Saturday, October 10, 2020

The Hammersmith Ferry, DHL riverboat and Thames Clipper PIRATE


I've been too busy to post recently, but here are three stories about the river Thames in London from the last few weeks.

1. New Ferry at Hammersmith Bridge

The arguments about who pays to fix Hammersmith Bridge (which might be falling down, as posted earlier) roll on with no resolution in sight. But the lack of access to the other side of the Thames is driving local residents crazy, so there are now proposals for a ferry by Hammersmith Bridge run by Transport for London (TfL).

This would require work to get the moorings etc. installed so it won't be up and running until at least the new year... just in time for another Ferries of London project, maybe.

See the Evening Standard article here.

2. DHL take to the Thames

The courier service DHL have recently launched a service delivering parcels via the Thames. Their web site says:

“With traffic and poor air quality becoming an increasing problem in urban areas like London, we’re committed to finding a better blend of transport. This new and unique service, combining electric vehicles, riverboat and last-mile bikes creates fast and efficient access across the capital.

It did make me wonder if by "riverboat" they mean "boat" (above), but the idea is a good one if it reduces traffic and emissions.

3. Thames Clipper Pirate

A little early for talk-like-a-pirate day, there was this great story of a man stealing a Thames Clipper and going for a joy-ride on the Thames - at 3 in the morning. The police were called and, with blue lights flashing, laid chase to the pirate who refused to stop, so they had to board and take back control.

But the Thames Clipper pirate managed to get all the way from Trinity Wharf to Tower Bridge, about four miles of the river, before being captured!

See this article in the Evening Standard and this in the Independent.

Apparently Thames Clippers are now called Uber Boats, but this is just branding. You can't order a Thames Clipper like you can an Uber, but it has led to a lot of jokes about U-boats being spotted on the Thames.

Alas I have no photos of the excitement, so here are some from the archives:


Friday, August 14, 2020

Hammersmith Bridge closes the Thames

 Back in 2019, Hammersmith Bridge was closed to traffic due to cracks being found in its cast iron casing, but pedestrians and bikes could still use it. Indeed, during lock-down it was nice to take the daily exercise as a loop crossing the Thames over this bridge:

But this week the bridge has been closed even to pedestrians and cyclists. 

And its not just traffic crossing the bridge, the PLA has closed the river to all vessels at Hammersmith Bridge!

The problem is the recent heatwave we've had in London has made cracks in the bridge worse and there's a real concern about it's integrity. In other words, it might fall down:

Hammersmith Bridge is falling down,

Falling down, falling down.

Hammersmith Bridge is falling down,

My fair lady

Oh dear!

I hope they quickly manage to stabilise the cracks as this is a lovely bridge, and we can't have an Oxford - Cambridge boat race without the ability for boats to go underneath:

The other problem is that London needs its bridges to connect north and south London and a lot of local communities are finding this a real issue.

The difficulty is it has been estimated to cost £120 million to fix - and that was before the cracks got bigger. And of course the economy has sort of tanked recently.

2020 eh?


Update 1: British Rowing is very concerned about this

Update 2: FAQ from the PLA here

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Photography Post: Going Full Frame


I've just checked outside to see if I can see any flying pigs or the Loch Ness monster swimming up the Thames, for the long rumoured, near-mythical Sony A7Siii has finally been launched.

There have been so many years of speculation about it that some abandoned all hope of ever seeing this video focused full-frame camera. And yet here it is

Sony is saying it "Exceeds Expectations" but I thought that was a Harry Potter thing.

Canon have also released their R5 and R6, so its time for another photography post, this time about moving up to full-frame myself. My last post on the subject ended with this:

Maybe one day I'll go full frame, but don't feel you have to. Focus on composition and think about what lenses you need.

Later that year I thought I ought to at least find out what I was missing, so decided to rent out a Sony A7iii and 24-105 f/4 lens for the weekend. 

It was a good weekend to choose, as manage to fit in:
  • Trooping the colour (below, maybe the last time we'll see these ex-Royals in a Royal coach)
  • Hot air balloons over London
  • Dale Chihuly's glass sculptures at Kew Gardens

And I was rather impressed. Images were noticeably sharper than the APSC equivalent.

The hire shop (Wex Photo Video) had this deal by which if you later bought the gear, they'd refund the hire cost, and so I splashed out and bought that camera and lens. I rounded out my gear collection with two primes including the stunning 24mm f1.4.

Since then I've taken it on my travels (how very 2019) and even lugged it up Mount Sinai to watch the sunrise (where I became very aware how much heavier it was):


But I don't always take the A7iii. Recently I cycled into central London and took the A6500 as it was a lot more convenient - smaller and lighter. However its good to have the option of switching to the main camera when want to take the best possible photo. 

One benefit about the Sony system is that the full frame A7x and smaller APSC A6xxx use the same E-mount for their lenses, so you can easily switch between the two. In particular, putting a long zoom lens like the 70-300mm on the APSC A6500 effectively extends its reach so it acts like a 105 - 450mm lens.

Not that I'm tempted to get the A7Siii as I'm more a still photographer than videographer, though there are some lenses I have my eyes on.

But I'm not spending just yet. I tend to buy when I have a reason - such as an interesting trip - but because of covid-19 there doesn't seem much chance of that this year.

Maybe in 2021 - though who knows what tech will be available then!


Friday, June 26, 2020

Returning to messing about



London is reawakening. The Thames is getting busier, parks are packed with picnickers and the sun is out.

Alas its not all good: concert halls remain empty while roads are filling not with people friendly bikes and microvehicles but noisy polluting cars. Air quality is reverting to pre-lockdown poor levels.

It might even be possible to go sailing again - if work, work, work (I am triple loaded at the moment) doesn't get in the way.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

The Thames Partially Re-opens


As of today, the Thames is open yet again for recreational activity, subject to restrictions as described in the PLA Notice to Mariners No.9 of 2020, extract above, full text here.

The river has been wonderfully quiet recently, allowing wildlife to flourish:


Though during the lock-down it hasn't been entirely empty of recreational users, as have spotted the odd kayak, rowing boat, canoe or stand-up paddle board out there.

But the policing has been sensitive rather than heavy-handed. Indeed here there seems to be more interest in taking a photo than names and addresses:


Maybe things are turning a corner, for a future where R < 1. Or, as a pirate would say, where Rrrrrr  < 1!

Fingers crossed.


Monday, April 13, 2020

Talk to Sailors!


There's an interesting article in the Times today about research into the Viking Tune ship, above, in the Oslo Museum (as visited on my way up to Svalbard).

Apparently recently it has been identified was an especially fast vessel, with significantly larger rig than would be expected for its length, and particularly sea-worthy. However, as the article puts it:

Norwegian archaeologists had missed the significance of the boat because “they didn’t actually talk to people who knew boats and ships”. In contrast, [Dr Paasche] sails and is in touch with traditional Norwegian boatbuilders.

They should have talked to the sailors!

I have thought that before. Archaeologists seem obsessed in seeing religious significance in everything - no doubt future archaeologists will write articles about the religions of London involving worshipping of the gods Arsenal, Chelsea, Fulham and all.

So when they find evidence of a causeway near Vauxhall into the Thames of course its a religious site. The fact that the location is the highest point that the Thames was tidal (at the time) and hence could alternatively be a trading site, where boats would be able to take produce up and down is ignored.

The role of trade in driving humanities history of the oceans is the subject of the book "The Boundless Sea" by David Abulafia which is in my to-read pile of books, though it is dauntingly fat, heavy, long (over a 1,000 pages) and uses a small font.

Archaeologists aren't the only ones who don't seem to get sailing. I remember seeing this painting of a wave by August Strindberg at the Tate Exhibition on that artist:


In the blub around this painting, called "The Wave" (obv.) the museum described the fear the wave brings.

But to me it reminds me of sailing offshore where the wave, if coming from astern, means in a few seconds time the yacht will be surfing down its edge. So the emotions are (also) anticipation and excitement at the thrill to come.

Given one of the Strindberg's themes is the creative process, those emotions are as important if not more so than fear.

I'm guessing the museum curators are not sailors, and have not surfed a yacht down waves like those.
But Strindberg would have, as he travelled a lot by boat across the Stockholm archipelago.

The Tate too should have talked to some sailors.

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.

Fascinating!

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!!