Wednesday, March 31, 2010

More Boat Race Preparations

Are these the boys in dark blue or light blue? Anyhow, prime and backup boats out for training...... and doing interviews:

Which requires truck loads of equipment to get those pictures back, an in HD too:

Are you excited yet?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Oxford in training

More preparations for this weekend's Oxford (boo, hiss!) vs. Cambridge (hurrah!) boat race.

It's the Oxford squad (boo etc) out for a practice row, accompanied by some of the ladies and gentlemen of the press.

Note the dainty little landing stage to ensure the scribblers and paps don't get their precious feet wet in the process!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Laying the buoy

More preparations for the Boat Race on Saturday, this time a bright yellow buoy (pronounced "boy") just upriver from the start. I'm guessing its for spectator boats to moor up to without drifting into the way of the rowers.

In size its not really in the same league as those big boys (pronounced "boys") down by the docks but just as useful.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

DW minus 5 O&C BR minus 6

There were quite a few double kayaks heading downstream this evening - must be final training for next week's Devizes to Westminster Race.

Easter weekend will be a busy one, as its also date of the annual the Oxford & Cambridge Boat Race.

Hope the weather is good for both, and they don't bump into each other!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

H.O.R.R. 2010

Well the Embankment at Putney was heaving today with boats and their rowers getting ready for this year's Head of the River Race.

Nearly 400 crews from Universities all over the UK, including my old College, together with entrants from across the Channel, competed on a pleasant spring day.

The results are out and can be found here. Also found an interesting if rather fuzzy video guide for coxes that was interesting viewing which can be downloaded here.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Tonight we sail to the edge of the world

Actually not quite that far, just to Brixton.

And we got the tube rather than sailed.

And it was last night, when went to see the indy rock group Editors at Brixton Academy, who's lyrics include the line used as the title of this post. It was rather good, even though rather a lot of the songs were about death and blood.

To get a flavour there's a rather crackly YouTube of Papillon someone's uploaded here.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

How it is at the Tate Modern

Been rather busy recently, so not a sailing entry but a last chance to see post.

Over the weekend went to the Tate Modern to see the installation in the Turbine Hall called "How it is" which is basically a very big black box.

Black, that is, on the the inside, so that when you walk into it up a metal ramp you are marching towards the void, into the tunnel towards the underworld.....


Of course not quite so spooky when sharing the experience with dozens of tourists taking pictures of themselves with flashes on max.

However well worth a dash in and see, but it's only on till the 5th April so go for it now.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Book Review: The Natural Navigator

I have just finished Tristan's "The Natural Navigator" and there is one clear bit of evidence that I've enjoyed it and it has in some sense done its job. For having read all about the different ways in which the world around you can give you navigational clues I just want to head right out there and look for them, preferably with the expert to hand to guide me.

Tristan has a straight-forward style that is easy to read and the book has many clear illustrations to explain things such as constellations and sun sticks. There are many gems inside, from stories of the explorers in the time of the Egyptians and Ancient Greeks, to the great Polynesian navigators that travelled the vast spaces of the Pacific sailing by the stars and reading the swell.

This book would be of interest not just to those that have an interest in navigation, but also for anyone who walks, kayaks and sails in the outdoors, for it will enhance the experience. By looking at the world around you rather than staring at the LCD screen of a GPS you will have a much more rewarding experience.

It's something that us humans used to rely on for thousands upon thousands of years, and we evolved from animals that also needed to be able to find their way to food, water, and home. So just like the Tern can pilot its way from Arctic to Antarctic, there is a bit of our brain that lies there waiting to help us find out way.

And what's more it enjoy's the act of helping us, and as any navigator knows, there is great pleasure to be had in the landfall that arrives on cue, or the risky path through the fog that takes you just where you planned to go.

When travelling if I have a new city to explore I sometimes do what I call "map reading without a map" which is to have a good look at the map but then leave it in the hotel room, exploring with nose and eyes rather than looking down at a scrap of paper.

And it's always been an interesting and much more rewarding experience, to find your way from A to B by your skill and observation.

So get this book and use it to feed your instincts so you too can become a Natural Navigator.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Spring Boat

I have just finished the Natural Navigator (review to come tomorrow) and it made me think about this picture.

It's a boat I saw on the Thames recently, and there is time information in this picture, and time knowledge is crucial for navigation.

So why does this boat say that Spring is here?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A walk and talk with the Natural Navigator

I'm about two thirds through Tristan's book on Natural Navigation and enjoying it a lot. It makes you want to go out there and try them out in the field - hopefully with the NN himself to hand to pick up the subtle clues that otherwise I'd miss.

But there is a chance to do just that - and in comfort - simply by using your browser to follow Tristan and the BBC's Evan Davis as they explore the land around the M25 (so not exactly wilderness) .

Just click here to go to the BBC web site to watch the video, here to go to Tristan's site or here to go to Amazon to order your copy!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Haiku for Tillerman's Laser

I was very impressed by the talent on display inspired by the call to write a poem about the America's Cup, and decided that such skills deserved, nay demanded, a second showing.

But what topic to cover? Well how about the possible (or possibly not) damage to Tillerman's Laser.

So how about it, blog readers of the world, present your poetry please, on the "Ode to the fallen Sailboat (or maybe not)".

I'll kick-off with these Haiku: there are two as don't know whether the news is good or bad, hence:

Alas it gusted fifty
Tillerman's Laser is lost
Now we are all sad


Despite it gusting fifty
Tillerman's Laser is safe
Now we are all glad

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Poem for the America's Cup

The Poet Laureate is the official bard of the royal family. It's a traditional post that goes back hundreds of years and holders of it include William Wordsworth, Lord Tennyson, John Masefield, John Betjeman and Ted Hughes.

There's been quite a variety of topics for their works, from wandering as lonely as a cloud to the sea fever that sailors get.

And today we have another, namely the skills of that great footballer David Beckham. The current holder, Carol Ann (no not that one, her surname is Duffy) is a big fan of the beautiful game and morns the loss of one of England's finest from the coming World Cup - and rightly too.

But where are the great poets for the sailing competitions of today? Did any crafter of words become inspired by the 33rd America's Cup? I would like to say I leapt at the chance to fill this gap but poetry is not my forte

Is there, then, someone out there who will be able to record for literary posterity something that captured the essence of the contest?

In order to show how low the threshold of quality really is, here are some lines using the structure of a limerick drafted by yours truly:

There was a young man named Ernesto
Who loved to race with a gusto
On loosing AC-33
Said Larry with glee
It’s time he hung up his Mustos

Oh dear! Please put us all out of our misery!

Monday, March 15, 2010

St. Mary's Putney

I only noticed today the writing on the sun dial on St. Mary's Church, Putney.

A very appropriate message for those living by the tidal Thames!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Henry Moores at the Tate

Another post, another excuse.

This time it's the Henry Moore Exhibition at the Tate Britain, looking at the development of his ideas and influences like Mexican art and the blitz of London. Some of the latter were rather scary, sculptures of figures that looked like they were made from bone (but actually plaster).

As always the Tate puts on a good show so very interesting and enjoyable way to spend the afternoon. The restaurant at the Tate Britain in particular came out trumps

Friday, March 12, 2010

What makes a good club member?

I'm re-posting this picture for three reasons.

Firstly it's a nice picture of Wayfarer with asymmetric up on the Thames.

Secondly to honour O'Docker's detective work.

Thirdly because it comes from a sailing club I'm not a member of, and that is a bit of a relief.

The thing is I'm not a very active member of either the sailing or kayaking clubs I'm a member of. The emails come popping into my in-tray at regular intervals, telling of successful trips here, plans for voyagers there, and always the call for help.

And there are people out there who are club regulars who are always out on the water, not just sailing and kayaking but training and safety boats, cleaning out the boat shed and organising the racing.

I have friends who row who are in the gym what looks like all the time and then out on the water a couple of times per weekend. While I'm impressed by their dedication that doesn't feel right for me.

Apart from the fact that its cold and dark there, work sends me to travelling at irregular intervals, there are relatives to visit and entertain, nephews, nieces and godsons with birthday's to entertain, and I made a resolution to do more non-blog related writing.

And, oh yes, I have a blog to update, a blog about the sailing and kayaking I'm not doing. Hmmm.... something not right about that sentence.......

Though on reflection I've decided that maybe I'm actually the perfect club member, as I pay my dues but don't wear out any club boats.

That's my story, and for this evening at least I'm sticking to it.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Spot the odd one out

Three pics of sailors and kayakers on the Thames this weekend. But which water sport fan is the odd one out?

Ok, there are several answers, but looking for one in particular so guess work or telepathy required.

And no prizes, just glory for having ESP, luck or intuition.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Book Review: Comfortable Cruising

This is the third of Liza Copeland's series of books about sailing around the world, a trilogy of cruising stories.

There is something special about a trilogy. The Lord of the Rings would both have been nothing if it had ended after part II, and three books creates a nice structure, a trinity of beginning, middle and an end.

But for some series its a book too far. The wonderfully brooding gothic Gormenghast trilogy is really two books and a rather long epilogue that I'd recommend that readers avoid. It would have been much better to have ended one book earlier.

I sort of got that feeling about Comfortable Cruising. Yes its a great description of sailing, a resource useful to anyone on either the East or West coasts of the Americas, in particular North of the Panama Canal.

But it felt too much like someone else's really good holiday stories. I enjoyed the two part round the world but this time the travel from Canada (West coast, sounds beautiful) to Canada (East coast, ditto) did not grip me, and the excessive exclamation marks became noticeable. Maybe I'm being a little harsh, as it seemed all in all far too pleasant a time from one who is stuck in London when its cold and wet.

If you're sailing these waters then by all means buy it.

But if you want a book just as a read, to experience second hand the adventure of round the world cruising, then I'd suggest the previous two, Just Cruising and Still Cruising.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Review: End of the line

This evening I've watched "End of the line" and it's a horror. Not just for the blood and the scenes of death but what it means for our oceans and our future.

On all the graphs of numbers of fish the lines are heading downwards. We are heading for extinction events, for empty oceans, and we as humans are failing the challenge set to us.

What should be a gift, a wondrous resource, is being plundered by those who care not or understand not what the consequences are of their actions.

Take bluefin tuna. As one scientist put it, "it's not a question of when stocks collapse, it's when". The science suggests that a catch of 15,000 tonnes would be sustainable and 10,000 would permit them to recover, but the politicians are giving out quotas permitting nearly 30,000 tonnes.

But the reality is twice that, because if you add the illegal catch it reaches of over 60,000 tonnes.

It's a classic case of the tragedy of the commons, which is described as "a situation in which multiple individuals, acting independently, and solely and rationally consulting their own self-interest, will ultimately deplete a shared limited resource even when it is clear that it is not in anyone's long-term interest for this to happen."

We still have time, and good fish management such as in Alaskan waters can work. However if there are more do-nothing talking shops like Copenhagen then things look black.

But we can all help out. I had fish tonight, but it was from sustainable sources. If we don't check before we buy, then we risk turning the seas into a wasteland of algae and jelly fish.

It's part of a bigger picture, and the key question of the 21st Century: are we humans able to manage our planet or will we destroy it, knowing as we do what we are doing?

Friday, March 05, 2010

Natural Navigation - the book

Ok, disclosure time, Tristan is a friend who I met when sailing the Atlantic.

But I've just got my copy (paid, from Amazon) and it looks brilliant so can't wait to get into it and I'm sure you'd enjoy it too.

Review to come shortly after finish it ....

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Cleaning the Thames

Some visitors to this blog are coming with a question in mind. According to the hit counter they typed into Google a question asking something like how clean is the Thames?

And that is a good question to which a firm answer is often hard. It is cleaner than (say) Bonnie's Gowanus Canal (is it me or is that a bit of a name to snigger about) but it still a bit mucky. Previous posts have blogged what happens when you let Thames water settle and how it is reported on TV.

But today I have an answer of sorts, namely that it is cleaner than at the start of this week. For today and yesterday there have been clean up events organised by the Thames 21 charity.

The idea was to take advantage of the lowest day time tide for 5 years, with at places 0.2m below datum. Unfortunately that wasn't what we saw, as a stiff easterly wind kept the water level up by 0.8m (according to the PLA's live tide gauges).

At 11 am this morning around a hundred of us met at the south side of Hammersmith Bridge where we were given red plastic gloves and black plastic bags and after the inevitable safety briefing were out on the river shore doing our civic bit. It was a good mix of young and old, men and women (slightly more men I think) and a good cross section of the communities of London.

I'd love to tell you about all the wonderful bits of rubbish but it was pretty dull stuff. There were lots of female sanitary pads - so many we felt it must be a bag that had dumped. Random bits of rope and metal, plastic tags from clothes, lots of bits of rags (the carpet we called it), and of course plastic bags.

There were a lot more plastic bags at the Dockland sites, which was ironic given they were joined by representatives from the major supermarkets.

But the really interesting bits of rubbish came from yesterday's Fulham "Deep Clean" in which they found a Civil War helmet and a hand grenade!

No dramas for us, just filled collecting boxes and that inner warm glow that comes from doing your bit.

After two hours it was time to head home for a warming lunch and to fill up the washing machine. The Thames might be a bit cleaner but my clothes most definitely weren't.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Blue Peter Presenter's Record Amazon Kayak

There are Brits of a certain age for whom the phrase "Get down Shep!" will need no explanation.

For those aren't going misty eyed, this was the all too frequent exclamation by John Noakes, a co-presenter on the BBC children's TV program Blue Peter, would say when his border collie of that name got over excited.

The program was named after the Blue Peter flag that was raised when a ship is ready to leave, and it was intended to promote a spirit of adventure. Back in the '70s John was part of a highly successful trio with fellow presenters Valerie Singleton and Peter Purvis, but Noakes was always the dare devil, from undertaking free fall parachuting to bob sleigh runs (in which he crashed).

And its good to see that spirit continues, with one of the current presenters, Helen Skelton having just finishing a record breaking kayak down the Amazon. As always, Blue Peter is combining adventure with good causes, raising money for Sports Relief.

The 2,010 mile kayak would have been something for an experienced paddler but she had never even been in a kayak before starting training.

For those that say if she can kayak 60 miles a day why are you stuck indoors I can just point you towards the difference in water and air temperature between here and the Amazon.

And there will be a Thames related post for tomorrow, which is just the thing for which Blue Peter badges would be awarded.

But alas I am far too old for that now.

Monday, March 01, 2010

The burning of the ship Kent

They say worse things happen at sea. Well 185 years ago today that was certainly true for those on board the East Indiaman Kent, whose loss was recorded in the picture above and a poem.

Alas the poem was written by William McGonagall, who has been called the worst poet in British history.

Anyway, here it is:

Good people of high and low degree,
I pray ye all to list to me,
And I'll relate a harrowing tale of the sea
Concerning the burning of the ship "Kent" in the Bay of Biscay,
Which is the most appalling tale of the present century.

She carried a crew, including officers, of 148 men,
And twenty lady passengers along with them;
Besides 344 men of the 31st Regiment,
And twenty officers with them, all seemingly content.

Also the soldiers' wives, which numbered forty-three,
And sixty-six children, a most beautiful sight to see;
And in the year of 1825, and on the 19th of February,
The ship "Kent" sailed from the Downs right speedily,
While the passengers' hearts felt light with glee.

And the beautiful ship proceeded on her way to Bengal,
While the passengers were cheerful one and all;
And the sun shone out in brilliant array,
And on the evening of the 28th they entered the Bay of Biscay.

But a gale from the south-west sprang up that night,
Which filled the passengers' hearts with fright;
And it continued to increase in violence as the night wore on,
Whilst the lady passengers looked very woe-begone.

Part of the cargo in the hold consisted of shot and shell,
And the vessel rolled heavily as the big billows rose and fell;
Then two sailors descended the forehold carrying a light,
To see if all below was safe and right.

And they discovered a spirit cask and the contents oozing rapidly,
And the man with the light stooped to examine it immediately;
And in doing so he dropped the lamp while in a state of amaze,
And, oh horror! in a minute the forehold was in a blaze.

It was two o'clock in the morning when the accident took place,
And, alas! horror and fear was depicted in each face;
And the sailors tried hard to extinguish the flame,
But, oh Heaven! all their exertions proved in vain.

The inflammable matter rendered their efforts of no avail,
And the brave sailors with over-exertion looked very pale;
And for hours in the darkness they tried to check the fire,
But the flames still mounted higher and higher.

But Captain Cobb resolved on a last desperate experiment,
Because he saw the ship was doomed, and he felt discontent;
Then he raised the alarm that the ship was on fire,
Then the passengers quickly from their beds did retire.

And women and children rushed to the deck in wild despair,
And, paralysed with terror, many women tore their hair;
And some prayed to God for help, and wildly did screech,
But, alas! poor souls, help was not within their reach.

Still the gale blew hard, and the waves ran mountains high,
While men, women, and children bitterly did cry
To God to save them from the merciless fire;
But the flames rose higher and higher.

And when the passengers had lost all hope, and in great dismay,
The look-out man shouted, "Ho! a sail coming this way";
Then every heart felt light and gay,
And signals of distress were hoisted without delay.

Then the vessel came to their rescue, commanded by Captain Cook,
And he gazed upon the burning ship with a pitiful look;
She proved to be the brig "Cambria," bound for Vera Cruz,
Then the captain cried, "Men, save all ye can, there's no time to lose."

Then the sailors of the "Cambria" wrought with might and main,
While the sea spray fell on them like heavy rain;
First the women and children were transferred from the "Kent"
By boats, ropes, and tackle without a single accident.

But, alas! the fire had reached the powder magazine,
Then followed an explosion, oh! what a fearful scene;
But the explosion was witnessed by Captain Babby of the ship "Caroline,"
Who most fortunately arrived in the nick of time.

And fourteen additional human beings were saved from the "Kent,"
And they thanked Captain Babby and God, who to them succour sent,
And had saved them from being burnt, and drowned in the briny deep;
And they felt so overjoyed that some of them did weep;
And in the first port in England they landed without delay,
And when their feet touched English soil their hearts felt gay