Monday, May 21, 2018

Jimmy Cornell talks about the North West Passage, again

The first of the talks at London on Water turned out to be one that I'd already seen and heard before at the Cruising Association 18 months ago, so check out the post for more details.

Two things stuck in my mind from that earlier presentation. Firstly, Cornell came across as a bit fussy, worrying about things not being right, from the lighting to the microphone to people eating away, and secondly that as skipper he said he couldn't "afford to be nice all the time" which sounded a bit ominous for the crew.

This talk didn't really add to this, though it wasn't helped by technical issues with the laptop and microphone, background noise from the bar of people chatting, the sound of rain on the tent and people eating too close to the table where Cornell had his books.

There was something appropriate about hearing this talk at St. Katharine Docks as Cornell's voyage started and ended by going through the nearby Tower Bridge.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Boats! Boats! Boats! ... in Windsor

A couple of years ago I went to Windsor to see the castle and the Thames. It was a lovely day and went home looking forward to checking out my photos. Alas there was some sort of memory card issue and there were none.

So I went back a bit later but alas it was grey and raining. There weren't many boats out on the river and none of those nice wooden classics had hoped for:

While this weekend it is much nicer, with blue skies and warming sunshine, I do not intend to go back as understand it might be rather busy there today, for some reason.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

London on Water gets wet

Over the weekend there was a boat show called London on Water in St. Katharine Docks. I'd been to the one last year and been slightly underwhelmed, apart from some rather nice cars, though it had been a nice sunny day.

Alas the one this year was rather bucketing down though there was a bit more to see:

There was a floating pontoon area with stands, a bar (which of course Buff went straight to), an area for talks and more boats including one of those long distance offshore rowing boats (above) which I can never quite see why people sign up for.

Technically it was ticketed but in practice there was no one checking at the door onto the pontoon (and anyhow I had a guest ticket aka reason to get my email).

But I went to two interesting talks and met another of those sailing round the world making videos couples which will post about next.

With the cancellation of the London Boat Show 2019, if there is another London On Water next year it could end up being London's only boat show.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

AIPAC declares all dead on Titanic "terrorists"

Today representatives of the America Iceberg Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) declared that all those that died in the Titanic disaster were "terrorists".

"The iceberg was just defending its borders" said the AIPAC representative. "So what if some of those that died were children - they should have been at school! There were no 'passengers' - the iceberg focused only on targets of terrorist activity".

Donald Trump was declared the best ever friend of icebergs when he said that "the responsibility for these deaths rests squarely with those terrorists on-board". He said he fully supports the "great" iceberg as it was "big, powerful and white - just like me!"

Monday, May 14, 2018

The Tudor Pull: Gloriana, Stela and a photo-bombing heron

Over the weekend there was something called the Tudor Pull which is a one of those historic maritime pageants which us Brits seem to revel in (and I've posted about before).

It's an annual ceremonial for Thames Watermen's Cutters organised by the Traditional Thames Rowing Association, involving the Royal rowing barge Gloriana (above) and others (below) in which "the Stela will be given in to the custody of the HM Queen’s Barge Master to be transported under oars to HM Tower of London."

Stela according to this web site is "an ancient piece of medieval water pipe made from a hollowed-out tree trunk which symbolises the Thames". I so (to quote Sassi) want to have a look at that hallowed object sometime.

Anyhow, there was break on the voyage of Stela from Hampton Court to the Tower at Richmond timed just nicely for a spot of lunch and then everyone set off again.

In this case the photo managed also to snap a heron doing a flyby:

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Ait Benhaddou and the Atlas Mountains

As part of the trip to Morocco took a day trip from Marrakesh to the fortified village of Ait Benhaddou (above) which was used as in the series Game of Thrones.

It was pretty impressive, just south of the Atlas Mountains. It was noticeable how the scenery changed, becoming dryer as we headed over the pass:

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Ships of the desert

Recently was in Morocco and did a quick trip south of the Atlas Mountains to see one of the locations used as sets in GAME OF THRONES (might post a pic of that later).

The site was visiting was a fortified town on the camel route between the Sahara and Marrakesh and it was amazing to see that camels are still used as means of transport even to these day.

The camels are known as the ships of the desert (listen to David Attenborough talk about them here) and there were some touristy places offering rides on them.

I wasn't tempted as they are known as being rather bad tempered though I was tempted when a hawker offered and old navigation instrument used to cross the desert, though not enough to buy it.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

The return of Tillerman!!

Hi Guys!

So Buff gave me this assignment to write about the return of Tillerman who apparently "used to be into lasers but now is into aeros" or summit...

Ed: What!!! Sassi: I told Buff to write that article himself! He's actually met Tillerman!

... which is a bit weird.

I mean I like an aero an' all:

but then how cool are lasers and how many gigs have been made, like, EPIC because of lasers (see top pic).

So why has Tillerman got this sweet tooth? Buff also said he's into cold things (what was it? eating snow? biting frost?) which is, like, way freezing and not in a cool way:

And then something clicked! Maybe it's the mini-heatwave (looking soooo good, summer outfit, nice bit of tan, glass of Pinot Grigio straight from the fridge) it suddenly hit me - ICE CREAM!!!

Apparently you can make ice cream from aeros!! How yummy is that!!!

Whereas lasers plus ice equal some sort of explosions, I guess, and you can't eat boffin's lego or whatever lasers are made of.

So it all makes sense: Tillerman's no longer going to gigs but having a nice aero ice cream!! Summer living!!

...ooh... just spotted the aero JP got for the photo.... baggsie!! hmmm.... yes, Tillerman, you're right, aeros are absolutely FAB!!!

Welcome back Mr T! We've missed you!!



Monday, May 07, 2018

Working boats! Working boats! Working boats! .... in Rabat

Ok, looks like a local kid photo-bombed this pic by diving into the river between Rabat and Sale.

But in the background you can see one of the rowing boats that were ferrying people across:

At the stern one chap seems to be taking the opportunity for a bit of a nap:

Others were heading out for a day's fishing:

They did like the colour blue in Rabat

Saturday, May 05, 2018

Boats! Boats! Boats! ... in Rabat

Recently was in Rabat for work and didn't have much time off but saw in the distances a couple of dinghies out from the marina across the river in Sale.

I think Tillerman would approve of this one:

Or maybe that is the old Tillerman, for there is now a new blog, not about Lasers but instead Aeros (not the chocolate)

On the beachfront under the Kasbah les Oudaias there were these Hobies but not out on the water:

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Book Review: Those In Peril - a Blue Funnel Story, by Ian Cook

When I ordered this online I got a message back from the New Zealand vendor: it was heavier than expected and so the postage would be higher than quoted - would this be ok? Yes it was, I replied, but I can see why they would ask that as it clocks in at nearly 1.5 kg.

Those in Peril, A Blue Funnel Story, is the autobiography of Ian Cook who grew up in Scotland and was to travel the world, ending up in New Zealand many years later.

In 1944 he signed up with Blue Funnel and after training was appointed as midshipman to MV Prometheus: it was to be the start of a lifetime at sea. The book describes that life in its main stages:
- the Blue Funnel years, travel between Britain and the far east
- the Malaysia years, first with the Straits Steamship Company and then as a pilot at Penang
- the New Zealand years as pilot and harbour master

Its a rich story and I wasn't surprised to hear in this YouTube recording of a Skype interview that he constantly kept at diary which must have been the basis of this book.

Its a record of a time of much change, the last years before the container revolutionised merchant marine life, turning sailors into components to feed a mechanised distribution system. It also covers the end of empire, with independence from Britain, which was one of the motivations for the end of Cook's Malaysian years.

Intriguingly there is mention of him piloting the boat in which Victoria Drummond (another Blue Funnel old hand) was chief engineer into Penang but I couldn't see any reference to him in her book or actual reference to them meeting which is a bit frustrating.

What was common theme was Cook meeting fellow Blueys over the years and for that company to be a bond to connect them across time and space. But there was also a feeling that the Blue Funnel line changed when Lawrence Holt retired, and Cook decided to leave the company at that point.

During those years he got married three times and played a lot of golf, but that is mostly in the background, as the main focus in on his life as a sailor, ending up in New Zealand as "Captain Cook" (very appropriate).

Its a rich record of a life, though it could do with a bit more dates to tie down when events occurred, and probably more of a specialist than general read.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Book Review: Estuary by Rachel Lichtenstein

I mostly liked this book a lot, but there was a definite qualification involved.

Estuary by Rachel Lichtenstein, describes the Thames Estuary and has sub-title "Out from London to the Sea" and that is indeed the scope. It's well written and often captures the edge-land mood of these flat landscapes.

There is of course some debate about what exactly is meant by the Thames Estuary. Wikipedia gives a range of start points, some as far inland as Teddington (which seems unlikely), but Gravesend sounds plausible (though not definitive). There is a similar confusion about the end point, but maybe that is appropriate as this is where land meets sea under a sky that reaches from horizon to horizon.

The writer covers a lot of ground - including literally - from Southend Pier to pirate radio stations to Sealand to fishing folk to their families to musicians, artists, poets, writers, sailors, divers, historians....

Some of it seemed familiar and it turned out for good reason. Lichtenstein was one of the organisers of the Estuary Festival I went to back in 2016 - indeed some of the installations I saw were described in this book. Plus I've explored places she describes when searching for the London Stones.

There was also this short film which I described as "very arty" and that is both the strength and weakness of this book. It's a strength because she clearly knows about this field and has lots of interesting ideas. It's a weakness as sometimes you have to get the facts right.

Take the case of her describing the estuary during World War 2: on the 22nd November 1939 German's machine-gunned Southend Pier and after that "doodlebugs roared constantly overhead". Err... no, there were no doodblebugs aka V1s until 1944.

Or towards the end of the war when she says that commanders were told "where they would land at Normandy during the Battle of Dunkirk". Again, these are two completely different events: the Little Ships and D-Day might both involve boats but there are separate in many ways, not the least years apart and different direction of forces.

I suppose if you're an artist with an interest in oral history then what matters is narrative (not necessarily non-fiction), emotion and feelings. But it means that readers can disconnect from the text a bit as it forces you to keep asking if something really happened.

It didn't help that she doesn't seem at ease at sea, partly because of a sailing accident, but her fancies are too quick to turn wind howling through the rigging and the squeak of the timbers of an old sailing barge into ghosts hearing in those sounds "a woman's scream and the dreadful noise of children sobbing".

She is more at home on land than on water, and her sympathies are for the women of the fishing community rather than the men who die all too regularly doing their job. She reminds us of her local connections but to the sailors on the estuary itself she is a stranger.

There are plenty of photos but badly reproduced and without any titles so it is often hard to tell what they are and when they were taken.

It would have been better to call this book not "Estuary" but "The people of the Estuary" for that is what interests the author and on that level it could be considered a success.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Ocean Liners at the V&A

There are three major museums in South Kensington, but when I was young there was really only two: the spaceships and robots museum (aka Science) and the dinosaur museum (aka Natural History).

On the other side of Museum Road I knew there was something called the Victoria and Albert (V&A) but it seemed to be all about textiles, clothes and plates, which was clearly really dull.

So it is only recently that I've been inside and found out that V&A has a fantastic courtyard (one of the best in London) and is only mostly dull, for there are sometimes exhibitions of interest, such as the one on the moment about Ocean Liners.

This exhibition covers the world of the ocean liner when it was a glamorous way to travel, so from the end of the 19th century to the start of the 2nd World War (mostly). It's also limited to a few of the big firms and routes, with a large emphasis on the transatlantic route to New York.

So nothing about the Blue Funnel Line then.

It was full of interest, from the old posters (like the one above) to magnificent models, such as this cut-away that shows the different levels of opulence from 1st to 2nd and finally 3rd class in the bowels of the boat:

There is of course mention of that most famous of all liners, with this deck chair from the Titanic:

There's also focus on the glamour of liner life during the roaring twenties and fabulous (darling) thirties when top movie stars and socialites graced the decks of the super-ships battling for the Blue Ribbon:

Post war the emphasis was on leisure, swimming and sunbathing:

Then air travel took over and the super liners ended up dismantled or in the case of the Queen Mary, turned into a museum in its own right.

At the exit, film clips show the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Leonardo DiCaprio, as if to remind us of how they influence us still. The memory of those glamorous vessels, and the rich and famous that sailed on them, remains strong; echos of those glorious days and nights at sea.

An exhibition worth popping into the V&A for, even if, like for me, it isn't your usual haunt.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Thames Tideway Tunnel - April 2018 Update

In the last few months those travelling on the Thames, such as the commuters in the Clippers zooming up and down between Putney and Gravesend, will have seen more and more tunnel boring machines (TBMs) appear on the riverbank.

The one at Fulham (with cutting head above) has been assembled from parts (as blogged here) and similar constructions can been seen at other sites, such as by Battersea Power Station. In total there are 5 TBMs on this project.

The acoustic shed that was under construction (as described in this blog) is now finished and within it a shaft is being cut down to the level of the tunnel:

This pic must have been taken a few weeks ago as its now just over 20m down of the total 50m depth where tunnelling will happen.

The soil is being removed by barge down the Thames. When the TBM is fully operational it will be continually generating waste and which a series of conveyor belts will transport onto these lighters 24 hours a day.

A couple of years ago I walked the Thames Tunnel, constructed between 1825 and 1843 by the father and son team of 20 year old Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Sir Marc.

This project will take a lot less time to complete and use a lot higher tech but its fascinating to see this new part of London's infrastructure take shape.

Images from: Thames Tideway Tunnel