Sunday, June 30, 2013

And a star to steer her by

I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.

Book review: Ice bears and Kotick

What's life all about? Seriously.

The author of this book, Peter Webb (who I think I met a couple of years ago at the London Boat Show) was wondering this very question, when the paths of his life seemed to be heading for an office job in London, mornings and evenings spent commuting on the tube.

But he thought there was more out there to experience and came up with a plan - to circumnavigate Spitzbergen by open boat powered by sail and oar. As far as he knew no one had done it before.

There was a reason - it was over 1,000 miles of freezing water and ice, populated by seals and bears.

This is the story of how Peter with his mate Shaggy ventured into the high Arctic to do just that, and its a great read, transporting to you to where the air burns the lungs and the water's blue is dangerous not tempting.

I read it with special interest after last year's trip up the Arctic Circle.

And did the question get answered? Well to find out you'll just have to read it for yourself

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Polly Woodside

You can only work so many hours a day. If nothing else there comes a time when the head begins to hurt and the hotel's house keepers are knocking on the door.

Fortunately I had my plan for a quick break all worked out and spent a happy hour on the tall ship Polly Woodside and jolly good it was too.

The Polly Woodside was built in Belfast in 1885 by William J. Woodside and named after his wife Marian. 

So why is it not the Marian Woodside you might wonder. Well according to the visitor's centre William "would tease her and say she talked all the time like a parrot" - hence Polly.
The Polly Woodside was launched into the great last years of sail, of the same era and routes as the Cutty Sark, around Cape Horn between Australia and Glasgow, and it was interesting to compare the two restorations.

On this score there was no contest, for Polly Woodside had that feel that all good ships should have that it could head out to sea where it belonged at a moment's notice, unlike the Cutty Sark which is now more of a museum.
Of course the poor old Cutty Sark was ignored for decades and then half consumed in a fire, but the Polly Woodside had some particularly good supporters.

One in particular stands out - Tor Lindqvist from Finland who had spent his youth sailing square rigged ships such as Lawhill, Viking and Passat and was to put his expertise to good use in its restoration.

Absolutely worth a visit if you are in Melbourne.

The only slightly hmmm.... moment was in the inevitable gift shop where along with nice memorabilia and books there was a pile of pirate flags and kits for the kids (eye patches etc), which of course was a different time, place and occupation.

Sailing a tall ship around the world should be excitement enough, but then I'm not 8 so what do I know.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Melbourne by day

Looking through my stack of photos I've noticed that most of them are night time shots. Ok partly this is due to the super moon last weekend but also alas due to the fact that day times have been filled with work; silly amounts of work.

But I have had the odd break and yet again I've found Melbourne to be a very likable and livable city, particularly here down by the Yarra River:
Its just the thing to make me feel at home: a tidal river flowing through a city with boat houses, rowers, kayakers, bikers and runners like me pounding the pathway.

Alas I won't have much time to explore the city tomorrow as I have multiple documents with tight deadlines.

However Buff is insisting I take an hour off to see "Polly from Belfast" who he says will "take my mind off work": I will of course report back fully.

Fueling the Crown Fire Show

One of the sights of Melbourne is the fire show outside the Crown Casino and Entertainment complex.

In the evening on the hour there's a five minute sequence of flames billowing with a roar into the night's sky to the delight of children young and old.

While its a bit of fun its worth remembering why its there - to advertise a block long complex of shops, restaurants bars and most importantly the casino.

There is a sterile, corporate, feeling to the site, as if the architects had a limited time per restaurant and rationed out the ideas cautiously between them.

There are passage ways parallel to the Yarra river inside the building, more brightly lit than that outside, designed to suck the tempted into the betting halls.

I've never seen the appeal of casinos. Simple arithmetic shows that on average you will lose money and that any short term winnings are not skill but temporary luck. Games like poker are more like sailing in that they can reward experience but to get that level you need many financial dunkings.

There is also a public safety issue as for one reason or another there has been a lot of crime nearby, to such an extent that the police want a new station to be opened nearby.

The local newspaper, The Age, reports that nearby in the last five years there has been "8500 crimes, including 1300 assaults, 174 robberies and 41 rapes".

That's a sobering total.

With that thought alas I must get back to work.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Super Moon

Over the weekend there was the "super moon", which is when it is at perigee (i.e. closest to the Earth) and full at the same time, and I took the opportunity to take this photo.

Of course the moon appears to be up side down....

Monday, June 24, 2013

Sunset at the Telstra Tower, Canberra

 My meeting ended early than expected on Friday afternoon so I had just time before my flight for a quick trip up the Telstra Tower to watch the sunset over Canberra.

And jolly good it was too.
 Well worth a visit if you're in the area.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Chilean Miner Rescue Capsule

Most of the art works on display in Canberra involved themes such as nature, animals or abstract shapes such as circles. 

This one was very different, as the plaque below explained (also see the Wikipedia entry):

My immediate impression was how narrow it was and what a squeeze it must have been to fit inside it!

Bravo to all involved!

Selection of Public Art from Canberra

This is just a selection of the public art on display in Canberra

One isn't just a sculpture with obscure title, usually something involving nature or aboriginal sayings, one has a truly dramatic story behind it. Can you spot which it is?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Public Art in Canberra

Australia is known as the lucky country, and it still seems to be deserving that title. Where other economies have been spluttering along out of gear, Australia continues to power forward, riding China's need for raw materials.

It can have unpleasant side effects for visitors, in particular prices. Small items like coffee and chocolate bars can be two to three times what they would be in the UK.

But there is at least one upside: they is spare cash for discretionary spending on art, and in Canberra there's a lot of scattered over the city.

I've been too busy working to visit any of the galleries so instead have been playing spot the public art, and however many I find there always seems to be more just a block away.

After a bit of searching I found there is a Google maps mash-up here where you can wander virtually among the streets of Australia's Capital and suburbs, discovering the name and artist of each work.

The previous post was of Ainslie's Sheep (2006) by Les Kossatz (1943-2011) and Owl (2011) by Bruce Armstrong.

As the taxi was taking me to the airport I kept spotting others I hadn't photographed, but it was too late for that.

However there was one last public art to admire at the brand new terminal:

I'll post some more of Canberra's public art tomorrow (or when I get time).

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Which captain?

And on a related topic, what was a capital idea 100 years ago?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Extreme Sailing racing past stumbling AC?

Noodle recently posted a link to an article on Bloomberg about "how Larry Ellison is destroying the America's Cup".

The word "destroying" does sound like journo over-kill, but he certainly doesn't seem to achieved his objective, which was to be the Formula 1 of sailing.

However while the AC is stumbling, the Extreme Sailing series seems to be going from strength to strength: check out this excellent 84 page guide to the 2013 season.

Of course the summer's events could turn things all around: either way both will be interesting to watch.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Steam tug Cob on the Thames

The Cob is over a hundred years old, built in 1911 by Smiths Dock Company in Middlesborough, and participated in last year's Queen's Jubilee Pageant.

More information here.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Height not depth

I was going to do one of those "what is this" challenges, if only to discover what O'Docker would make of it, but the phrase "Hammersmith Bridge Headway Board" really does gives the game away.

Doesn't mean to say it isn't from the Blogulator range as well of course.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Totally tropical Thames

Ok, maybe not tropical, but certainly summer like, with more days of sunshine forecast for the weekend.

Just right for a paddle on the Thames.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Spot the window cleaners

If you look closely you'll see there's four of them, right at the top of the Shard.


Monday, June 03, 2013

Theatre Review: The Audience

Who is the Queen?

Arguably the most well known person on the planet is at the same time one also of the least well known. For despite the fact that she's been on the throne over sixty years, for all that time she's managed to keep her true self free from the world gaze, protected as if by the walls of her many castles and palaces.

And it is the Queen that is the subject of the play currently on at the Gielgud Theatre, London, and in particular the weekly audiences (foreign travel permitting) by the current prime minister.

These meetings of just 20 minutes (which doesn't seem that much) are meant to be the mechanism by which the sovereign is kept informed as to the state of her nation, but nothing is really known. Like so much involving her no notes, no minutes, no record, no mention is allowed.

The first rule of The Audience is you don't talk about The Audience.

But that hasn't stopped writer Peter Morgan from imagining what it might be like.

She has seen ten prime ministers come and go, from Churchill to Cameron, and all but two were represented in the play. It's not a historical, linear description of British history, but rather like a memory - the Queen's of course - all jumbled up complete with her eleven year old self and corgies.

And the picture they paint is made up of nine men and one very memorable woman who come for many reasons and get varying receptions but always support.

It was the Queen as the ultimate therapist for those in highest office, who come to her popping pills as the stress gets to them or in the case of John Major, welling up with tears. And they find someone who does know how they feel, who has seen it before and who they can be truly sure will not go to the papers.

Helen Mirren plays the role just as magnificently as you'd expect, following up her portrayal in the film The Queen.

Entertaining but, with a whistle stop tour of the last fifty years of British history, also informative, it was a truly memorable evening.

Photo from: here

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Round the Island video

Quick bit of editing to get this out that quickly.

Updated: great piece by Ben Ainslie in the Telegraph here. The following sentence jumped out at me:

"If Oracle win I think the format will continue along the current lines, albeit with less powerful boats"

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Three different circumnavigations

Couple of news stories caught my eye, all involving circumnavigations of some sort.

First up there was Ben Ainslie competing in the Round the Island race as a tribute to Andrew 'Bart' Simpson - and breaking the record too.

Then slightly longer there's the GB Row Round Britain rowing race that's just started from London, 6 crews to cover 2,000 miles and a prize of £ 100,000 at stake.

Golly, who knew there was so much money in rowing.

Finally all the way round there's the news that London will host the start and end of the Clipper: 12 boats sailing 40,000 miles around the world. It's good to see at least one global circumnavigation sailing race based in the UK.