Thursday, September 30, 2010

Pirates on the Thames!

Am I being followed by Johnny Depp?

In August I go sailing in Cornwall and what do they say but Johnny Depp is in the county filming the next in the series of "The Pirates of the Caribbean".

Then I go across to east London looking for pirate's ending place and tidal stories (to be posted when get time) and what do I discover? He's in Greenwich again for filming and the next instalment of the series is called "On Stranger Tides" - co-incidence?

Then I head home and what do I learn? Johnny Depp is commuting up the river to west London!!

Ok, he's actually going by boat to the Battersea heliport to fly away to his house in the south of France, but still, that's pretty close!!

It's a message! - either that, or the stress of the last four weeks overwork has finally pushed me over the limit and I should now go and lie down in a dark room.

Yes, on reflection its probably the latter..... I better go now.

Poole Tides

Following on from the comments about slack water, here is an example of the confused tides you get in the Solent with the prediction from EasyTide of Pottery Pier, Poole.

You can hopefully see why the tide tables only give low water and not high water as there are two per tide cycle.

Guaranteed to come up in any Day Skipper or Coastal Skipper exam!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

River Birds

Busy at work so just time for some recent wildlife pics

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Slack water?

So I'm on my way to watch the Great River Race when I over hear one young man say to another "Yup, slack water, this is as high as the river gets."

I look over at Putney Pier and see the tide swirling by....hmmm.....!

Do I:

a) Approach the lads and say "You're talking total codswollop!"
b) Shake my head and go on my way wondering about the state of the British education system
c) Take a quick snap (above) thinking there's a blog post there somewhere
d) Something else - suggestions please

Monday, September 27, 2010

Steering technique in the Great River Race

While watching the stream of boats flow by in the Great River Race I amused myself by trying to spot all the different ways in which the boats could be steered.

Take the photo above: here you see the two bits of string classical method, which together with the hat and gold bars suggests a pro. The boat was also nicely mid-stream unlike many who cut a few cm off the track by heading into the shallows thereby loosing several knots of current (felt like yelling out at times but of course didn't)

Anyhow next up there's use of a steering oar (I am being a bit random with terminology: it has been a long day and happy to be corrected) as in this one:
What interested me here was the Cornish lass at the front reading - what could the book be? Was she reading aloud to her crew? Any answers welcome.

Then the oar could be to one side as in this Viking ship:
There were a couple of Viking style boats and couldn't help but notice that these terrors of the seas were way at the back. Maybe it would have been a different story if they had been told they could pillage Richmond if they got there first but luckily that wasn't in the rule book.

You might have noticed that here the height of the oar meant it had to be controlled standing up, and there were many of those than steered upright. Not only were most the dragon boats helmed in that manner but also this rather sporty number:
Bravo! Together with the shorts that looked very cool in a Queen Bess of the seas way - or, to be totally honest, a bit chilly given the wind was from the NE right on the nose around this corner. I can well see why someone might have to sit down even if it wasn't totally ergonomic:
However that wasn't the most unusual position to hold while steering which was this rather obscure back-hander:
This was the near the front (at Putney anyhow) Aggie and it looks like something has gone wrong with the rudder and that the emergency solution was rather manual. I'd guess the shoulder would still be feeling a little sore if that twist was needed all the way from Greenwich to Richmond.

Though I'm guessing that for the workers at the oars there must be quite a lot still aching a bit.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Gladys, the Great River Race Prize Winner

Just read the post over on Rowing for Pleasure that Chris's boat Gladys (above) won not just one but two prizes - Fastest Clayton Skiff and Fastest Supervets.

Congratulations and well rowed!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

More Great River Race Pics

Watching the Great River Race - 1

It definitely was fleece weather out on the Putney Embankment watching the Great River Race go by. Early morning sun disappeared behind mostly white clouds while the wind blew vigorously.

But the wait was rewarded by the well rowed first boat, Maggie (above), who was soon followed by Aggie and then 15 seconds (below):

And then there was that phase where the boats came one by one, too many to remember and snap each one, though this one did seem to find the choppy water by the Fulham grounds a bit too exciting and had to start bailing.

Then they began to come in their twos and threes:

Until the water was full of an uncountable number of boats and rowers:

The Great River Race Begins!

The Great River Race has started - and the key question at this point is do I have time to have a sandwich and finish my PowerPoint slides before it gets to Putney?

Answers on its current position can be found at the online map to be found here.

Good luck to Chris and the "Rowing for pain" team!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Defending the Thames

I've just taken a break from my current endless work to watch the first episode in the new series of Spooks. MI5 agents may come and go (alas poor Ros) but Harry and Ruth still hang on grimly, battling to save Britain from the baddies.

And this week, without wanting to give away too much, terrorists were trying to send [deleted] up the Thames to blow up the [deleted]! As of course this had all been found out at the last moment it was too late to raise the Thames Barrier and due to [deleted] London's [deleted] was out of action, leaving Harry with the agonising dilemma about whether to unleash the capital's final resort weapon, namely the secret [deleted] hidden in the [deleted]!

Things were simpler in years gone by.

On Sunday while wandering the lanes of Wapping I was approached by a member of the Police force and invited to step into their station. Now of course these sort of requests are hard to turn down, but in this case rather welcome, as it was the once a year opening of the Thames Police Museum as part of the London Open House weekend.

And very interesting it was too. The Thames Police went for their first patrol back in July 1798 and they've been watching over these waters ever since. In the museum you could see mementos of years gone by, uniforms, pictures and models of cutter's they sailed in and galleys they rowed.

Above you can see one of the tools of their job, a plumb line used to check for depth - hence the phrase "plumbing the depths." Today of course they have sonar and RIBs that can do 45+ knots, but many jobs have remained unchanged - such as picking bodies out of the river (apparently 23 so far this year).

Now that's a body count even higher than Spooks, which no doubt would make Harry and Ruth look into each other's eyes even more darkly and moodily.

But it wouldn't be the same if they weren't.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Cornish Flag

Massively busy at the moment so just a quick post to fly the flag for the Cornish, as can be seen from this pic from last month's Fowey Classics.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Execution Dock

Ahoy there, Buccaneer Buff here, or at least me spirit, that be.

Me hear many a pirate talking 'pon this day, namely the 19th of September, and it brings me back to find my way to 'ol Execution Dock. Many a fine pirate has taken his last voyage upon these Thames shore lines, aye, me shipmates and me, 'tis hard indeed.

But where is the spot our bodies were hung 'til three tides had washed away our lives? Where is said Execution Dock?

Well here be a map, like a treasure map but not of gold, rather death!

Aye, in Wapping be found. So I makes me way, wooden leg an' all, down those cobbled streets, searching for me last resting place in 'tis sorry world. Arr!

Shiver my timbers what should I find at t'spot indicated but one of the enemies of the pirates:
Blow me down, I'd rather share me hammock with a bilge rat!

All of a quiver I made me way down Wapping High Street 'til found myself in a pub of the name of The Town of Ramsgate. Ar, this is more like says I, wenches and grog.

Truth be told no one knows for sure where be Execution Dock, but, says I, this be a fair resting place.

At t'back there be these steps, all slimy, smelling of mud and green with weed - what a beauty says I. So I walk down those fair stairs till the muddy waters of the river Thames closed over me head.

Arr! 'Tis sweet to be home.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Darker Earlier

The nights are certainly drawing in.

Walks home that used to be in sunlight first became in the sunset and now in dusk. Soon we will be at the equinox and the days will continue to shorten until just before Christmas: already the shops are selling mince pies!

But it is still beautiful to look at: above is crossing over Putney Bridge heading south towards the St. Mary's Church and the moon.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Book Review: The Swoop!

I say chaps you must read this absolutely spiffing good yarn from that P.G. Wodehouse writer cove (apparently from his bomb-proof shelter in London W.)

What's it about you ask? Well it's about how old England - good old England - is invaded by not one dastardly foreign army but nine of the blighters all at once which is a bit unsporting don't you know?

And what is worse they interrupted the cricket, walking in front of the bowling screens and digging trenches through the hallowed turf! And what the Russians did, well that was just beastly bad form, I mean, shooting a fox - bad show that, not cricket.

At first doesn't go that well for blighty, indeed as can be seen by Chapter 6 which you can read for yourself below:


Thus was London bombarded. Fortunately it was August, and there was nobody in town. Otherwise there might have been loss of life.

Cricky you might well say!

Fortunately all is not lost as Clarence Chugwater, boy scout, was at hand complete with catapult and the ability to imitate the sound of a tarantula singing to its young. England expects and all that rot.

As you might well have guessed it all comes out smashing by the end, so sparkling limonado all round!

A totally topping short story - head over here chaps for your own free copy.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

And is there honey still for tea?

The question posted yesterday was not another of those Natural Navigator look-at-the-shadows or moss riddle;  rather it was a geographic-temporal-poetry puzzle.

For if you punt upriver on the Cam from Cambridge you get to the meadows of Grantchester, a hamlet immortalised in Rupert Brooke's poem "The Old Vicarage at Grantchester" which ends:

Stands the Church clock at ten to three?
And is there honey still for tea?

So the correct answer as Chris pointed out was 2:50, otherwise known as ten to three.

There is something very quintessentially English about the meadows, they seem unchanged through the centuries. You could imagine the medieval peasants joking as they worked the fields for a feast for King Henry VI to celebrate the founding of Kings College in 1441.

You can picture the young Darwin searching by the river bank, his eyes gleaming with excitement as he finds a rare beetle, completely oblivious to a future filled with great discoveries and voyages.

They would have shared these pastures with a fighter ace from the Battle of Britain, spending a day's leave with his sweet-heart, lying on his back to inspect the sky with the eye of an expert.

And us, who went to college here and meet once a year to practice our punting skills on the river "the water sweet and cool".

I hope like the true England of Aslan's land it remains like that for ever:

And laughs the immortal river still
Under the mill, under the mill?
Say, is there Beauty yet to find?
And Certainty? and Quiet kind?
Deep meadows yet, for to forget
The lies, and truths, and pain? . . . oh! yet
Stands the Church clock at ten to three?
And is there honey still for tea?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What's the time?

Last Sunday the weather was just sunny enough for a punt trip upriver on the Cam, watching the fishes glide by, desperate to avoid the beady eye of the heron.

On arrival we had a picnic, occasionally distracted by having to shoo away some inquisitive cows grazing on the meadows.

So what time should it have been?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Sailing News

It's a busy day for sailing news - far too busy for me as I'm currently overloaded at work.

So hardly any time to blog much about the America's Cup going wing shaped - though of course Reggie and co would approve - and doesn't the AC34 video (found here) computer generated spin round view from underneath feel all wrong, less a scuba diver's view and more someone drowning (that could of course be psychological reaction to work).

And equally little time to write about Tillerman's first day - though to be honest the lack of results does make posting anything meaningful difficult (but not impossible, there's always ol' Buff to lend us his views).

However thanks to the official site we do know that so far Squadron Leader Tillerman has not been caught breaking 42.2(a) and pumping more than once on the same wave nor been involved in a protest.

So before signing off and heading off to put feet up and watch that box set of "The Office" season 5 just time to say the figure above is the World Master's course, so no doubt we will hear much more about it in the future!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Tillerman and the few

INT: wooden hut from the Laser Masters Battle of Britain where pilots wait on standby. Outside the window can be seen the finely cut grass of the Hayling Island aerodrome. As this is shot in black & white the fields are not green but like everything else grey.

At a table three flying jacket wearing pilots, Squadron Leader TILLERMAN, Flight Lieutenant REGGIE STAYSAIL (who's brother migrated to Australia and had a son they nicknamed Buff) and Cadet JP are drinking tea from chipped mugs, occasionally looking out at the fading light of the afternoon where can be seen the ranked lines of full rig Spitfires and radial rig Hurricanes. A wind sock blows firm from the SW - looks like a F4

Suddenly TILLERMAN bangs his fist on the table, then stands up and walks over to look out the window.


When will this waiting end?


Easy old man!


I'm ready dammit! I just want to show Johnny foreigner how we play the game over here!


I know old boy, I know. 

JP (whispering to REGGIE)

Who is he? He doesn't sound British. 


Don't you know Tillerman? Beat "the man" in one on one match conditions. More missions under his hat then you've had hot dinners. And eats his Marmite like a man - there's Brit blood there somewhere.


What you muttering about, Reggie, with that young whipper-snapper?


Cadet JP was wondering what it felt like to go up against it out there on the big day; you know, when the balloon goes up?


Don't you know?

JP shakes his head.


How many hours frostbiting you got in your log book?




None! Do you have any idea how long I've been out there in rain, snow, sleet, hail, lightening, storms, heat waves till the standard rig Spitfire feels like its part of me? Do you know what it's like to see the opposition come flying out of the sun calling for "water" or "starboard"? Do you know it's like to suffer mast failure while out there, on your own? You'll be mince meat, of use to no one but making work for the safety boat!


Think you better stay out of the fray this time round JP, master pilots only I'm afraid

There is a knock on the door and after a pause Sergeant O'DOCKER enters.


You can stand down gents, they won't come today now. Go home, get some rest, it's the big day tomorrow: the first battles.


I feel like a pint - you coming Reggie?


Won't say no.


Hey Tillerman?

TILLERMAN pauses at the door


Good luck tomorrow!  

And with a nod TILLERMAN has gone.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Plans to go Under and Over the Thames

Next week the Thames Tunnel, otherwise known as the "Super Sewer" is due to start its public consultation phase with the government giving its full support. That is good news, though in the current climate the government's decision might have be different if it had been public spending. In this case it's from the private sector as its a Thames Water project.

Of course there are some that question the project, especially as the £ 2.2 billion price tag will ultimately be paid for by London consumers. But it must be a good idea to stop raw sewage entering the Thames and instead be drained in a huge pipe hidden away underneath the Thames.

It feels epic in scale and Gothic in character, something the Victorians would have approved of.

However it is not the only plans to develop infrastructure in London as another project is also due to submit its planning application in the near future, namely a cable car across the Thames. The idea is to connect the O2 Dome with the ExCel exhibition centre as in the map below, and in time for the 2012 games.
It will therefore connect two of the London Olympic 2012 sites as well as providing an entertaining way to cross the river. I'm hoping the design will have suitably elegant and modern lines, as much of a step up from current designs as the Millennium Wheel was over its predecessors.

I've been on a couple of cable cars in cities before (i.e. not ski lifts) and they've always been great fun. Most notably two in South American, namely in Caracas and the Rio de Janeiro lifts up Sugar Loaf Mountain.

Both the tunnel and cable car projects, one hidden and utilitarian and the other visible and entertaining, sound like useful additions to London, and fingers crossed both proceed.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Stunning Space

I could try and think up some connection between this pic and sailing (navigation maybe or that they come from the Royal Observatory in Greenwich?) but to be honest I'm posting it as its one of a series of just amazing photos of the night's sky.

They are the result of the 2010 Astronomy Photographer of the Year, and you can see a slide show of them together with audio description if you click here.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Time and Tide

A couple of month's ago I was introduced to one of the hidden gems of London's docklands, when took a powerboat course at Trinity Wharf. As well as one of the original centres of Trinity House where Faraday worked it's also the home to art, such as the ENO and a performance of the longest non-repeating piece of music (it takes a thousand years to play).

And the navigation and art themes are soon to be joined by a new installation called "Time and Tide" by Marcus Vergette. It consists of a bell that is rung by the water but only at high tide - at present. For as the sea waters continue to rise due to global warming they will increasing ring out their warning sound at times other than high water.

I shall have to find time to treck across London to see it after it is installed (the picture above is computer generated), maybe even the first time it is due to ring out on 19th September, which conveniently is a Sunday.

Thank's to Tristan's Natural Navigator blog entry on the installation which can be read here together with more tips on the tides.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Cutterless Thames Festival

This coming weekend its the Thames Festival 2010 with a host of events along the river between Westminster and Tower Bridges.

Two events caught my eye, namely the cutter races and barge driving, and I was afraid I was going to miss both of them as they are on the Sunday when alas I have other commitments.

However it turns out I'm only going to be missing the barge driving as the cutter racing has been called off because of "circumstances beyond our control" according to the web site - what ever they might be.

Any way to make up for that gap I'm posting another rowing vessel, this time earlier from Fowey so likely a gig or something - experts please help me out here.

I'm still unsure whether to go along as the Saturday's events sounds very similar to last year's which blogged here and alas a lot of work on at the moment.

However if you are in London the coming weekend you might like to pop down to the river to enjoy one or other of the festivities - the fireworks are meant to be pretty good.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Wake Memory

One thing connects the last two posts, namely impressions on water. For the Sargents it was the wake of the boat in the storm while for the Solaris it was random images on the water - or so I thought.

For one thing I've become aware of is how long the subtle impressions of boats travelling along the river can last. For example the photo above was taken a few minutes after a slow moving tourist boat went by leaving behind these neat straight lines.

According to Wikipedia wakes are formed in deep water or when the speed of the boat is greater than the speed of waves, neither of which was probably the case here. So what we have are the bubbles left by collapsing waves and the slightly smoother water it left behind (I must find some more references for this behaviour).

So maybe those apparently random patterns in the rain could have been twisted imprints of boats that had passed by, like the memory of the river.

Rather an appropriate connection to a science fiction story about a self-aware ocean!

Monday, September 06, 2010

Swirling river water

It is raining.

I can hear the hypnotic splattering of drops on leaves and in puddles.

It is making patterns in the Thames, patterns that slowly change. Remember mixing oil based paint and water, twirling the mixture round and then placing paper on top to capture the abstract image?

It is like that, but born of river water, wind, rain, current, tides, gusts and vortices caused by buildings and the subtle changes in rain rates.

I can't take a picture as it's too faint and the camera vibrates just that little too much, but I suddenly realised what it reminded me of - the planet Solaris (above).

Must be time to sleep and dream......

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Sargent and the Sea

Today went to the Royal Academy of Arts in London to see the exhibition "Sargent and the Sea" (it has been another quiet weekend). You can download an overview by clicking here.

It has had mixed reviews - take this one from The Observer, which scorns the curators and artist for showing in John Singer Sargent's work "the lack of sincerity, the evasiveness, the faint boredom, the sense that everything is seen, but very little felt."


While I can see what the she's saying it seems unfortunate is that the reviewer has in my mind picked the wrong pictures, as have the RA when selecting pictures to show online, which means its hard to give countering evidence.

It is true that a lot of pictures of Sargent's time at the seaside resorts on the French and Italian coasts are pretty mundane to the point of boring, and it is fair to say you could skip those rooms with a clear conscience.

Obviously the sea pictures were to me more interesting than the beaches, and Sargent had crossed the Atlantic twice, once in a storm as in the picture above. It's not that great a picture, it's title of "Atlantic Storm" would be better described as "Inaccurate memories of an Atlantic Storm when back in the studio in Paris".

The problem of bad selection comes up here too, as the RA should in my mind have used in its publicity not the picture above but the one next to it. This was called "Mid Ocean, Mid Winter" and while still not brilliant it has a more solid feeling to the waves, again the twisted wake and white crests but in this case a haze of rain on the horizon.

Even better were the line drawings of ships and their workings, which alas do not seem to be available by Googling apart from the one below from the show guide (again not my first choice).

Spars were lovingly drawn with tackles and sails, the sort of detail that says its true even if the art is not the mould breaking genius of Turner:
And that's probably his undoing: these are competent drawings, interesting for their capture of the mechanics of sailing in the great age of sail rather than ground breaking art.

So there is possible something more to see in the exhibition if you are into sailing, which I'm guessing The Observer reviewer wasn't.

But in no way does it match up to last year's great Turner and the Masters exhibition.