Friday, June 26, 2020

Returning to messing about

London is reawakening. The Thames is getting busier, parks are packed with picnickers and the sun is out.

Alas its not all good: concert halls remain empty while roads are filling not with people friendly bikes and microvehicles but noisy polluting cars. Air quality is reverting to pre-lockdown poor levels.

It might even be possible to go sailing again - if work, work, work (I am triple loaded at the moment) doesn't get in the way.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

The Thames Partially Re-opens

As of today, the Thames is open yet again for recreational activity, subject to restrictions as described in the PLA Notice to Mariners No.9 of 2020, extract above, full text here.

The river has been wonderfully quiet recently, allowing wildlife to flourish:

Though during the lock-down it hasn't been entirely empty of recreational users, as have spotted the odd kayak, rowing boat, canoe or stand-up paddle board out there.

But the policing has been sensitive rather than heavy-handed. Indeed here there seems to be more interest in taking a photo than names and addresses:

Maybe things are turning a corner, for a future where R < 1. Or, as a pirate would say, where Rrrrrr  < 1!

Fingers crossed.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Talk to Sailors!

There's an interesting article in the Times today about research into the Viking Tune ship, above, in the Oslo Museum (as visited on my way up to Svalbard).

Apparently recently it has been identified was an especially fast vessel, with significantly larger rig than would be expected for its length, and particularly sea-worthy. However, as the article puts it:

Norwegian archaeologists had missed the significance of the boat because “they didn’t actually talk to people who knew boats and ships”. In contrast, [Dr Paasche] sails and is in touch with traditional Norwegian boatbuilders.

They should have talked to the sailors!

I have thought that before. Archaeologists seem obsessed in seeing religious significance in everything - no doubt future archaeologists will write articles about the religions of London involving worshipping of the gods Arsenal, Chelsea, Fulham and all.

So when they find evidence of a causeway near Vauxhall into the Thames of course its a religious site. The fact that the location is the highest point that the Thames was tidal (at the time) and hence could alternatively be a trading site, where boats would be able to take produce up and down is ignored.

The role of trade in driving humanities history of the oceans is the subject of the book "The Boundless Sea" by David Abulafia which is in my to-read pile of books, though it is dauntingly fat, heavy, long (over a 1,000 pages) and uses a small font.

Archaeologists aren't the only ones who don't seem to get sailing. I remember seeing this painting of a wave by August Strindberg at the Tate Exhibition on that artist:

In the blub around this painting, called "The Wave" (obv.) the museum described the fear the wave brings.

But to me it reminds me of sailing offshore where the wave, if coming from astern, means in a few seconds time the yacht will be surfing down its edge. So the emotions are (also) anticipation and excitement at the thrill to come.

Given one of the Strindberg's themes is the creative process, those emotions are as important if not more so than fear.

I'm guessing the museum curators are not sailors, and have not surfed a yacht down waves like those.
But Strindberg would have, as he travelled a lot by boat across the Stockholm archipelago.

The Tate too should have talked to some sailors.

Friday, April 03, 2020

The serene Thames

The Thames is serene and quiet. Water is flat and reflections are sharp. The only sounds are the cries of seagulls and squawks of coots.

Due to the lock-down, all sorts of traffic on the tidal Thames in London has been cancelled. There are no Thames Clippers, zooming up and down, the Thames Tideway Tunnel has stopped drilling (at least in my local site) and pleasure boats are recommended not to venture out (see PLA advice above).

I have seen a couple of kayakers but I've noticed they have been stopped by the PLA. Not sure what has been said (too far away) but I'm guessing its on the lines of the message above: don't put yourself or the lifeboat crews at risk.

This is really not a good time to require a trip to A&E.

Monday, March 16, 2020

A weird boat for these weird days

Just spotted on the Thames. It's the Sea Shepherd II, some sort of Viking rock band stage boat - what do you make of it?

Stay safe, everyone.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Boats! Boats! Boats! ... in Bristol

Bristol was in the news today as Greta Thunberg was leading one of her demos to try and get those politicians to actually do something about global warming.

I was recently in Bristol myself, and had planned to visit Isambard Kingdom Brunel's famous SS Great Britain but alas it was just closing as I arrived. It was also a rather cold, wet and windy day, so I got the next train back to London.

But there were lots of boats to look at so I'm already planning a return some time.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Storm Dennis and the Thames

Recently the UK has been hit by a series of storms, most recently Storm Dennis, and the Thames has not be unaffected.

On several days the Thames Barrier had to be closed to prevent storm surges and high tide flooding London. Even so, a BMW Z4 floated away from Putney Embankment, later found full of nasty brown water.

There also have been casualties amongst the trees, include the one above, rescued after floating down river. It could have been a danger to navigation so was extracted by the PLA and towed up river. One of the branches broke off:

But it was retrieved and also taken upriver:

Hopefully the next few weeks will be a little calmer.

Monday, January 27, 2020

The traditional dhow builders of Oman

I've just got back from Oman, which is a great country to visit.

One of the things I managed to do is drive from Muscat down to Sur and visit the last remaining boat yard in Oman. Here they use traditional methods to build the classic dhows.

No computer design used here, its all from memory and craft experience, with hand tools employed:

They also build models (which I did wonder if they use to test or document designs) and there's a gift shop where they sell things such as the classic ship-in-a-bottle:

Out in the creek there are many examples of the boats created locally:

Oman has a long tradition of sailing across the Indian Ocean, trading with India and East Africa. Its possible that the legendary Sinbad was an Omani sailor.

The oldest ocean going dhow is the Fatah al Khair (The Triumph of Good) which has been preserved for history:

There is probably a lot more I could say, but the Fatah al Khair site was closed (they are working on new maritime museum for which it will be the star attraction) and no one at the boat-building site seemed to speak English. Anyhow, try this and this blog posts for a bit more info.


Sunday, January 05, 2020

Book Review: A short history of seafaring by Brian Lavery

This book does what it says on the tin: give a short history of seafaring. It's broken down into age, such as:

  1. The first ocean sailors
  2. The age of exploration
  3. etc.

and then within each section are a couple of pages of topics within that age, such as (for the first):

  • Exploring the Pacific
  • Seafaring in the Mediterranean
  • etc.

I'd be surprised if you know all about all these topics - I certainly learnt a lot. The bite sized approach means its a good book to dip into and put down. Sometimes it was frustrating that the page limit per topic resulted in missed details or limited the description to that from a single observer. Also, the maps  / charts for each ocean were slotted into specific ages but contained events from all ages which was a bit distracting.

But overall enjoyed it and would be happy to recommend it.

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Happy New Year!

Happy 2020 everyone!

This is the view from Mount Sinai just before dawn, back in November