken yesterday but any guesses where?

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Remember, remember

Ok, yesterday was officially Guy Fawkes night, but it was very wet, so tonight was a much better opportunity to celebrate Parliament not being blown up - with a firework display.

Friday, November 05, 2010

To ad or not to ad, that is the question

JP HQ was recently approached by a commercial offer: someone wants to advertise here! I have been pondering the pros and cons, and this is the list so far:

  • It's money :)
  • Content should be valued
  • Its seems a worthy site and appropriate for this blog
  • Could be more out there

  • Its not that much
  • Friends start asking about "principles"
  • Like freedom to say what ever want
  • Like freedom to stop blogging when want
  • It becomes "professional" 

So what do you think?