Monday, July 8, 2013

The waste of HMS Chrysanthemum

HMS Chrysanthemum

The loss of classic ships from the Thames in London has been sad for me but usually it's because they have gone on to better things. HMS Belfast seems there to stay, as does HMS President unless Cameron &Co interfere, the lovey RRS Discovery, the ship Captain Scott took on his first voyage to Antarctica was there for many years, briefly transferred to St. Katherine's dock where I took the opportunity to go aboard, then she was taken home to Dundee in Scotland where she is well placed and open to the public, admitably away from the greater draw of interest the Cutty Sark would have been taking away. The last sea going passenger paddle steamer Waverley is gone too...but back in service, good luck to her! The collection in St.Katherines dock has lost it's dumb (no engine) Lightship also.
But one loss that angered me is HMS Chrysanthemum, an Anchusa class sloop (Navy Sloops are different from sailing sloops) of 1917 vintage. After convoy escort duty the first world war, and her service in the Mediterranean  she was moored on the Thames from 1938 until 1988 and very much part of the river, and so should have been allowed to stay as such. The governor of Malta, General Sir Walter Norris Congreve VC, was buried at sea from her in February 1927 as he requested. She evacuated British people from Barcelona during Spanish civil war in 1938.
She went on to become a Royal Navy Reserve training ship pre-war and basic training base for the Royal Navy proper in the second world war, returned to the RNR after that conflict. In 1988 The RNR acquired a building down river to replace her and HMS President, a similar ship still there, with another HMS President, but a shore establishment (A building classes as a ship...Cutty Sark by the way is a ship classed as a building!).
She was sold to a charity called Inter Action, I don't know anything about them, but it turned out to be  a waste, she was scrapped soon after in 1995. There are just too few ships like this around the world to be scrapped!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Diamond Jubilee Thames show for many!

Failing to arrive at the Thames before dawn didn't help me get a good place to see the river pageant, but if I had I think I would have been moved on from my hoped for place by the Timepiece at St.Katherine's lock. I got there to find it firmly blocked off, and moving towards the Tower of London embankment I found the gates closed, a well dressed group waiting to be let in, I learn from them that only those with an invitation were allowed beyond, and lo behold, an official sort of person began to address them, by the size of this group it was clear they weren't going to be crowded. Thousands of people will have been denied a chance to see the Pageant so a few chosen ones could do so in comfort. I thought this was supposed to be  a public/peoples event? It certainly didn't take this to keep people clear of the saluting battery at the west end of this place. Tower bridge was of course raised and the media were there in force as I expected, the public offered one of the few video screens I saw but wasn't prepared to struggle forwards to. Further along the river exclusion abounded, crowd control I understand, privileged access less so. People came in the night and probably arrived with a milk bottle to pee in were surely the ones who did best!
Readers comments on the BBC News website tell of similar exclusions on the south side of the river, someone in Shad Thames was asked for a ticket he never had. Trying to show  a million plus people something in an environment not set up for it can't be done, but I think everyone should have had a fair crack of the whip. I had to stand one footed on a plastic traffic cone to get my few seconds of river footage, it didn't take my weight long. I know the rain clouds didn't scare many off, but I think it was all a bit ignorant of the many who opened a brolly the moment it rained, lot of anger and argument breaking out among the affected, this doesn't seem to have been shown by the media who concentrated on what went right. A veteran of Trafalgar square at New years eve, I ought to have known better perhaps and watched all this at home? Next time theres a Jubilee Pageant on the river Thames I'll do that!
AAWWEE..cheer up, check out my latest painting, ...'The Blue Ensign'

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Jubilee approaches

The Diamond Jubilee Thames Pageant will be tomorrow afternoon, the Queen will be disembarking from her boat the Spirit of Chartwell at HMS President, I will try to get a vantage point by arriving a few hours early, I hope I'm not brushed aside by ITN or the BBC! I missed the Queens reopening of the Cutty Sark because of a dental appointment I plain couldn't forego, I don't want to miss this!
St.Katherines dock has been brightened up by oodles of bunting and flags on the Yachts there, lots of on board parties as apposed to street parties...see this brief video, I hope I will have much more to offer tomorrow...we shall see!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Return of the Robin

Robin at West India Quay before restoration
Working under the Spanish flag as 'Maria'
The worlds oldest complete steamship, the ss Robin was returned to London in July last year to the Royal Victoria dock on a floating pontoon, where the last parts of her restoration will be completed hopefully in time for the Olympics, not that she will be running in anything!
She spent some time at St.Katherine's dock and years at  West India Quay under the shadow of preserved dockyard cranes of the past near the DLR station.
In 2008 she was taken up to Lowestoft for restoration. 
She was launched in 1890 at Blackwall in London not so far from where she has been returned. She is one of three core collection Historic ships in London, the other two are Cutty Sark and HMS Belfast, both of which I've already written about here.
Like Cutty Sark she was built to a standard far above the norm, in this case to 100A1 steel ..put simply the very best. She also, like Cutty Sark many years with Iberian ship owners who clearly keep things going longer than us. Her boiler by the way is Scottish, she was towed oop narth to Dundee to have those fitted. I don't ever remeber going to sea in a ship that didn't have a Scottish engineer aboard.
She didn't spend too much time under the British flag though, she was sold to a Spanish company in 1900 and stayed a working vessel until 1974...that is just about incredible.
She was saved from the scrapyard for restoration though, and the Robin Trust have a really good website all about her life and times .... The Robin Trust
I'm planning a painting of this ship but some research will be needed as her appearance changed here and there over the years, I don't want to mess that up!
I'm really looking forward to her opening up to the public.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

When Ellen MacArthur came up the Thames

Ellen MacArthur about to board the Cutty Sark

The Trimaran B&Q at Greenwich

Sunday 20th February 2005 was a special day, British yachtswoman 28 year old  Ellen MacArthur was visiting London in her Trimaran racing yatch, the B&Q. Fifteen days earlier she had broken the world record for sailing around the world solo, this had been done in 71 days, 14 hours, 18 minutes and 33 seconds, the record would hold until 2008, when it was relinquished by her friend Francis Joyon.
She sailed up the Thames to the crowded Tower Bridge and back down to Greenwich where she would do a walk around to meet the public and appear on a giant video screen outside the Tea clipper Cutty Sark. Like millions of others I had been following her progress all the way, I hoped she wouldn't sacrifice her purple mascot Slinky to Father Neptune at the equator  and she didn't, sending him a piece of jewelry instead.
I was determined to get a 'celebrity snap' and after photographing her boat on the Thames (see above) went to a metal bollard near the door cut in the ships side, before the crowds gravitated there, that was as close as the public could get and actually a couple of feet past the erected fence too...I was still a member of the Cutty Sark Trust and wore the badges, but still glared at the jobsworth  security guard with X-ray eyes 'don't you dare'...he let me stay probably because I'd only get a replacement, so there I perched like  a Pixie for more than an hour on a post just big enough to balance on...just a bit uncomfortable but I was well rewarded with the photo you see above. A korean girl next to me had wanted a photo and an autograph, but never got either, act is Ellen was being ushered away from the crowd at this point onto her next stage aboard the ship to meet people like the Mayor of Greenwich and friends. Secret here is to stay focused!
Later that week I discovered a friend of mine was the cab driver who took her away to her hotel in the evening..small world as well as a giant one!
Find her website on my Links page!..

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Sea Shepherds 'Steve Irwin' came to London

The 'Steve Irwin'
The 'Steve Irwin' passing Tower Bridge
On September 5th last year London had what many people would call a very special ship visiting, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Societies (SSCS) flagship the Steve Irwin. This hero of the Whale wars stayed mostly at West India dock on the Isle  of Dogs, but on the 12th she came up river and passed Tower Bridge to visit HMS Belfast next to which she tied up as many deep water vessels will, a fund raising dinner night was held aboard the Steve Irwin which left early the next morning.  
She arrived in her still rather new dazzle style naval camouflage and as it happens I was being dazzled by the sun that just had to show it's face when I took the photos, this paint scheme was developed in WW2 to help convoy escort vessels escape the eyes of U boats, it's worn also by the HMS Belfast. Previously she had been painted black. The SSCS version of the Jolly Roger is painted on the front below the ships bridge. She currently flies a Netherlands flag, the 77 you see on the bow represents 1977, the year SSCS was founded.She looked every inch a small warship armed to the teeth with catapults for the fabled butter bombs favoured by the Sea Shepherd Society, the butteric acid they splatter the poor defenseless  whaler with is harmless but atrociously smelly, stick your nose in bucket of vomit and you'll get the idea.
The Steve Irwin is the 53 meter former Scottish fisheries protection vessel Westra , built in 1959, she was bought after being laid up a while by Sea Shepherd and renamed Robert Hunter after a Co founder of the Greenpeace Foundation and close friend of SSCS president Paul Watson, he died in 2005. Later in 2007 prior to starting their operation Migaloo in the Southern ocean she was again renamed this time as the Steve Irwin after the late Australian conservationist. You can read about the entire current SSCS fleet on their website page here
Also, I found this very good video of her visit...