Friday, December 28, 2007

After Christmas

This is Santa's dirty little secret, this is the post-Christmas boat. Barges loaded with empty containers waiting their turn to dock at London's Western Riverside Waste Authority off Smugglers Way (honest, that is its address).

Empty containers ready to be filled with used wrapping paper, Christmas card envelopes, gift labels, tinsel, present boxes, wrapping ribbon, used rolls of sellotape, inkless pens, broken daleks, empty boxes, pages containing completed or not completed lists, plastic bags from Sainsburies, Tescos, Waistrose, Selfridges and a thousand other shops, uneated roast potatos, sprouts, carrots, the carcass of the turkey, plastic bags used to hold the veg, string bags to hold the clementines, empty bottles of cranberry and red current jelly, used batteries, batteries that have some life in them but what the hell, the plastic bowl the Christmas pudding came in, empty milk bottles, juice bottles, wine bottles, champagne bottles, beer bottles and tins, cream bottles, brandy butter, used napkins, dead candles, corks, unwanted presents, sofas to be replaced in the sales, stale ends of bread, the remains of salad that made everyone feel a bit queasy, that quiche (don't ask!), receipts (so tough if you wanted to return or change that present you already have/didn't want/doesn't fit), newspapers, the old razer now replaced with a new one, shirts absolutely ruined, broken plates, bowls, glasses, shattered Christmas tree decorations, burnt gravy, toast that no wanted, empty marmalade jar, several thousand clementine and banana skins, those little plastic envelopes washing machine and dish washer tablets come in, empty deodorant sprays, shower gel bottles, last year's phone, a printer no one knows how it works and a cable that no one knows what its used for, that old router that isn't fast enough any more, cat and dog food tins, empty bags of crisps (chips), stale biscuits and buns, couple of Christmas cards got the message wrong so had to start all over again, piles of the usual junk mail, empty tubes of pringles, silver and red foil that was around a chocolate Santa, empty (alas) boxes of chocolates, turkish delight, nuts, figs, tin foil splattered in Turkey fat, ..........

Give the Earth a year long Christmas present - and recycle!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Crisis in Pakistan

I try and avoid politics on this blog (as it leads to flames which are best left in fire places) but can't ignore the news from Pakistan.

Having visited Karachi in the autumn I've followed with interest what happens in this turbulent land, and the assassination of Benazir Bhutto is a tragedy not just for her family but the country.

There was mixed views from those I talked to about her - some attended the welcome back rally (where those bombs killed so many) while others remembered how she left under a cloud of corruption.

But all will have been appalled by this outrageous act of violence. Where will Pakistan go in 2008? What will happen to the elections?

They are entering turbulent times and can only hope they all weather it to calmer water in 2008.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

White Christmas in the London Fog

Fog not snow turned London white today. A thick dense whiteness sat all day on all the houses, offices, shops, roads, rivers, bridges, towers and palaces of this old and great town.

It was rather wonderfully atmospheric. Biking back from delivering presents to my two godsons over in Chiswick, people would be shadows that appear out of the murk, Hammersmith Bridge materialised glowing lights followed much later by the hidden iron work.

The Thames path was deserted. It felt like being a kid again, biking home through country lanes, with the only sounds the geese of the wetland centre and distant church bells.

Happy Christmas everyone!

ps as I'm sure to have lost the bet with Turinas I propose to give the necessary donation to Shelter, as it must be horrid to be homeless over Christmas when its so cold - unless he has another suggestion!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Piracy hits Liverpool

One of the great maritime cities in Britain, Liverpool, has suffered the first act of attempted piracy in nearly 200 years.

No this is not some April fool, but yes it is a bit of a stretch to really call it piracy. As you can read here in an article in the sensational soar away Sun one of the less than competent scousers was caught and the other made off with nothing.

So less blood or victory and much more of a hot-water bottle type of pirate!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Circumnavigating: power vs sail

The time is getting close for the start of the Earthrace's attempt to beat the world record for racing around the world under power. According to this story they need to break the current time of 74 days 23 hours and 53 minutes set by Cable and Wireless Adventurer in 1998.

I've previously posted that the eco-benefits of biofuels are to say the least dubious, but at least it seemed they would be the fastest round. Now that is in doubt - as it could well be that sail remains faster than power.

For Ellen's time of around 71 days is quicker than C&W Adventurers's, and her record is currently being smashed by Francis Joyon on IDEC.

Look at his latest position from their web site:

Joyon is thousands of miles ahead of Ellen - nearly a week ahead. And his trip is truly the eco-friendly voyage, using not just wind for power but also solar panels for power.

This is sensational sailing - and he is alone, not able to go off watch like the crew of Earthrace.

Multi-hulls maybe out of the Olympics but there are showing their worth down in the southern oceans.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Xmas Lists

I like to read the FT on Saturday morning, and today in the Mrs Moneypenny column I read how some of her readers sent her some dressing gowns.

Now that is an interesting idea - readers of a column sending its writer some presents!

Of courses there's an interesting ethical issue here about undue influence and editorial neutrality.

So I'm glad (or sorry) to reassure you that this blog hasn't received any gifts from any of its readers.

However if you are just about to head out into the cold to get JP something my eye has been caught time and time again by the lines of the Class 40 yachts. The picture above is of the yacht Friends of the Earth which was owned by my friend Jonathan but he is alas selling it so no chance for a spin. There's a lovely piece in this months Yachting World about sailing them and they look an absolute blast.

Really, really wouldn't say no!

Ok - a bit ambitious and I'd happily settle for this calender from Sail 4 Cancer:
Some lovely photos and for a good cause :)

Ouzo Again

Back again to the story of the loss of the Ouzo and its crew (above).

I read this article on the BBC web site that one of the defence arguments for the master of the Pride of Bilbao was that there was a "close encounter with a yacht, but .. it was not Ouzo and that the boat sailed away safely".

So we're meant to believe there was another close encounter on the same night with a similar boat that was not reported despite the deaths and hubbub of the story in the news?

Well its possible - like its possible the Harry Potter film I'm watching now is a documentary.

Its just I don't believe it.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Ouzo Verdict

The verdict came out today on role of the crew of the Pride of Bilbao in the loss of the Ouzo - and it was not guilty. This was despite the fact that the yacht was clearly within at most a couple of feet of the ferry with its walls of steel and swamping wash.

Of course it is necessary to prove beyond reasonable doubt to find someone guilty, and those high standards are there to ensure that the innocent do not suffer, and so it is right that if there was such doubt that the verdict can only be, as it was, not guilty.

However what I don't understand is the figure above (taken from the BBC web site) which shows the defence's claim that the sinking could be due to the tanker Crescent Beaune and happened at 01:40 after the encounter with the ferry at 0107 but further back towards port.

Maybe the figure is wrong, but the only way the Ouzo could have been at that position would have been if it had been returning to port, which would only be plausible if it had been damaged in its encounter with the Pride of Bilbao.

So is he defence's argument that though they damaged the Ouzo in a close encounter and didn't stop to assist, that is ok as the yacht would have been still afloat? Which to me would be admitting to poor seamanship even if not manslaughter.

Does anyone know any more details of the arguments other than this from the BBC site?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Solo Transat for Charity

I was hoping to catch up with an old sailing friend called Tristan at or around the Earl's Court Boat Show, but alas not a pip from him.

Turns out he has probably the best excuse ever - he's just set off to sail across the Atlantic single handed to raise awareness for prostrate cancer. This is the latest of a series of expeditions, most recently his singled handed flight across the Atlantic.

So if (as we all hope) he makes it across the Atlantic he will be one of the few people to have both sailed and flown across. Rather worryingly one of those known to have done this was Steve Fossett, missing since 3rd September. And also rather worryingly there have been number of emergencies on the ARC.

My thoughts will certainly be with him and remembering when we first met - which was actually doing the ARC back in 2003. On those many hours on watch we'd chat about everything from philosophy to Frasier. I even remember as we sailed the very waters that he now sails alone how he talked about coming back, maybe skippering a boat.

So well done Tristan for going for it and fingers firmly crossed for a safe crossing.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Earls Court Boat Show Update

All week I've been getting a steady stream of emails from various yachting companies and sailing schools I've signed up to over the years. Those exhibiting at Earls Court above (*) are joining the push for punters using two-for-one or even free tickets.

They've also got links to various clips of highlights of the boat show over at Sail TV - you can watch by clicking here.

If you want to go and see this for yourself my advice would be to contact any company that's exhibiting and see if there are any of those free tickets left.

(*) As you might notice this photo of Earls Court is not actually during the boat show but that of a small but perfectly formed singer from down under. Unfortunately the ECBS web site's photos are only available in a format that's even smaller than she is!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Boat Show Shocker

This is what the Earls Court Boat Show looked like this afternoon. Empty.

The organisers were promising exhibitors 200,000 visitors, but attendance on the first day was just 900.

Nine hundred people, all day. What will it be like tomorrow, Monday, when most people are back at work? I hope those manning the stands have books to read and the Wifi works.

Its a shame as it could be a good boat show. There's the indoor marinas, there's lots of boats and exhibitors, bars, bands, massages, Santa abseiling down from the ceiling, and all the usual suspects exhibitors.

Plus there's a couple of specials. There's the Gypsy Moth (which won't be at Excel):

There was the Top Gear amphibious car made out of a converted Triumph:

Then there was the James Caird, that Shackleton sailed across the wilds of the Southern Ocean after Endurance was crushed by the pack ice:

But the famous atmosphere of Earls Court was dead. The champagne bar (below) was deserted, as were half the other bars and stands. If you want to see a boat or talk to an exhibitor then there is no queues anywhere. I was the only non UKSA staff on the Gypsy Moth

After the show closed the organisers got the exhibitors together with an open bar upstairs on the second floor. Having manned the Blue Spirit Yachting - recommended for all your yachting needs - stand for all of 10 minutes (and almost sold a day skipper course in that time) I went along.

The organisers were upbeat, talking about quality rather than quantity, and how this was the best attended of any new exhibition. But there was no doubt that the issue of "foot-falls" was at the top of everyones mind. Many of those exhibiting are small companies and such poor returns will hurt them hard.

But there are many that want this to succeed. Even if Excel has the copyrights and trademarks of "The London Boat Show" many yearn for the days when the cosy halls of Earls Court sheltered the boaties of Britain during the winter.

If you're in London, go. There's lots to see and no danger of crowds or queues. I think the exhibitors will be very glad to see you!