Monday, April 24, 2017

Tall Ships 2017 Video


I haven't posted a video for a long time but put together this short from clips taken on the trip on the Zephyr during the Tall Ships 2017.

Not that I'm going to follow Sassi's advice or anything.

What do you think?

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Tall Ships 2017: Mermaids, pirates and more

During the Tall Ships 2017 as well as lots to see out on the Thames there was also entertainment ashore.

Before joining the Zephyr I had a look around the site at Woolwich Arsenal and first up was the mermaid above. She had her own bubble that magically (er, well if you ignore the electric motor and controls to hand) transported her among puzzled children, many of whom were asking "But WHO is she, mummy?"

Also there was this pirate who had clearly seen one too many Johnny Depp movie:

He was part of an ensemble of actors in period dress acting out scenes - such as policemen arresting a criminal - and these milkmaid and woman smoking a pipe:
The milkmaid was very interested in my dead cat - the type on camera microphones I hasten to point out.

There were also all sorts of bands playing lots of different types of music:

It was great to see lots of families coming down to see the boats for the Easter weekend.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Parade of Sail for the Tall Ships 2017


On Sunday the tall ships left Greenwich to head off into the North Sea, some heading onwards to the Rendez-Vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta, racing from Torbay to Sines in Portugal.

The final event was a parade of sail in which all the ships went up the Thames and then back down passing the Royal Naval College, with some crewing the yards, as in the photo above.

Others went out onto the bowsprit to wave at the crowds on either side of the river:

Not all had sails up, but some did, including this caravel, the Vera Cruz:
Having sailed on Zephyr I looked out especially to see it sail by:
And then they were gone, leaving Greenwich with just the one, the Cutty Sark, frozen in its glass sea...

Monday, April 17, 2017

Tall Ship Festival 2017

For some reason I've missed most of the visits of the Tall Ships to London - partly due to busy schedule and partly being off sick. But they were visiting this Easter and everything worked out so managed to get on board one from Woolwich to Greenwich and back.


On the grounds that if you don't ask you don't get a chance I asked if I could steer and so just after the photo above (between the O2 Dome and Greenwich) to just before the Thames Barrier I was at the rather large wheel.

It was rather interesting as the river was busy with other tall ships which had to overtake or steer between, a number of naval vessels heading up river and the usual Thames Clippers zipping up and down river.

It was bit cloudy but that didn't stop it being a fun way to spend an afternoon.

Friday, April 14, 2017

The meaning of the Old Royal Naval College Painted Hall

The amazing Painted Hall at the Old Royal Naval College is full of amazing imagery and on my recent tour some it was explained by our guide. Alas not all was explained (or remembered) so in this post there are some diversions when I had to fill in my own stories.

Lets start with the end wall (above) and have a look at the bottom right where you can see this figure:
This is a self portrait of the artist James Thornhill. There was probably some symbolism or etiquette to explain the hand gesture but my take was he was asking to be paid.

At the centre is King George and to the left of him these children:
These were actually a big political point. The one thing that the royals have to do is have children. Other problems, including going mad, is something the system can work around. Alas the problem with William and Anne was the lack of offspring. Anne in particular had 17 children but sadly none survived.

So when the House of Hanover took over they were keen to demonstrate that this wouldn't be a problem for them.

I suspect that the globe was the standard imperial pretensions - unless it was for the children planning their gap year travels.

This scene was not explained:

I'm going with the story of how a resourceful thief bared her breast to distract the king while stealing his gold stick with jewels in it thing.

Up on the ceiling the east end had a spot of astronomy and astronomers in it. The guide asked why it was that sailors might be interested to know about the movement of the moon and I'm sure you know why to and you'd be welcome to say so in the comments section.

For example there was this figure:

This relates to the Astronomer Royals prediction of a solar eclipse, complete with date and year. It was suggested that this was a bit of a hostage to fortune as if it didn't happen and had been painted on the ceiling it would be visible for ever and ever.

Fortunately it did happen, though the date was actually "wrong" as Britain was using the old Gregorian calendar.

Nearby was this old sailor:
Apparently he was a bit of a trouble maker so the hospital wanted to find him something to keep him occupied for a bit. It was apparently successful - but only for the duration of the sitting, and then he returned to his usual drinking etc.

But its an interesting thought that some of the characters shown in these figures would have been based upon real people that walked the streets of London. So who was this woman with the owl on her head?
Curiously enough while passing the Cutty Sark on my way to the Painted Hall I saw a stand from a local bird sanctuary and they had an owl too.

Greenwich is indeed one place where you can feel connected to the long and rich history of London.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Restoring the Old Royal Naval College Painted Hall

Previously I blogged my first visit to the famous Painted Hall at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich. The reaction was pretty much:

O! M! G!

I can see why they call it the Sistine Chapel of London. The photo above shows just one end of the hall: the ceiling is equally epic. It was painted by James Thornhill at the rather bargain price of "£7000, based on a rate of £1 per square yard for the walls and £3 per square yard for the ceilings".

But alas since completion in 1727 it has had to put up with the "old smoke" and time has not been kind, so parts look a bit like this:

How do I know this? Well it is currently being restored and they are running tours up the scaffolding to have a look up close to the ceiling:

If you follow this link to the old post there's a photo of the ceiling and you can see this figure at the top left, who is Apollo the sun god.

The guide gave a detailed description of the paintings which I've pretty much forgotten but will give it a go in the next post. I might get quite a bit wrong....

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Boats! Boats! Boats! ... on the Thames above Hampton Court Bridge

Rather nice spring weather we've been having and the sailors & kayakers have been out on the Thames.


Thursday, April 06, 2017

Tillerman has gone quiet, but apparently the hits on his blog have gone up.

The lesson is clear - less is more.

So how many hits can a blank post receive?

There was clearly only one way to find out...

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

The 2017 University Boat Race

There's a great atmosphere in Putney on Boat Race day.

Out on the water officials are getting ready - or, by the looks of it, enjoying the sun, checking their social media and having a bit of a feet up rest.

On land there's that all important ceremony: the official Carrying Of The Welly Boots:
 Can't imagine how I didn't manage to see that at earlier races.

There's a friendly spirit all round - even the police boat, best known for their catch-phrase "you're nicked, sunshine" were spotted have a friendly wave to someone or other.
Jolly good. Pimms or bubbly or a good old fashioned pint all round.


Monday, April 03, 2017

The 2017 University Boat Race

 Two quick photos from yesterday's boat race.

In the women's race the Cambridge team (above) was so far ahead of Oxford I couldn't get boat boats in frame at the same time. Just brilliant!

Alas the men's team was a different story:
Much closer and the "wrong" team ahead. It wasn't to be Kevin what won it this year.

So like last year a draw, but the other way round.


Saturday, April 01, 2017

Switching to YouTube


Hi Guys!!

OMG! So FINALLY JP is no longer going to be total lame-ville and moving from Blogger to YouTube!

He's SAYS its because of the quality and story telling of SV Delos, but who's he kidding???!!

It was of course yours truly and my vlogging chums who taught him everything he needs to know. You know, me and Millipede are like SO CLOSE!! I mean, that night of the launch party for the Tiny Girls new single!!! We raved until dawn!! Then AGAIN with the lads from Kurupt FM!!

So we put together a series of videos to tell losers like JP (and this Liam fella) how to do it.

AND YOU CAN TOO!!!

Gotta go - streaming live in five!!!

Luv ya!

Sassi

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Blue Rowers on the Thames

Rowers in light and dark blue, spotted out on the Thames this week. Yes, its that time of year again.

Good luck Cambridge!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Wreck and The White House

Zdravstvuj!

Look, no ever said "The White House". Or "and". What someone said was there was this wrecked boat and in the background a building which was white.

But it turned out there was a wreck and a white house - everyone knows that! So don't listen to those false facts or fake news! What I, Boris Staysail, say is true, is true - I have this instinct - and I'm the one writing this so it must be right and you're the fictional one not me!!

If you don't understand you're sad, so sad.

Do svidaniya!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Book review: "A Race Too Far" by Chris Eakin

Of all offshore sailing races, none can compare to the 1968 Golden Globe. To this day it fascinates and is the subject of this great book by Chris Eakin, A Race Too Far.

Its a story that has everything: the place in the record books for the first single handed sail around the world, the battle with the elements, boats that literally fell apart in storms, a great victory, a broken man cheating and lying.... so much drama, so many great characters.

And its been the subject of a series of books, from participants like Robin Knox-Johnston's A World of My Own and Bernard Moitessier's The Long Way to writers like Peter Nichols's A Voyage for Madmen.

At the London Boat Show I met Chris Eakin and picked up a copy of his book, A Race Too Far.

I did wonder what more there was to say about this race, and it turns out quite a bit. For the story didn't end when Knox-Johnston stepped ashore: the participants and their families still live under the shadow of the events of 1968/69.

I really enjoyed this book and its very well written and researched. He tracks down the survivors of the race and some close relatives to competitors for their reflections and memories. These were not always easy given the inevitable damage that comes from the suicide of Crowhurst, the inexplicable death of Tetley and the abandonment of his family by Moitessier.

As you'd expect Knox-Johnston comes across as the most rooted, (distressingly) normal and supportive of the families of other competitors. He also seems to have moved on the most and least likely to dwell on the past (apart from correcting the niggles that Moitessier might have got their first).

Strongly recommended, a worthy addition to the literature about this great race.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Boat work, Richmond

It was a lovely spring day yesterday, and a walk along the Thames by Richmond saw many busy either out on the water or preparing for the year ahead.

There were also lots of men walking around in sort of skirts, but I have a feeling they didn't enjoy the afternoon so much.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Before "All is lost"

I missed seeing "All is lost" at the cinema but caught it on TV earlier this year. It's a really good film and Robert Redford is brilliant. 

However like many sailors I found there were also some issues. I couldn't work out why there was no waterproof handheld VHS or GPS, why no EPIRB, why he seemed so unfamiliar with a sextant, why a container can get stuck in the side of a yacht in a calm (and why a sea anchor helps release it), why not use the official Mayday wording, the poor heavy weather technique... and so on.

But since then I've worked out a back-story that makes it all fit together, so here goes:


The Man wasn't the owner or skipper. The Yacht Owner (again, no name) was a retiree who lived in South Africa and was sailing round the world. He (probably a he, but could be a she) left Cape Town some years ago, heading west and had reached south-east Asia.

It was beginning to be a bit of struggle and his health wasn't great. So he got in touch with an old sailing friend, The Man, to see if he could help crew for the final legs back home.

Now The Man was a keen sailor, but not yachts, and not offshore. He sailed dinghies - maybe Lasers or Sunfishes, now moving on to Aeros, possibly on the east coast of the USA. But he was up for a challenge so booked his flight  and flew out to join the Yacht Owner.

The first leg was great. It was classic offshore ocean sailing, downwind or reaching, lovely clear nights, perfect anchorages, and it gave The Man a sense that offshore was wonderful and not as hard as he feared: it gave him a false sense of security.

Then disasters struck. They'd reached the last port of call before "All is lost" and the Yacht Owner's health was hit hard. Maybe the big C, a stroke or possibly the heart, but he had to have an emergency medivac home.

So The Man is in charge of his friend's yacht, in a strange port. But the visa is about to run out, and he has to leave, but he is unsure what to do. His friend is in a hospital back in South Africa and unable to make decisions.

One night The Man is lying on his bunk on the yacht, rocking gently at anchor, wondering between two paths of action. He could leave the boat there and fly home or he could sail the final leg as planned, from the last port of call to Cape Town, but by himself.

Then then is a bang outside and invaders on deck then in the cabin! An armed gang of robbers bursts in with guns and knives, grabbing what they can. They take the waterproof laptop, the handheld GPS, VHF and EPIRB and are about to rummage about (and find the old rubbish laptop) when a passing boat spooks them and they run, leaving The Man scared and trembling.

He fears that if he leaves the yacht there it will be burgled again or wrecked. How much better, he thinks, if he can save the boat for Yacht Owner and bring it safely back to Cape Town. Surely it would help his friend and assist his recovery to know that his yacht is safe in the habour nearby.

And the last leg wasn't so bad: he could do that by himself, he, after all, knows a thing or two about sailing.

The Man just wants to do the right thing: so he lets slip the lines and heads out.

What could possibly go wrong?


Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Art of Fiji at the Sainsbury Centre

All sailors must be impressed by the skills of the people of Micronesia,  Melanesia and Polynesia in crossing the vast Pacific. They combined expertise in boat building with navigation to cross literally thousands of miles of open water. The Marshall Islands chart was one of my highlights of the recent British Library map exhibition.

So I was intrigued to hear of an exhibition of "Fiji: Art & Life in the Pacific" and, grabbing a book to read on the train, headed up to Norwich and the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts.

Alas most of the exhibition was a no-photography zone apart from the two items at ground level, in particular the boat above and the matting below:
The exhibition notes said this about the boat:

A highlight is a beautiful, specially commissioned, eight metre-long double-hulled sailing canoe that has been built in Fiji and shipped to Norwich for display. Made entirely of wood and coir cord, with no metal components, the canoe results from a project to encourage canoe-building skills and is a small version of the great 30-metre-long vessels of the 19th century, the biggest canoes ever built.

You can see more of the exhibition in the video they produced by clicking here (they have switched off embedding). When I went there was no dancing, and I also missed the Queen who dropped in to have a look, arriving by helicopter from nearby Sandringham according to my taxi driver.

There was also a video that showed these outrigger sailing canoes racing in Suva harbour which was fascinating as they can sail in either direction so tacking / gybing involve moving the sail physically from one end of the boat to the other while the steering oar goes vice versa.

Very interesting and rather at treat to see all this art together given how away Fiji is from the UK.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Removing the Wandle Half-Tide Weir

Recently I visited a bit of marine engineering that combined my interest in the rivers of London with the famous Thames Tideway Tunnel.

Where the Wandle River meets the Thames there has been for many years a half-tide weir. I'd been puzzled as to quite why, though I remember it did create a rather nice waterfall at low water:
I've got to know the Wandle a bit by walking up it and also kayaking down it: its a pretty little chalk river with (apparently) quite good wildlife, though it was always let down a bit by the mess where it meets the Thames.

But now work is underway to improve it and it all relates to the famous Thames Tideway Tunnel aka the "super-sewer". This is being built under the Thames to cope with the requirements of a London that expanded more than a little since the Victorians, in particular Bazelgette, built the sewage network including the wonderful Crossness Pumping Station.

As part of the project the Wandle half-tide weir is being demolished and I had a chance to visit the works barge and see how its going. The two aims are to improve the environment and allow lighters to be brought into where one of the access tunnels to the super-sewer is being dug, so that extracted soil can be barged away rather than clogging up the roads.

The environmental gains should be extensive, as there's a lot of silting and the mud contains nasty hydrocarbons, rather than nice gravel to allow trout to lay their eggs and eels to flourish. So hopefully both will become more common and that must be a good thing.

The demolition is being undertaken in various stages: firstly dredging to get back to the 1970s level of the river, then the concrete steps (above either side) are being drilled out (as per photo at top), then the weir plates removed, then the top of the weir sides leaving just the metal pilings. These are then cut off using divers, leaving a river flowing naturally.

As to why the weir is there in the first place? Well apparently there was talk of a marina a bit like Chelsea Marina but after the weir was put in place there was the big crash of 1987 and so money ran out and it was never followed up.

So it started to fade and decay, leaving the area where the Wandle meets the Thames in sore need of a little TLC.

There's also talk of the river bank being upgraded to be part of the Thames river-side walk, so hopefully in a few years all this area will be looking much healthier.

Who knows, maybe seals will be visiting this stretch of the Thames more often in the future:
The team from Land & Water have spotted a couple of seals, many cormorants and herons, trout and elvers plus was visited by an urban fox (of course).

Thanks to Land & Water for the highly informative tour.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Inside St Pancras Lock

There are miles and miles of canals in London and my hikes have only touched a fraction of them.

When walking along them there's always a feeling of not-being in London, of a culture and way of life very different from the rapid pace of the big city. On the tube woe behold anyone standing on the left of the escalator and the true Londoner is the one muttering "come on, come on, come on!" at the visitor holding up the flow.

Narrow boaters don't seem to feel that urgency, only too happy to amble and dawdle (preferably over a real ale), so there could be expected to be a bit of a culture clash when the Canal and River Trust did an open day on the Regents Canal by St Pancras. The focus was on the restoration of the St Pancras Lock, built in 1819, and there were opportunities to go down for a look inside:
It was quite impressive to see brick-work that must be almost 200 years old in a lock that is still in use.

There were actors in period costume which did rather stand out given that Kings Cross / St. Pancras is one of the most recently developed parts of London and across the bridge behind flew Eurostar trains on their way to Paris or Brussels:
As the Eurostars zoomed by they would have been able to see the narrow boats in the nearby basin:
I got a voucher for a free trip on one but had just missed the boat (literally) and faced with a wait decided I was more of a Londoner (come on! come on! come on!) than narrow boater, so headed off.

It wasn't like I hadn't had a trip on a narrow boat down the Regent's Canal before.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Down Down Street Tube

When at the British Library exhibition, I spotted this old tube map and these are often fascinating in showing the changes to the network, both in the gaps where lines should be which were created since then, but also stations shown that have closed.

There's a certain mystery about abandoned tube stations and if you know when to look out of carriage windows you can sometimes spot them - or at least where they once were.

If you look at the yellow line above in the middle there is Down Street which is one of the most famous abandoned station as it was used as a bomb shelter during WW2 by the Railway Executive Committee and none other than Winston Churchill.

This elevated platform was where the typing pool used to be:
You can still see remnants from those days, when people used to live and work down here for weeks on end, with bathrooms and a telephone exchange:

Lighting wasn't great so often we had to use torches:
Tube trains were continually going by and when they did all torches had to be switched off so as not to distract the drivers and then it was pitch black indeed.

It was a very memorable trip, and one of the guides would be well-known to those that follow the Londonist YouTube channel who in this series gives more information about these old tube stations.