Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Book Review: One Wild Song by Paul Heiney

The 7th of May 2015 was a busy day.

Not only was there a general election but also another excellent talk at London's premier ships chandler, Arthur Beale where attendees voted for who'd they most like to skipper their boat (see below for result).

The talk was by Paul Heiney describing the voyage which was the subject of his book "One wild song". Paul and his wife Libby Purves are keen sailors but this book is not about their voyages together as much as the aftermath of a tragedy in their life, the suicide of their son Nicholas at the age of 23.

The voyage from the UK to Cape Horn and back was a tribute and a way of remembering their son. Most of the voyage Paul took single handed, though for critical parts such as the rounding of the Horn there were crew.

More than just another story of sailing to high latitudes this book tells of emotional loss and recovery. It also works as it shows the difficulties and worries of the skipper on the long voyage.

Down to Cascais (and a £2k marina bill), further to Morocco, Cape Verde islands, across to Brazil where he and his crew got mugged, Uruguay and then on into the deep south.

Here he would explore the beautiful Beagle Channel and make his rounding of Cape Horn, to discover, as his son had written, "The silence at the song's end".

A moving story, well told.

Election result: Ellen MacArthur of course

Monday, December 28, 2015

Book Review: This Cold Heaven by Gretel Ehrlich

You'd have thought that a book with sub-title "Seven Seasons in Greenland" would be right up my street.

However I got as far as this description of ice that "has melted and looks floury, like an unnecessary word that adds confusion to insight" and decided this book wasn't for me.

Others were also concerned about the language, such as this review commenting about the author: "she is also described as a poet and her book is, to my taste, fatally congested with 'poetic' language. Metaphors abound, several to a sentence, until it becomes quite difficult to discern any sense at all".

In this book it is the writing that is floury not the ice so I got no further than page 4.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Book Review: Captain Margaret by John Masefield

Its the time of year to curl with a book and so here's the first of a couple of reviews from 2015's reading, starting with John Masefield's Captain Margaret.

Now John Masefield is the author of the poems Sea Fever and Cargos and children's book's A Box of Delight and Jim Davis, so this should have been a cracking read, but, well, lets try a multiple choice quiz.

You're in command of tall ship, off to the Spanish main, commission as a privateer, hull full of stores and arms, to cause confusion to the Dons and glory to blighty. Do you go to sea with:
a) Jolly tars
b) A one legged cook and bunch of ruffians
c) Your sweetheart and her swine of a husband on the run from debtors?

Your captain's name is:
a) Hornblower
b) Flint
c) Margaret?

Maybe if you remember the defeat of the flying pickets on the northern fields you might have picked c) but this Margaret's name was Charles and he did indeed take his sweetheart Olivia and swine of a husband Stukeley with him.

The story does include battle scene, the storming of a town under sultry Caribbean skies, waters pure blue and macaws echoing in the wild forests, but that's only about 5% of the text, most of which relates to the emotional strains on-board and the mischief the swine Stukeley gets up to (assault, forgery, theft, attempted mutiny, betrayal, drinking, wenching etc. etc.).

The ship's master Cammock was an ex-pirate who's spent some time timbering along the Campeachy coast of Mexico, and reminded me strongly of my alleged ancestor William Dampier.

So a puzzle which could be counted a learning experience for Masefield as it was one of his earliest works. A curiosity but alas not the greatest of reads.

ps. The photo above is from my archives taken at the end of the ARC at St. Lucia and was one of the boats seen in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Happy Christmas!

Unseasonably warm here in London so no sign of snow but this was last month just outside Geneva where it really was properly deep and crisp.

Monday, December 14, 2015

The PLA's Thames Vision

Today the PLA opened a consultation on its Thames Vision, looking at how the river will be used over the next 20 years.

As you might expect there are goals (6) and action items (24) but I checked and there is no mention of consultant speak like "forward looking" or "strategic objectives".

It sounds pretty good - the goals include: the busiest ever Port of London; 20 million passenger trips a year; more goods moved by river; the cleanest river since the Industrial Revolution; and more people than ever enjoying sport and recreation.

The approach to sports and recreation is to focus activity on selected "sport opportunity zones", in particular: from Kew Bridge to Richmond, Putney Bridge to Chelsea, and east of Greenwich.

Hmmm.... what about between Putney and Mortlake? I understand that's a patch rowers are pretty keen on.

Lots of different types mucking about are covered, with:

more rowing, kayaking, canoeing and stand up paddle boarding at Kew – Teddington; more kayaking at Putney – Chelsea; and more kayaking as well as sailing at Greenwich – Crossness, particularly in Gallions and Barking reaches. Further east, there are opportunities for more yacht clubs serving  sailing and motor boating as well as kayaking, and for rowing and paddle boarding in Benfleet Creek.

Interestingly no mention of more sailing around Putney, you know, this sort of thing:
Which brings me on to water quality - and more good news here too. To be precise the action item is: Water quality improves to ‘good’

So not very good or excellent, and the key action is the infamous Thames Tideway Tunnel, a super-sewer to be dug below the Thames itself. This has follow on consequences, such as the development of new wharfs at Hurlingham (for the waste from that tunnel) and others such as in Battersea for soil removed by the Northern Line extension.

A lot to digest but it does sounds pretty positive, the Thames at a heart of the growing London, connecting east and west, old and new, business and leisure.

For anyone with something to add, the consultation is open until 15th February 2016 and available here.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Jimmy Cornell at the Cruising Association

Jimmy Cornell has had the impact on world cruising for which words like "legend" start being used. His World Cruising Routes is said to have sold 200,000 copies and is on Brian of Delos's Required Reading List.

He set up the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers which I did many years ago (totally fab) and a week ago gave a talk in the Cruising Association about his successful transit of the North-West passage.

However initial impressions were not of a hardened sea salt but a fussy man, complaining that the meal was being served before the talk not, as is usually the case, in the interval. "Its not right" he muttered, as knives and forks clattered on plates. Plus the lights were all wrong as was the microphone. He decided to wait until people had finished eating then began anyhow.

He started by describing his trip to Antarctica and Cape Horn plus his totally dream-worthy Exploration 45 foot aluminium yacht Aventura IV (above, which I so want).

Then it was off from London, heading out under the Tower Bridge which lifted in salute on the 31st of May 2014 for his first attempt at the NW passage. They sailed up to Orkney and headed west, as the southern tip of Greenland has almost the same latitude. Up the west coast then across to Baffin Island, polar bears and the first serious ice.

It turned out to be more than just serious, as 2014 turned out to be a bad year for ice and they had to turn back. Even so they almost got iced in, with Cornell's granddaughter, one of the crew, fearing they'd be stuck there for 10 months.

This year he tried again from west to east, which has the advantage that the ice tends to clear in that order and to cut a long story short was successful, sailing through to the Atlantic and then down to London, to head under Tower Bridge on the 18th of September.

There were some more interesting moments, such as how he admitted he did the cooking as he is fussy (his word this time) about the mess that others cause. He also admitted he'd become a sterner skipper. "Can't afford to be nice all the time" he said, not with ice around.

In the Q&A session one question was particularly interesting: what were his over-wintering plans?

Didn't have any, he said, which puzzled me. If I were heading into the NW passage where ice is unpredictable and risks of wintering, while low, are definitely not zero, I'd have a plan.

But it was a key to his character, namely his confidence in himself and his determination. He'd find something, he was sure: he was prepared to make mistakes but stubborn so able to find a solution. That, coupled with a Romanian fatalism "if its going to happen, it's going to happen".

"Don't always think of consequences, otherwise you'd do nothing" he said.

For a potter round the Solent, maybe, but a trip into the NW passage with your granddaughter?

Maybe the "hmm.." I'm mentally thinking now is why I've never sailed around the world once let alone three times, nor set up several hugely successful yachting rallies, let alone completed a NW passage.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

All round green light

Spotted on Lake Geneva, an all round green light, as well as a white light, a port light and (not visible in this long exposure) a starboard light. Not how I remember the regs but maybe its a local thing.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Lake Geneva mooring

I got the feeling its owner was checking it out prior to winter coming, with flurries of snow on the top of the hills.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Another red boat in Greenland

A bit of a sad sight, beached and with what looked like fire damage.

And yes, I am raiding my photo backlog at the moment.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Sailing in SPAAACE - marks and lines

So how could you have start / finish lines and marks in space where this no up nor down and nothing is fixed?

A couple of ideas spring to mind, but its worth noting that space sailing is likely to be more like America's Cup racing with its virtual course borders, using electronic aids galore. In this case you could (for example) define locations with respect to an Earth Centred Inertial (ECI) coordinate frame.

Other ideas could be to use stations or satellites as marks, together with additional geometric constraints.

One such would be to define a sphere around a point or satellite. For example a race could have start to be the volume within 10 km of the International Space Station (ISS). This is simple to define but could end up with all solar sails clumped at the same, advantageous sector, most likely the point of the sphere furthest from the Earth.

Marks could be define also as sphere - for example, the figure above shows the various Earth-Sun Lagrange points, and you could imagine a race between them, such as:
- Start within 10 km of the ISS
- Pass within 100 km of L4
- Pass within 100 km of L3
- Pass within 100 km of L5
- Finish within 10 km of the ISS

This would allow solar sail craft to slightly cut the corners as they could be within 100 km while not actually going round the mark.

Alternatively the mark could be defined using a combination of distance from point or satellite plus at least as far from the central object (e.g. the Sun in these cases) as the point or satellite. More advanced ones could define solid angles using the line from the relevant central gravitational body to the mark point or satellite.

Therefore it is doable, there are ways to define such as race.

So let your imaginations go, look up at the sky, and imagine the windjammers of the future, tacking their way around the solar system.

Just keep an eye out for solar storms and those pesky space pirates!

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Sailing in SPAAACE.... the RULES

The last post included a video that described how to sail in space using solar sails. But if you had two such craft then you could race... but what would the rules look like?

Back in 1992 the International Astronautical Federation proposed a Lunar Cup with a set of rules but I couldn't find them on-line but wondered.... what would they look like? How could port give way to starboard when in space neither concepts make sense?

An alternative could be to use the direction of motion of planets as in:

R1: Solar sail craft which has a thrust vector that when projected into the plane of the ecliptic has component clockwise must give way to those for which it is anti-clockwise (see graphic here)

But what about if they are in the same direction, what is the equivalent of windward / leeward? This is simpler as the solar sail thrust comes from photons from the sun, so that is the equivalent of windward, hence:

R2: Solar sail craft closer to the sun must give way to spacecraft further away

But what if they are on the same "tack" and same distance from the sun. The old rule remains a good one:

R3: Overtaking solar sail craft must give way to those being overtaken

There'd have to be the usual rules for safety of life, keeping watch etc. but also additional ones to handle eclipses, where a spacecraft is behind a planet so has no ability to maneuver, but similar rules to sailing could be used.

But how about marks? How could you define a course in 3D when everything is in motion?

Stay tuned for more...

Monday, November 02, 2015

Sailing..... in SPAAAAACE !

Two space music videos for you. The one above from the Planetary Society includes Carl Sagan talking about sailing.... in SPAAACE!

How cool would that be, tacking and gybing across the vastness of the cosmos.

Also from Public Service Broadcasting a video and song about Valentina:

Saturday, October 31, 2015

The SPECTRE of a blog anniversary

"Ah" says JP, stroking his white cat, "Jolly bloggers, I've been expecting you".

For another year has flown by and it time for yet another blog anniversary, with a whole decade of posting that have come and gone since the first went live.

But rather than sailing I've been to the movies and you can guess what I saw. Good fun it was too, and I  discovered that a race up the Thames is even better at night than daytime - golly the old smoke was looking good.

And you can get your hands on a bit of genuine Bond sailing legend, as the Spirit 54 Soufrière that stared in Casino Royal (above) is for sale!

Alas with the offers asked to be "excess of £600,000" that's a bit out of my price range.

But who knows? 10 years ago I had no idea one day I'd sail double handed to the Arctic Circle or race in the 100th anniversary of the Square Metre Rule.

So here's hoping to "Sail Another Day"...

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Picture Puzzle

How does this photo connect the last two blog posts and in particular what you'd find inside?

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Three planets and the Cosmonauts

This morning I got up at 05:30 to do a spot of astronomy. It wasn't as bad as it sounds thanks to the hour change, so in BST it would be the more reasonable 06:30.

The light was rather beautiful and I had just a handful of early rising birds for company.

The reason for heading out into the cold was the conjunction in the morning eastern sky of Venus, Jupiter and Mars, making a clear and bright triangle:
There's a nice little gif identifying each and describing their motion to be found here.

There's more space in London at the moment with a superb exhibition of early Soviet / Russian space technology in "Cosmonauts" at the Science Museum:
It was all rather brilliant, with lots of fantastic real engineering, such as Valentina Tereshkova's Vostok 6 capsule. The only downside was KGB levels of scrutiny to ensure that no photos were taken - apparently there were items on display that had to be specially declassified.

Well worth looking up in the night's sky if you have a cloud-free morning or visiting the Cosmonauts if you're in London.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

JP's trip to Greenwich - in video!!

Recently JP returned to Greenwich, taking his camera with him, and you can see (above and below) two of the photos taken.
But what about videos, you might (possibly) be asking? When are we going to see S/V Delos style YouTube clips? And why not start by recording this, the historic maritime heart of London?

Fortunately there is already a video that captures JP's visit if you are prepared to make a few, very minor, mental editorials as you watch it, starting with the gender and age of those involved plus the additional points listed below.

Note that:
  • There was no skipping, dancing, prancing, posing, jumping or spinning around
  • There was a lot less hair, which was not curly but had the odd touch of grey
  • There were no sun glasses or bikes
  • There were no ice cream vans
  • There were no friends present
  • There was definitely no singing
  • There was no jewellery, bracelets, crop tops [Ed: is that right???], skirts, floral outfits, painted nails etc. etc.
  • There was a lot less leg on display (none actually)
  • There was no retro cine camera or hoops
  • There was no "alternative" approaches to purchasing flowers
  • There were no flowers given away as there were no flowers
  • There were no fans, selfies, laughing or waving
  • There were no lottery tickets or money taped to parking meters
  • There were no records, hats, balloons, rescue shelter visits, kittens or cat food
  • There were no dogs 
  • There were no piggy-backs what-so-ever
  • There were no free high-fives or cute post-it notes
  • There was no ice cream
  • There was no chocolate sauce or signs
  • There was absolutely no hand stands
  • There were no cycle rickshaws
  • The sun wasn't actually setting
Hmmm.... maybe this approach to videos isn't such a good idea after all.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Keeping plastics out of the Thames

Boo to plastics!! Polluting our rivers and seas!!! Bad plastics!!

But what to do?

The Port of London Authority (PLA) and Thames 21 (as in the Beverley Brook gun incident) have been working together to remove the rubbish from the river for years, but it still keeps on coming.

So they put together this video presented by explorer Paul Rose as part of their "Do the right thing" Cleaner Thames campaign.

Coincidently I was actually in Greenwich while this video was being shot and saw Paul out on the PLA boat. So I kept looking for myself in the background walking along the Thames path, but with no success.

Which Greenwich trip, you might be asking? Was any other video taken?

Good questions....

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Gloriana and other classic boats

Yesterday's post of a fancy painted rudder was, as Tillerman correctly identified, that of the royal barge, Gloriana.

There were many other fancy and classic boats on display at St. Katharine Dock back in September as part of Totally Thames.
Tugs, yachts, barges and lots and lots of bunting.

I also had a good catch up with Alasdair of the Sumara of Weymouth blog with a stand for Arthur Beale, central London's specialist ship's chandler.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Rudder Picture Puzzle

This is the rudder of a boat that is often seen on the Thames which frequent readers will know.

Any guesses as to which it is?

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Whaler on the Thames

I'm a bit behind in blogging having been off sick for a few weeks. A lot of that time was spent staring out of the window watching the boats go by.

One of the more interesting ones was this whaler - the Henley Whaler's Molly, as can be read about here.

As can be seen, it's double ended and has a small mast, useful to handle the range of conditions that whale hunting would require.

Now of course the Thames is usually whale free (though there have been the occasional visit as far as Battersea) but Molly participates in events such as the Great River Race as well as special occasions such as the Royal Jubilee and Olympic Touch processions.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Great River Race 2015: Two Special Boats

Two boats in the 2015 Great River Race caught my eye in particular.

One was Jubilent (above), a replica of the Naval Victualling Commissioners’ Barge in the shape of a Royal Shallop. It's part of the waterman tradition along with the Doggett’s Coat and Badge race, as described here.

Going further back in history, really much, much further, was the half sized reproduction of the Dover Bronze Age boat:
It felt rather appropriate to see it on the Thames, given that many bronze age artefacts have been found along the banks of the river, as I posted about last year.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Great River Race 2015: Buff's Boat

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

I told JP I'd write something on the GRR but you know how it is - couple of late nights, head a bit delicate in the morning and the post somehow gets "eaten by the hair of the dog" if you know what I mean!

But I had to comment on the legends on Hammer of the Gods who clearly had their priorities right, fortified as they were by a bottle of something suitable strong, complementing their no-nonsense look.

Buff would have been right at home here with their "no worries" rowing style:
Good sports one and all!

This is Buff Staysail, over and out!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Great River Race 2015: Sassi says its "oarsome!!!" (geddit!?)

Hi Guys,

OMG, you GRR guys ROCK! I mean - those outfits, they were totally awesome - or should that be oarsome - GEDDIT!!!

Take the Ooo....PS above: abs. fab. guys!!! Way to like totally commit!!!

And ladies of Cam - I love, love, love the look! Feathers and masks!!! Count Sassi in!!
Just what you need for a Venice Ball - am I right?????
More great hat action here:
Alas not everyone was pulling their weight, as can be seen by this photo:
Now Pigs going to ham was TOTALLY in the spirit of things but St Quentin, would an Edwardian jacket and boater be too much to ask?? Hmm?

Of course its not all about hats - there's also SELFIES!!!
Main thing to remember is that everyone who finished is a winner!!!

(but some are more stylish than others!! - and as for JP, just DON'T ASK. Fashion d.i.s.a.s.t.e.r.)

Luv yah!!

Sassi xxx

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Great River Race 2015: Go Gladys!!

Hurrah for Chris (of Rowing for Pleasure) and co (aka the "Whiskered Terns") on Gladys!

Here they are pulling well during today's Great River Race trying to repeat their previous victories.

And they were seen over-hauling a couple of boats as they headed up the Thames....
But was it enough....?

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Crossness: The Cathedral of Sewage Works

Two hundred years ago London was a mess with raw sewage flowing into the Thames and thousands dying of cholera. In 1858 the "Great Stink" from the river got so bad that Parliament had to close and it was therefore generally agreed that something had to be done.

Enter the engineer Joseph Bazelgette who supervised the building of the great Victorian sewage network for London: 100 miles of intercept sewers, 450 miles of main sewers and 13,000 miles of local sewers. It was future-proofed by being built with double the necessary capacity and is still being used today.

All that waste was sent down the estuary to two pumping stations, one on each of the river banks, which discharged it into the out-flowing Thames.

The pumping station on the south side was built at Crossness and opened on the 4th April 1865, by a lot of big-wigs including the Prince of Wales, Prince Alfred, the Duke of Cambridge, Prince Edward of Saxe-Weimar, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Archbishop of York and the Lord Mayor of London.

It could have been one of those hidden away, not to be talked about, bits of ugly but necessary machinery. But for some reason the Victorians built the pumping station as a cathedral of industrialisation, ornate cast iron decorations around a central Octagon.
The building contains some of the largest steam engines in the world: their scale can be judged in this picture of two of the beams:
It has a wonderful Gothic feel to it, and you won't be surprised to hear its been the set of many films, TV programmes and pop videos:
It was last used to pump after the great floods of 1953 and then abandoned. It might have been sold for scrap but fortunately the works were so heavy it would not have been cost effective, and was therefore left to rot.

So it was saved by default for the nation, and is now a Grade 1 listed sewage works. It's not open that often as the restoration program still has many years to go, but one such opportunity arose last weekend as part of the Totally Thames festival.

I passed it when walking from Erith to Greenwich and wanted to go in but it was closed, so I kept an eye open for an opportunity - and was glad I did!
As to that artist mentioned in the previous post? Well of course it was John Martin who came up with the idea 25 years before Bazalgette implemented it.

I've posted about him before, as his life seems amazingly rich, including art and engineering, writers and royals, from racing on steam engines with Brunel to giving a home to the author of "The Mummy".

And Crossness seems to be the embodiment of that mixture of the two cultures, where form and function both show the ideals of the Victorian era.

Monday, September 07, 2015

What did sailors use before toilet paper was invented?

So now you know.

You might be wondering what JP was doing in a museum with these sorts of exhibits?

Well it was grade 1 listed awesome and meant I could babble about one of my favourite artists - can anyone guess who that is and hence where I was?

Saturday, September 05, 2015

JP's foil-up sailing project!

In my last post I asked whether you could add foils to everything, and there could only be one response to that question and add foils to JP's own boat.

It's a classic Hobie cat (or at least a scale version) and clearly new-tech foiling required an expert, so we asked Hannah White of project Speedbird. Alas she was unavailable but mini-fig Hannah (above) was only too happy to join Team JP's foiling project!!

The first question was to the material to use for the foil, and we plumpt for Grape-Nuts cereal packet. This was found to be stronger than the Kellogg's Crunchy-nut equivalent (plus lower sugar - hurrah!):
Team JP engineers used high-tech design technology (Microsoft Visio) to define the foil size and shape, to optimise the aerodynamic effect. Naturally the coating was foil (for strength, water resistance and that shiny, laser bright look) and mini-fig Hannah was delighted by the result:
Of course the critical stage was the testing and we had to wait for optimum conditions in terms of water depth, temperature and number of bubbles.

Finally, we were able to launch the JP-foiling boat, and mini-fig Hannah had to hold on tight!! Yes, it was literally flying in the air!!
After a couple of successful runs it was back to land for a debrief:
Mini-fig Hannah's verdict: "Big thumbs up!" (or at least, the mini-fig equivalent).

So a success and proof that the JP foil-up project works!!!

It was, if I say so myself, a total foil-up!

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Holy foiling cows

Can you - should you - add foils to everything?

Also, where are the laser canons? Surely it has laser canons, somewhere in the bow...

Zap, zap, zap!

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Thames picture puzzle

Yesterday was a busy day on the Thames foreshore for men and women with hi-vis gear: but what were they doing, where, why and for how long?

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

The Last Tall Ship

Over the last few years, as part of the Thames Festival, tall ships have been coming to Greenwich for the last weekend of August, a three day long bank holiday.

On Monday there was a parade of sail followed by fireworks!!

There was also rain, lots of rain.

Now rain is typically incredibly rare in London - in fact, several hours can go by without it raining at all! Some people even call it the "Sunny City"!

[Ed: Who? Unable to fact check this!!]

Yesterday this unusual meteorological condition, combined with having a recurring bug, meant I felt more like making crab with linguine, watching Parks and Recreation, then having an early night.

Today I went exploring down river to see what could be seen of these majestic vessels. But alas, they had headed out to sea, leaving just this one remaining:
This is the Dar Mlodziezy, a Polish ship built in the Gdansk shipyards of Poland in 1981.

However I overheard one women say she had told her husband it was the Cutty Sark.

Just for comparison, this is the latter, land-locked in its glass sea:
And notice how it is not raining in any of these pictures! The Sunny City indeed!