Friday, May 31, 2013

338 reasons not to swim in the Thames

Wild swimming is all the rage. Forget chlorinated caged waters, head out to open waters flowing freely under the sky.

But there are downsides. In a recent swim at Hampton Court out of 700 swimmers 338 of them got "symptoms including diarrhoea, stomach cramps and vomiting."

Despite improvements Thames water is not known for their purity: over spills of sewage,  then there's rats, ducks and cattle all doing their things plus rubbish, which included on yesterday's kayak a used condom.

But that didn't stop this band of enthusiasts brave the risks and cold along the banks of Chiswick.

Rather them than me to be honest.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

What's wrong with this blog

Hi guys!

As part of my media studies course I've got this assignment (mega yawn) to analyse a blog and naturally it was JP's I chose. What an easy target - soooooo many things wrong!!

Let's start with the title "Captain" is that off-putting or what? Makes you think of old fogies like these ones.

Then what's the blog actually about? Focus is key (or so last week's lecturer said) and JP's, like, all over the place!! Biking one week, kayaking the next, then some travel, art, music, bit of fiction and very, very rarely he's off sailing.

Epic. Fail.

He should take a leaf out of those blogs that focus on a single type of boat like Lasers or Sunfishes (JP - can you check those are right). At the very least sail your own yacht!!

Be an expert, JP!!

Then there's all this off-putting posts about Buff Staysail where he assumes people have, like, watched his TV show and hence know who he is. I mean - hello!! No one has seen Buff's TV show!!!

JP: don't put barriers in the way of your readers, make it easy for them!! No wonder you don't get the number of hits that others do.

Plus take a look at those photos - dull, dull, dull! You want models in swimsuits on beaches!!

And then....

..oops, I'm outta here, twitter's gone crazy,

Luv ya!

Sassi xxx

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Hssssss! is not a good sound...

.... particularly when you are in an inflatable kayak on the Thames.

Actually its probably not a good sound when on any bit of water.

This photo is from a previous voyage when both hulls remained fully inflated, because on Monday's trip was focusing more on getting to dry land than recording the view for posterity.

Fortunately it was low water so there was lots of gravel banks on either side of the river, and after a bit of rapid paddling meant was soon inspecting the starboard tube (that being the one that was hissing).

I pumped her up again and then sprinted back to the starting point, all too aware that I was now sinking - a bit like Titanic but with dirty Thames water rather than icebergs.

Then it was back to JP HQ to unearth the repair kit, trying to remember what little I once knew about bicycle inner tube repairs.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Tide and time waits for no rowing boat - or bike

The Thames between Richmond and Kingston is pretty idyllic for what is really an urban water way.

There's the lush riverbank with over-hanging trees on one side and brilliant green meadows on the other. It's easy to dawdle or, if you are in a rowing boat, just drift with the current.

This can be rather dangerous as this part of the river is still tidal and at the moment we're close to springs so the waters can be high and fast.

The rowing boat above was struggling, battling back towards the hiring state. But at least the destination was in sight and there was also a PLA boat watching over them. Others, just around the corner, weren't so lucky.

You can see the current around this buoy mid-stream by Syon Park:
That's something that bikers don't have to worry about - or so I thought until I remembered the parts of the Thames Path by Mortlake that flood at high water:
I did get wet after all.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Biking to Kingston

It is well known that English Bank Holidays are traditionally wet and windy. To this day, a holiday weekend of driving rain is enough to make Tillerman all nostalgic.

But not this one.

For once the weather gods smiled on London as clouds cleared leaving a sky light blue reminding us that, yes, somewhere up there there is the sun.

So I took the opportunity to bike to Kingston and back, and jolly good fun it was too. I'd gone for a 8k run earlier so didn't over-do it and stopped at Richmond for a smoothie and on the way back an ice-lolly in Kew.

It did cross my mind that I could complete the run and cycling with a swim, but I have this feeling its not going to happen.

Far more likely is something involving a drink and the sun setting.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Whaam! JP goes pop

Everyone seems to love pop art, so the Tate's Lichtenstein retrospective has been one of London's must-see shows this year.

But what would be the impact of room after room of them? Would it be like the Miro, which became repetitive, yet another stick man with red hat?

The answer was an emphatic no. Faced with those familiar canvases of Whaam! and Drowning Girl my reaction was not "enough" but "more, please".

Maybe it was because they were like stories half told but I felt like I'd been given only half a serving of my favourite desert and wouldn't mind seconds.

Yes there was an instantly recognisable style, but there were also lots of ideas, such as the paintings inspired by the likes of Picasso and Matisse. There was a lovely triptic where a Lichtenstein comic book style woman transformed first into a Picasso woman and then a Mondrian abstract.

Then there were the mirrors - or at least cartoon representation of mirrors, which of course didn't reflect, leaving one feeling invisible.

Great fun and closing very soon so rush along to the South Bank to get a viewing.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The empty swan's nest

A couple of weeks ago this was the scene on an island of the Wandle River: a swan guarding her nest, her mate swimming nearby.

Recently I was passing and the picture was rather different:
There were two swans swimming nearby, but no signets and the nest was empty.

So what happened? Was it foxes? for there are many that roam the streets of London and the island was easily accessible.

Or was it the ultimate predator, humans?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Colour of fastest going stripe

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

Tillerman asked the very good question "Which colour go-faster stripe goes fastest?" and he's probably not alone. I wouldn't like to guess how many millions of $$$ are being spent by America's Cup teams on that very question.

Fortunately after much research yours truly has the definitive answer: red.

Yes, Red Stripe goes the fastest, particularly after a hot summers day out on the water - so not much chance of that in grey old Limey London.

Case closed.

This is Buff Staysail, stripe expert, over and out!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Buff Staysail Range of Yachts

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

Yesterday I posted my great idea - to launch the Buff Enterprise's own range of dinghies! It turns out that all you have to do is get an existing boat and slap a sticker on it.

But why stop at dinghies: Buff's after the yacht market too!

I'm starting off with a pair of yachts for the two ends of the market.

Following the Yachting World guide to naming yacht brands, we have the family friendly "Grumpy" range (above) while for the uber wealthy there's the "Rich Twit" range:

This is going to be epic!

Put your orders in now! And why not take this opportunity to invest in the soon to soar-away Buff Enterprises stock!

This is Buff Staysail, sailing tycoon, over and out!!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Buff Staysail to launch own brand dinghies

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

Well Buff's had a bit of a revelation recently. I was wondering where dinghy classes came from and thought it must involve some big brain work.

But it turns out no clever clogs stuff required as all you have to do is get an existing boat and slap a sticker on it! Well Buff can do that too!

So I'm launching my own range of dinghies and yachts, and today we're showcasing our dinghy range.

At the top we see the family friendly starter called the "Reflection". Lovely red sail, all we need now is a red top newspaper called the Reflection - how hard can it be to find that?

For the American market we have the "Sunflower" range:
Sassi says that what we need here is a bit of celeb power!

So put your orders in today!

This is Buff Staysail, CEO of Buff Enterprises, over and out!!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Underwhelming Shimmy

The Wimbledon Studio's Summer Show was part of the Wandsworth Art Festival when wrapped up today with the Shimmy between Putney and Wandsworth Park.

Previous years there has been installations including Underscore, an aural underwater voyage along the Thames, and Track, in which you lay on a cart and was pulled along looking at the sky above.

Both were pretty good so I was interested to see what this year's installation would be.

Alas I found it and the rest of the Shimmy rather underwhelming, particularly as what little there was seemed to be aimed at 6 year olds.

The only event that was aimed at adults went over my head. It was called Lachrymae and related to Greek myth involving transformation of tears into amber (or something).

Basically you had to put on these masks with coloured plastic that turned the world into Instagram. Then there were musicians playing violins (that bit was ok so thumbs up to composer Helen Ottaway) while some of the trees had tear like amber things hanging from them (see above taken through the filter and this video of them being made).

There was more about Ted Hughes and Ovid's Metamorphoses, neither of which I know about, so whoosh over my head.

Bit of a shame given the sun was out and the odd bit of sky was blue.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Wimbledon Art Studios

This weekend is the Open Studios for the Wimbledon Art Studios, and it definitely is worth a viewing.

It was my first visit, indeed I'd only recently found out about them, which is odd as they're only a short bike ride away, and they are not just the largest art studio complex in London but probably all of Britain.

In total there are a maze of 173 small studios crammed into two concrete buildings, ex-office blocks by the looks of them. Within are currently 140 odd artists, everything from prints to ceramics to watercolour to oils to installations - indeed pretty much anything you might be looking for.

Actually there weren't that many sailing boats but there was one theme that appeared again and again.

It is said by those that live outside London that the capital is self-absorbed and inward-looking and there was much evidence in favour of this theory on show.

The artists here by the way are:

They have these open days twice a year so if you miss the one this weekend the next one is in November.

Friday, May 17, 2013

The yellow buoy

Its a short post tonight as they're broadcasting Sherlock from the start - oh joy!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Thames Fire & Rescue Boat

This evening I went back paddling on the Thames for the first time in nearly 2 years.

It was a lovely weather for once and we got to see the Thames fire & rescue boat up close. They offered us a tow which did sound rather welcome as I discovered I'm really out of practice.

I'll have to do better as this year doing a bit of combined sailing & kayaking.

Monday, May 13, 2013

On Deck on Coast

Last night the BBC TV documentary series Coast was all at sea.

That meant a couple of sailing related history / geography clips plus Nick Crane (above) joining one of the On Deck yachts on the Round the Island Race.

Of course the BBC is meant to avoid branding and advertising but there were On Deck logos plastered all over the boom and hull. However in this case I don't think they'll be many questions asked as unfortunately they went into administration (or at least the UK part of the business) after filming in September last year.

It's a shame as they were a good bunch.

However this particular race was not their finest hour, with a spinnaker hoist that went wrong leading to three broaches in a row and then after turning the final corner by the forts to head up to Cowes their steering failed, and that was it.

I don't think it helped having a TV presenter and crew aboard. Above Nick is saying he's on the spinnaker rope (er....) and later he tries to do a piece to camera just as they try to recover the sail, earning a reprimand from the skipper.

It could have been worse, such as if it had the hyper irritating presenter Mark, but On Deck deserved a better swan song.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Another ship's biscuit

An update on the long lasting ship's biscuit experiment.

Baked back in October 2012, these rock solid favourite of sailors in the day of Nelson were still going strong in January, the last time they were tested.

Earlier this evening there were three remaining, now just two. So what is the latest verdict?

No change!

Still crunchy, still tasteless, but crucially, still edible.

Way to go ship's biscuit!

Walker Breeze 10 sailing on the Thames

Not a make of boat I'd heard of before and at first sight with its inflatable ring I thought it was a blow-up sailing dinghy which would have been interesting but apparently not.

According to the manufacturer's web site they are "are competitive on all tacks versus other boats in their class" which begs the question what other boats are in this class?

Anyway, added to the list of those spotted on the Thames.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Andrew Simpson

Tragic news from San Francisco of the death of Olympic Gold Medalist Andrew Simpson after yet another America's Cup capsize.

No doubt there'll be lots of questions raised about what this all means for the format and competition. I remember watching that Fun on Foils video where the bowman worries about 7 tonnes of boat screaming along at 40+ knots held up by a small carbon fiber foil. Any failure would be catastrophic, he said.

And Artemis hadn't even been foiling.

But for that's for another day. Today lets remember that two children have lost their father and a wife her husband, and that a man aged just 36 who came from the lovely golden stone town of Sherborne will sail no more.

Updated: some nice tributes at the BBC here and article by Stewart Alexander calling the foiling wing-cats "death traps". Also an in-depth article on Wired about the AC and the earlier Oracle crash.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Book Review: Two in a Boat

There seemed to be more shouting than sailing in this book.

On paper its the true story of how award winning poet Gwyneth Lewis and her husband decide to sell up and sail away, heading across the Channel and then south to blue waters.

I suppose that is technically correct, but that's not what this book is about, which is men, women, marriage, power, sickness, depression and the whirlwind of emotions and thoughts that go around that: mostly emotions.

It was the anti-thesis to Roger Taylor's Mingming voyages in which he sails to Greenland by himself, breaks a rib, has to come back, all in a couple of seriously major storms, while spending his time wildlife watching and munching nuts.

Gwyneth crosses the Channel and you know there'll be tears before bed time, lots of them, and it doesn't help that she has depression and is often sea-sick while her husband gets truly sick and the engine dies, many times.

You know there are some blogs of couples that sail away and it sounds bliss and you wonder if there's been some paintshopping going on? Well here a grim reality is on display warts and all - a bit too much for my taste to be honest. It felt rather intrusive and at times you felt like the ping-pong ball in battle of "well you moored up badly" vs. "well you rammed that yacht's stern".

I know there are some readers who love all this raw emotion but I found it a bit much.

Then there was the statement such as how the homeopathic anti-seasickness medicine sometimes worked and sometimes it didn't which made me want to shout out "its the placebo effect!" very loudly. Plus there was something about string theory that made me imagine what Sheldon Cooper would say.

The phone call from Ellen McArthur was kinda cool, but apart from that it was not really my thing.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

IWA Canalway Cavalcade 2013

What's the IWA and what on Earth is a canalway cavalcade you might well ask? Well this is:

The IWA stands for the Inland Waterways Association and the the Canalway Cavalcade seems to involve lots of narrow boats hanging out at Little Venice.

Little Venice sounds very romantic and if you go in one direction you're in Maida Vale which is indeed very nice but in the other it's Paddington and flyovers:
Narrow boats are a bit too like caravaning for me and I wasn't too surprised to see lots of real ale and a solitary Morris Dancer, which is odd as they usually tinkle in packs.

They'll be there over the Bank Holiday weekend here in London and there's a jazz band, stands with food & drink, events for children etc if you're into that sort of thing or just want an excuse to wander along the old canals of London.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Cowes in spring

The sailing photography course started early Saturday morning, which was a great excuse to travel down the evening before.

Usually when I've been there, for Cowes Week or Round the Island, the place had been heaving. On this cool spring night it felt more intimate, cosy, quiet, village-like. 

I had a curry and then wandered the little streets, looking at property prices as one does (surprisingly affordable they were too), before heading back to the B&B under a full moon and a sprinkling of stars.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Top tips for sailing photography

So what did I take away from my day with Rick Tomlinson?

Firstly I still have a lot to learn!

But there were some top tips I'll remember for another time:

  • Set the camera to use a fixed, short shutter speed, something like 1/1000th second with ASA = 400 and let it worry about aperture and focus
  • At these speeds you can switch off anti-shake as it won't help
  • If you shorten further the exposure duration you'll up the f number and hence reduce the depth of field, if that's what you want
  • Use a zoom lens, something like 70 - 200 or 300
  • Take a tissue to wipe spray off the UV filter
  • Get as low as possible
  • Light is critical: we spent a long time looking for gaps in the clouds when the sun would lift the image
  • Try to avoid having the crew in shadows
  • It's generally more interesting near the marks where things are happening
  • At this close range you can focus on people, which creates story and hence interest
  • Fill the frame
  • It's a lot easier to take photos when you don't have to sail as well!
All these are tips rather than rules - if you know what you're doing you can find exceptions to all of them.

For example, one most extraordinary is the shot on his web site labelled "Westward Cup Cowes 2012". It's pin sharp and yet the waves are blurred, the result of a much longer exposure. Many, many trials were required to capture that image.

Oh and its better to have a colourful spinnaker and wet weather gear - all that grey gets very boring after a while.

I certainly would recommend anyone who is interested in sailing and photography to go on one of his courses. He is also a really nice chap and has an amazing track record.

I did feel that I'd be happy suggesting we'd forget the last race so I could buy him a drink and listen to some of his many yarns, but that seemed a bit nosy.

So I left with a copy of Shooting H20 which now sits proudly on my coffee table for all to admire.