Friday, April 03, 2020

The serene Thames

The Thames is serene and quiet. Water is flat and reflections are sharp. The only sounds are the cries of seagulls and squawks of coots.

Due to the lock-down, all sorts of traffic on the tidal Thames in London has been cancelled. There are no Thames Clippers, zooming up and down, the Thames Tideway Tunnel has stopped drilling (at least in my local site) and pleasure boats are recommended not to venture out (see PLA advice above).

I have seen a couple of kayakers but I've noticed they have been stopped by the PLA. Not sure what has been said (too far away) but I'm guessing its on the lines of the message above: don't put yourself or the lifeboat crews at risk.

This is really not a good time to require a trip to A&E.

Monday, March 16, 2020

A weird boat for these weird days

Just spotted on the Thames. It's the Sea Shepherd II, some sort of Viking rock band stage boat - what do you make of it?

Stay safe, everyone.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Boats! Boats! Boats! ... in Bristol

Bristol was in the news today as Greta Thunberg was leading one of her demos to try and get those politicians to actually do something about global warming.

I was recently in Bristol myself, and had planned to visit Isambard Kingdom Brunel's famous SS Great Britain but alas it was just closing as I arrived. It was also a rather cold, wet and windy day, so I got the next train back to London.

But there were lots of boats to look at so I'm already planning a return some time.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Storm Dennis and the Thames

Recently the UK has been hit by a series of storms, most recently Storm Dennis, and the Thames has not be unaffected.

On several days the Thames Barrier had to be closed to prevent storm surges and high tide flooding London. Even so, a BMW Z4 floated away from Putney Embankment, later found full of nasty brown water.

There also have been casualties amongst the trees, include the one above, rescued after floating down river. It could have been a danger to navigation so was extracted by the PLA and towed up river. One of the branches broke off:

But it was retrieved and also taken upriver:

Hopefully the next few weeks will be a little calmer.

Monday, January 27, 2020

The traditional dhow builders of Oman

I've just got back from Oman, which is a great country to visit.

One of the things I managed to do is drive from Muscat down to Sur and visit the last remaining boat yard in Oman. Here they use traditional methods to build the classic dhows.

No computer design used here, its all from memory and craft experience, with hand tools employed:

They also build models (which I did wonder if they use to test or document designs) and there's a gift shop where they sell things such as the classic ship-in-a-bottle:

Out in the creek there are many examples of the boats created locally:

Oman has a long tradition of sailing across the Indian Ocean, trading with India and East Africa. Its possible that the legendary Sinbad was an Omani sailor.

The oldest ocean going dhow is the Fatah al Khair (The Triumph of Good) which has been preserved for history:

There is probably a lot more I could say, but the Fatah al Khair site was closed (they are working on new maritime museum for which it will be the star attraction) and no one at the boat-building site seemed to speak English. Anyhow, try this and this blog posts for a bit more info.


Sunday, January 05, 2020

Book Review: A short history of seafaring by Brian Lavery

This book does what it says on the tin: give a short history of seafaring. It's broken down into age, such as:

  1. The first ocean sailors
  2. The age of exploration
  3. etc.

and then within each section are a couple of pages of topics within that age, such as (for the first):

  • Exploring the Pacific
  • Seafaring in the Mediterranean
  • etc.

I'd be surprised if you know all about all these topics - I certainly learnt a lot. The bite sized approach means its a good book to dip into and put down. Sometimes it was frustrating that the page limit per topic resulted in missed details or limited the description to that from a single observer. Also, the maps  / charts for each ocean were slotted into specific ages but contained events from all ages which was a bit distracting.

But overall enjoyed it and would be happy to recommend it.

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Happy New Year!

Happy 2020 everyone!

This is the view from Mount Sinai just before dawn, back in November

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Happy Christmas!!

Right, its Christmas Day, its sunny, lets go for a walk! We'll just walk along the Thames Path, what can possibly go wrong..... oh....

Well Putney maybe flooded but it looks pretty:

Maybe its a sign to go back and check how the roast is doing:

That looks ok!

Time to press on & make the trimmings....

Ah! That's good!

Now put one's feet up (the washing up can wait) and watch The Queen:

Fab job, your Maj! Seriously, who thumb's down The Queen?

BTW, if you want something magic to watch this Christmas, you must see the absolutely brilliant and lyrical The Last Igloo:

Partially filmed in Tasiilaq, which I remember visiting.

Happy Christmas everyone!!

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Great River Race 2019 - The JP Blog Awards!

Today hundreds of rowing boats were seen on the Thames taking part in the 2019 Great River Race. Apparently there were up to 330 entries from all over the world rowing 21.6 miles from Millwall Riverside in Docklands up to Ham House, Richmond - see the official web site here.

Yet again JP supported by ol' Buff Staysail and Sassy Tweet were on Putney Bridge to watch the teams go by and award the JP BLOG AWARDS!!!

First up was BEST BOAT NAME, which was won by the one above - bravo! Great name!!

The next award was for BEST BOAT BUNTING, and this entrant was a clear winner:

There was another clear winner in the BEST FLAG award which literally put the others in the shade:

The most closely fought award was the one for the BEST COSTUME. This is always a tough to judge and Sassy agonised for ages (more abetted than aided by Buff) and in the end decided that the following ARE ALL WINNERS:

The one on the right here:

Buff wanted to choose the award for the HOTTEST ROWER but a committee meeting was held and it was decided to instead allow him to offer the award for the BEST T-SHIRT which accordingly went to this one:

Moving on quickly we have the awards for the BEST STEERING POSITION and BEST DRAGON DRUM:

Finally we have two other closely fought categories. Let me say, the judges argued strongly about this one but in the end Sassy had her way in the SOCIAL MEDIA AWARDS:

Runners up, to those live Tweeting or Instagraming the event:

But the winner went to the boat recording the whole show using an Insta360 - nice!

The final award is an all time classic, namely the BEST PIRATE BOAT award.

The runner up was this one:

Classic! Alas they were beaten by this winning entrant which HAD A CANNON IN THE BOW:

Great show!!

In fact, congratulations to all entrants for you are all winners: rowing all that way is a real achievement!

It was also a great spectacle so thanks to all those like the PLA & RNLI that help arrange and organise this. Plus the weather was for once just lovely.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Save the Chalk Streams of England!

The number one top priority of our age must be the environment. We see the heroic efforts of the likes of Greta Thunberg to push reluctant leaders to doing the right thing at a time when the Greenland ice cap is melting and the Amazon burns.

But there is an environmental problem much closer to home that needs attention too, namely our chalk streams. Of the 210 known globally, the vast majority of them, 160 in total, are in England. They represent a unique and precious environment.

Yet the vast majority of them are in poor state due to water extraction and pollution, typically sewage but also agricultural waste. These include the Cam (above) and the Nailbourne (Little Stour). This map from a report by the WWF shows the state of the rivers at the time it was written:

Since then things have only got worse, and a more recent version of this map can be found here. This shouldn't happen as the Environment Agency exists to manage our rivers - a task for which it has clearly failed.

One pushing for change is Feargal Sharkey, once of the Undertones, who is now campaigning on behalf of these lovely rivers, and you can follow him on Twitter here.

A good summary of the problem can be found in this article in the Observer.

Save our Chalk Streams!!

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Buff sells Greenland!

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

You might be wondering why ol' Buff has been off the radar! Well its simple - I've been working for the Trumps!

That's right, the top man, Mr T himself in Washington DC has recruited Buff Staysail into his team. Buff is head of strategic thinking and advanced planning and I'm sure you can tell how things have been turned around by checking out Mr. T's improved hair-piece!!

He recently sent me down to his Florida golf course to check some paper-work and report back. This insurance bozo (yawn) went on and on about how global warming was raising sea levels and so the flood premium was going up.

"Soon, with Greenland melting" said the suit "half of Florida will be underwater.  But then it will be so hot everyone will have moved north anyhow."

I've had a crack at this golf lark and let me tell you, its tough enough getting out of the sand castles (Ed: is that right?) but if the green is under water your's truly will be rightly stuffed.

So I told the boss his golf courses were about to be flooded due to Greenland global warming and he was devastated.

"Best golf club ever" he said. "Flooding would be SO SAD!!"

He munched on his burger and fired off some tweets.

Then he perked up.

"So this Greenland place, its up north, it'll be cleared of all that ice, it won't get too hot. Lets buy it and create the new Presidential Golf Course".


And it's the family way - buy property on the up, early. And the best way to make Greenland valuable is to burn lots of oil and coal, kick climate change into gear, then clean up when the ice melts and its coastline becomes water-front property heaven!

With Buff in charge of strategy, what can possibly go wrong!!

This is Buff Staysail, over and out!!

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Book Review: The Way to the Sea by Caroline Crampton

I've previously reviewed "Estuary" by Rachel Lichtenstein and had what is best described as a mixed response. One of the problems about that book was Lichenstein clearly didn't actually like being out on the water, which was a bit of a handicap given the subject involved. There was also a relaxed attitude to historical facts which I found frustrating.

But the Thames Estuary is a topic that clearly deserves a book, and in "The Way to the Sea" Caroline Crampton has nailed it. For one thing, Crampton is totally at ease out on the waters that she has been sailing in the family yacht since she was a little girl.

The book is also a story of her family and her parents arrival by yacht to London, first mooring in St. Katharine Dock. Many of my favourite topics are covered, from Bazalgette's sewers and the wonders of the Crossness Pumping Station to the London Stones and the Dickensian landscape around them.

There were even some odd coincidences, such as how her parents have sailed a Contessa 32 and sailed up to the Arctic Circle.

Well written and illustrated, flowing smoothly as the river it describes, this is highly recommended read for anyone interested in the Thames, its environment and history, from the source to the invisible and undefinable point where it is transformed into the sea.