Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Thames's Christmas Lifeboat

Christmas morning and the city awoke. It is the season to be merry and many started that day with happy cries surrounded by loved ones.

But not all.

For at least one Londoner it was a cold, bleak midwinter day, with nothing to celebrate, a day where legs took them down to Wandsworth Bridge and that final leap.

However they were not forsaken. Even early on Christmas day, when others were having their morning coffee, one of the Thames lifeboats was on standby together with a police boat, hovering in the water below the jumper, ready to save their life.

And so it was all day long. The picture above was taken on the evening of Christmas Day, and there, still, the lifeboat was on out patrol.

The good shepherd of the Thames, watching out for Londoners, every day of the year.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Bombay Bicycle Club's In The Bleak Midwinter

I really enjoyed seeing the Bombay Bicycle Club at Earls Court a few weeks ago and here they are in action in their version of the suitably seasonal In The Bleak Midwinter.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Great Thames Disaster

I was going round the Museum of Docklands when I discovered about the sinking of the Princess Alice with the loss of 650 lives.

I couldn't work out at the time how to blog the story but luckily someone called Stephen McKenna has put together this super video describing it.

After the previous post's Elgar here we have another great bit of classical music, namely Benjamin Britten's Sea Interludes.

Suitably spooking for the Thames Estuary marshlands....

Monday, December 22, 2014

Volvo Video and Sea Fever

As a pre-Christmas treat the Volvo Ocean Race has put together this lovely sailing video about offshore racing with Elgar's Enigma Variations sound track. Makes me think of this:

I must go 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 go 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 go 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

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Trafalgar Square's Big Blue Cockerel

As spotted by the Bursledon Blogger, there is currently a great big giant blue cockerel in Trafalgar Square.

It really is very blue, which you can't see in the silhouette above so here it is on the sunny side, both pictures from May this year:

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Thames at Night

The Bursledon Blogger has been up in London to see the lights and the giant blue chicken in Trafalgar Square (not sure if I've posted any pics of it, but it is very big and very blue). He found Regent Street a bit of a struggle and I sympathise.

My top tip to see the lights of London during the Winter is to take a boat trip down to Tower Bridge and back. The Thames Clippers have a regular service and whoosh all the way to Woolwich, which is quite a way but Embankment to the Tower has most of the sights and is a lot shorter.

I went in a group on one of the little ships, namely the MV Kingwood, and had a fantastic evening.

Worth getting a bit cold if the view is good as this.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

HMS Warrior and Old Portsmouth

 Last few pics from Portsmouth trip showing the HMS Warrior with the Spinnaker Tower (above) and and Old Portsmouth in toy mode again (below):
I will have to go back to see HMS Warrior at another time when I expect it will be without these rather underwhelming lights:

Monday, December 15, 2014

Goodbye Earls Court

Earls Court has played its last gig ever.

The exhibition centre, home to the Boat Show year after year, is to be demolished to make way for yet more apartments and shops.

But it got a worthy send off, with a stunningly good gig by the Bombay Bicycle Club and guests including none other than Pink Floyd's David Gilmour (above). He made a memorable event unforgettable by joining the BBC on stage to sing "Wish You Were Here".

David Gilmour apparently gave the BBC's guitarist Jamie MacColl his first guitar and had played at Earls Court an incredible 27 times. The audience were almost entirely young enough to be my nephews and nieces so many of these times were footnotes in their history books, but I was still at school when The Wall came out.

Many, many memories that evening.

Lights out, words gone.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Picture Puzzle

Another picture puzzle for you.

What's the boating connection with this rather historic gig and why was it a landmark?

The canoe in this band's videos isn't the answer and not really a clue. Bonus marks for naming some of the guests and why one in particular was a very good choice for this location.

Apologies again for the poor quality of the Nexus 5's photo.

Updated: answer here.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Video Caption Competition

Any suggestions? Mine (obviously) is:

Ferry captain regrets letting Buff Staysail "have a go"

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Mary Rose, the Battle of the Solent and Machiavelli

After going round the HMS Victory my next stop in Portsmouth Historic Docks was the Mary Rose.

At the entrance there was a video about the conservation work. The basic message was: "it will be FANTASTIC in a few years after we can remove the black pipes" (above) which left me and others in the queue mentally going "oh".

It was still pretty impressive, in particular the vast quantity of stuff recovered from the wreck, including navigation tools and pairs of dice.

What I found most interesting was the story of what was going on when the Mary Rose sank, namely the Battle of the Solent. I really had no idea it was lost during a battle against a French invasion that included landings of 30,000 troops on the Isle of Wight & the mainland plus 200 ships, more than the Spanish Armada.

Basic summary: we won (or this blog would be en français) and it was all related to the Italian Wars which led to a certain Machiavelli writing up some of his more, er, Machiavellian, ideas in The Prince such as:

"He who neglects what is done for what ought to be done, sooner effects his ruin than his preservation"

I suppose that applies to conservation of boats too: we need those black pipes to avoid the Mary Rose ending up as a ruin.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

WEATHER BOMB visible on web wind site

I was most impressed by the animated wind map found by the Improper Course, in which he describes the Volvo Ocean Race fleet entering "a stronger northeasterly".

So I turned the globe towards Blighty and the nearby Atlantic and... golly... that's a bit more than a strong north-easterly (above). For a start its a westerly but also the lines are red not green ... that can't be good.

Indeed the news streams are already pushing headlines like "weather bomb raises risk of severe gales" with another WEATHER BOMB story here.

Though I guess those in the NE of America would say that unless there's a metre of snow you can't really call it anything serious.

So what is a WEATHER BOMB? Well, according to the BBC here it is a fall of 24 mb or more in 24 hours, and they are predicting 18m waves, which does sound pretty impressive.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

JP gets ship's biscuit size envy

I'm really not that bover'd, 'onest. So theirs are bigger, like I care!

OK, to explain. On my trip to Portsmouth, while on-board the HMS Victory I saw this display of the sailors workspace (above) complete with wood or pewter mugs and plates, on which there were these authentic looking ships biscuits.

Now I've baked some ship's biscuits as part of a maritime GBBO experiment, but, golly, how to admit it.... mine were smaller.

Doh! Or should that be dough?

Anyhow, top tip for ship's biscuit bakers - size does apparently matter, particularly if you have 821 sailors to feed and they're starving, needing 5,000 calories per day, what with fighting the French and all.

Go XXL in your baking!

So I guess now I need to book an appointment with The Sailing Shrink.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Princess Anne, Drunken Sailors and a Big Rock

Three stories for Friday:

  1. Gripping video from on-board Team Vesta (above) as they hit a big rock. OMG - I do not want to ever go through that.
  2. Did you know Princess Anne is a keen sailor who explores the wonderful and interesting waters of the Scottish Islands? I didn't until Tillerman pointed it out and learnt a lot more in a great article from Elaine Bunting over at the Yachting World web site 
  3. Sailing and drink have gone together for centuries, but recently have created a new problem - sailors drunkenly buying boats on auction sites which are then abandoned in the harsh light of day when the long list of bills arrives. More at The Guardian here.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

The danger of electronic charts

Electronic charts are great - I like them so much I must have bought Iceland about 3 times - for iPhone, iPad and iNavX.

But they have a gotcha that can get even the best navigators, as the Volvo Ocean Race's Team Vesta found out to their cost - see this post on SA via Noodle.

Take the patch of water above, which is just north of Iceland, viewed today using the Navionics Web App. Looks pretty clear doesn't it?  Contours at 200 m and 500 m, just great, clear sailing. One island called Grimsey near the coast but when sailing there in 2012 we were far away.

Only it isn't clear at all. Take that harmless sounding reference to Kobeinsey (which I've added a red circle around). It looks like a description of that patch of water but look what you see if you zoom in:

This is from the Navionics charts on the iPhone for the same region, zoomed into so you can see that Kolbeinsey is actually a small island, or maybe a large rock.

Ok, it might be just 7.5 metres or so across but that would have been enough for us to prang Goldeneye something nasty when we sailed there in 2012. Confession time: it wasn't me that spotted this but Tristan: good thing one of us was awake.

But it shouldn't be like this: charting software should always show land, even when zoomed out.

Until then, let's be careful out there.

Updated: very interesting article about the wrecking of Team Vesta by Yachting World's Elaine Bunting here.

Monday, December 01, 2014

The Victory is like the Forth Bridge

It was clear that something was missing. Staring up at the Victory's masts ... well, you didn't have to look that far.

No top mast, no spars, just a lot of sky.

"When will they put them back?" I asked, expecting an answer like next summer or maybe the one after.

But no, it might be decades before we see the work finished. The original estimate was five years, back in 2011, then this summer was up to 15 years and the guide on deck was talking about 20 years.

"It's a bit like painting the Forth Bridge" he went on to say. "It's never really finished."

HMS Victory is, after all, arguably the world's most famous warship, forever associated with Trafalgar and Nelson. But after all that work would it really be the same ship? I asked, curious as to the philosophical position.

"The keel is the same as the original construction" I was told. "This is still the same HMS Victory."

I hope they do a better job than the Cutty Sark, heart broken by holes cut in the side and decks, where wood was replaced with plastic.

Most importantly, unlike that clipper, the HMS Victory still could slip lines and head out to sea and float, and that should be a goal of the renovations.

Everything is being re-examined, even the famous yellow of the gun-ports:
Budgets have gone up to an estimated £ 45 million.

This is going to take some time, but I'm very glad they're doing it.