Monday, April 29, 2013

Warsash Spring Series 2013 Photos

Some photos taken while out with Rick Tomlinson on his RIB on Saturday. Great fun even with the odd hail shower.

It was the Warsash Spring Series, and a  lots of good racing with IRC classes 1 - 4 plus some Js. Couple of broaches, halyards lost, marks hit and even a minor collision.

More photos here and here

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Learning sailing photography from a master

After the races we went straight from the RIB to his office and loaded the iMac with our photos. First we looked at his, as he explained his work flow of selection, copy, adjustment, save.

Then we looked at mine. It was honestly embarrassing: they were clearly not of the same standard.

But maybe I shouldn't have been surprised, as I don't have books called Shooting H2O with my name on the cover.

For my name is not Rick Tomlinson.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Book Review: Mingming & the Tonic of Wilderness

I really enjoyed Roger D. Taylor's Mingming & the Art of Minimal Ocean Sailing - and not just because he described sailing in waters I'd just returned from. It's a great read, describing vividly how to sail single handed to interesting, high latitude destinations with one of the smallest of yachts.

So it was an easy decision to order the next book, Mingming and the Tonic of Wilderness, though I think I read it all wrong. Most of it was consumed while commuting to work with one ear open for news about points that have failed and signals set to red, and I've just finished it while watching the sun set over the Thames eating smoked salmon pate on toast washed down with a glass of Waitrose white - not exactly wilderness conditions.

But despite that I again found this to be an enjoyable read, even if there wasn't quite the same thrill as the last book.

That might have been because I was now familiar with Mingming and her slow but steady cruising style, or maybe because the first half describes a voyage had to be curtailed after an injury during a knock-down. But the second half's voyage all the way up to 80N was pretty dramatic stuff.

Overall its definitely a good read, though maybe better stored on-board to be read while cruising or kept for when the rain is lashing down and its freezing outside - which, given our current weather, could well be next week.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The demographics of cruising associations

Recently I went down to Limehouse Basin (above) to visit the Cruising Association for a talk by Matt Rutherford on his solo non-stop circumnavigation of the Americas.

There was one thing that struck me quite strongly about that evening: how old the audience was.

I'm not youngster but I was almost certainly below the mean age of those there, and it was particularly noticeable given how young Matt was - or at least relatively.

And it raised a couple of questions:
  • Was the audience representative of the CA in general?
  • Have cruising associations always been for those in their "prime of life"? - maybe because yacht owning involves a degree of both wealth and experience.
  • If not when was it that cruising associations involved more young people?
  • Does it matter?
  • If so how could they widen their appeal?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The O2 Arena

The south end of the Thames Cable Car is by the O2 Arena.

As the Millennium Dome it was considered a bit of a white elephant, but reborn as the London O2 Arena, home for "stars" as diverse as Girls Aloud and Justin Beaver (Ed: is that right?) it's found its place on the London stage.
As well as concerts there's a bunch of modern architecture and you can go on Dome Walks (top photo).

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Thames Cable Car

Yesterday's pictures were taken from one of the latest yet less well known modes of transport in London: cable car.

The Emirates Air Line looks like its been transplanted from some ski resort and flies you quickly across the Thames in Docklands from the O2 Dome over to Excel exhibition center.
Its a great ride and at £3.20 with Oyster card very good family friendly value. However there's not much to see at the north bank apart from the SS Robin (below) so when we went we did a quick return back down south.
It might not be that great for those who suffer from vertigo but the views as you cross are brilliant,

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Working boats of the Thames

London used to be a thriving commercial port, but that was a long time ago now.

It sometimes feels that there are no more working boats plying the muddy waters of the Thames, but they haven't completely died out.

Here are some dirty boats that justify themselves by what they can do rather than how they look.
From the angle you can tell that the photo was taken from somewhere unusual - can you guess where?

Monday, April 22, 2013

More Tudor Pull Photos

If you're looking for the royal barge Gloriana, well she isn't in any of these photos, though you can see her for real if you go to Chelsea Harbour where she is currently moored (or at least was this morning).
 Some good Tudor Pulling here...

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Tudor Pull 2013

Chris of Rowing for Pleasure did warn me the Tudor Pull was coming through Putney and even was good enough to send me the schedule so I'd be ready at 3 pm, that being the predicted time.

Alas their rowing skills, plus no doubt a bit of help with the outgoing current, meant they arrived 10 minutes early and I wasn't quite where I'd planned to be, but still managed to get these snaps.

Gloriana was looking particularly fine in her gold with red coated rowers (above) and there were many admirers watching as she led her little fleet through Putney (below):
Of course most of those watchers also asked "I wonder what that's all about?" and I was tempted to explain all until I realised I forgotten some of the critical historical details, such as what exactly is a Stela, so couldn't.
 Anyway some cracking rowing by all involved including this bunch:
 Curses - was I spotted?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Gloriana on the Thames, again

What was this, spotted on the Thames early Friday morning?

Yup its the royal barge Gloriana.

I heard a rumour that she's to be the guard of honour for Chris and the Langstone Cutters on their Sunday row down to the Tower with a 'Stela' - which apparently isn't a beer.

Though there might be more to it than that, involving pulling Tudors, which sounds like something Henry VIII would do.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Matt Rutherford's talk at the Cruising Association

Yesterday evening I headed down to the Cruising Association in Limehouse Basin to hear Matt Rutherford give a talk about his circumnavigation of the Americas - single handed in a 27' yacht.

And pretty riveting it was too - and funny. Matt is I guess just into his 30s and has an upbeat what you see is what you get attitude, and I wondered how much his voyage had changed him, maybe calmed him.

It's a long way to sail, though he was pretty nonchalant about it. After making it through the North West Passage, he said, he had to get home somehow to Annapolis and the Panama Canal costs money and he just had $40 on him so he might as well keep going round!

Naturally after last summer's sail to the Arctic Circle I was most interested in the bit between Newfoundland and Alaska and it didn't disappoint.

He too fogs, whales and dolphins as we did and he had no heater either, but then he also had ice bergs, big ones, as large as container ships, walls rearing out of the whiteness.

To make sure he didn't crash into them his watch system was 50 hours on 3 off, 50 hours on 6 off.

Now that is really tough.

But then as he described it, it felt like playing a video game, dodging those growlers, a video game where he had just the one life. He described how time seemed to change, so that 10 hours would pass like 10 minutes, and how his coping strategy was to do everything very slowly, in keeping with his brain and body's speed.

It clearly wasn't much fun when the gales blew through, but there times of calm when he could drift and not worry about a bit of bumping - or indeed running aground as most of the channels up there involve deep water apart from the Simpson Strait.

Then down through the Baring Strait with 20 foot waves and 50 knot winds, across the wide Pacific, at one point closer to New Zealand than Cape Horn, struggling with the doldrums, until finally reaching that most southern point where, surrounded by albatrosses, penguins and rainbows he saw this:
After the Horn he could turn north and face his most severe test yet.

One problem he had was things breaking and he didn't have spares. The water maker required a rendezvous off Newfoundland but when the engine starter motor failed he had to get a new handle delivered off Brazil.

All was going well until he realised he could see the beach, and on the beach were Brazilian girls.

It was tough, but as he pointed out, to achieve something as well as hard work you must also make sacrifices.

So very true, and when he finally sailed back into Chesapeake Bay, crossing his outbound track, it was a really great achievement.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The New Putney River Bus

The Putney River Bus has been running long enough for me to have a chance to use it and very good it was too.

Ok these quick cats weren't made when Queen Victoria was still on the throne, nor where they part of the fleet of little ships that came to the rescue at Dunkirk, but they do the job asked of them, which is to take commuters from the upriver leafy suburbs directly into the center of London.

There were comfy seats, big windows to admire the view, fast rapid ride and you can even use your Oyster PAYG to pay the fare. Unlike the tube or train I had a seat with room to open the laptop and excellent 4G coverage to receive and send emails.

Timetable can be found here.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

UFO spotted over London!!

Reports have rocked the capital all day of a mystery UFO high in the sky.

Lingering for literally hours, it was said by the millions to have spotted it to be yellow-white in colour and so bright as to be blinding!

UV Ray Gun?

Scientists observing this phenomena detected high levels of UV radiation from a nuclear fusion reaction - beyond any engineering possible on Earth.

"The Yellow UFO could be dangerous" said a scientist with a beard. "I'd advise wearing protecting clothing when in its direct line of sight."

Aliens Danger

The Daily Mail is very concerned about this new CANCER risk from ALIENS and is asking for Government action. However Number 10 has issued a wait and see statement, while admitting that this Yellow UFO could appear in the skies over London later this summer. The opposition has already slammed this as another example of a do-nothing administration.

Ice Cream Agents

But the twitter-sphere is already speculating about the next visitation of this celestial apparition, and whether the alien agents are already among us. "On days when the Yellow UFO appears, you always see ice cream vans: how do they know? Is there secret communication or are they Yellow UFO agents?"

Watch this space - or rather watch the skies!! (*)

(*) carefully - don't look directly at the Yellow UFO

Saturday, April 13, 2013

A guide to Vienna

So there you go, a guide to a long weekend in Vienna.

Start from St. Stephen's Cathedral and explore out to the Ringstrasse, travelling by tram and train.

Visit the Museum of Art History, the Belvedore Palace with its Kilmts and the Schonbunn Palace.

Go for a spin of the famous Ferris wheel (above), eat a classic sachertorte at the Cafe Central and then go to the opera.

Finally, walk across the Danube and find out whether its blue or not.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Vienna shops

I don't know why people travel to go shopping.

Ok there are exceptions (carpets in Turkey, for example), but a task that's dull when done at home is really very, very low on the list of things to do when travelling.

But for those for whom it is important, yes Vienna has shops, like the shoe shop above. Indeed we managed to quickly buy a scarf (actually two) and a tie for the opera.

However you'd be much better in one of the museums or having that sachertorte.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Danube at Vienna is not blue

There was only the shortest of times to explore the Danube River as it flows through Vienna, but we did walk across it on a pedestrian bridge.

Confusingly there are actually three branches. As well as the "real" Danube, there is also the "New Danube", which follows its partner in parallel, creating in between a park like long island called Donauinsel.

Both are slightly away from the main town, unlike the Danube Canal which is just a short walk down from St. Stephen's Cathedral.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Opera review: Die Fledermaus

Vienna is one of the world's great cities of music. Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Mahler and Schubert to name but a few have all performed and created here, so we had to do something musical.

And what can be more enjoyable and appropriate than going to seeing Johann Strauss's Die Fledermaus, a total hoot of an operetta, in its home city of Vienna.

We went to the Volksoper which is a lot easier to get tickets than the Vienna State Opera and probably cheaper too.

It helped that the surtitles were in English but the music, singing and acting would have be enough. The ballroom scene in particular was enormous fun, and there was a great cast of singers and dancers.

Hard to leave without a smile on your face.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Sachertorte at Vienna's Cafe Central

All these trips to art galleries, museums and palaces were interspersed with pit stops at local cafe's and restaurants.

Vienna is especially known for its cakes, and most of all for the Sachertorte (above) - indeed the name comes from the Sacher Hotel and Cafe next to the grand opera:
We had thought of visiting and trying one of their Sachertortes but they were entertaining a Canadian singer of the name of Justin Beaver (Ed. - is that right? pl. check) so we went elsewhere.

And that was absolutely the right thing to do as we ended up in the wonderful Central Cafe, like many an intellectual and writer before:
It was one of those places that feels like home and would have been happy to stay there many days, eating through their cake range and pretending to write away - or even actually write away, spurred on by their equally great coffee.