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!.. http://www.seawitchartist.com/links.htm

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 http://www.seashepherd.org/who-we-are/the-fleet.html
Also, I found this very good video of her visit...

Monday, March 19, 2012

HMS Belfast

HMS Belfast & Tower Bridge
Sailing Barge passing HMS Belfast
The largest historic ship on the Thames is HMS Belfast, a town class cruiser that is maintained in the Pool of London by the Imperial War Museum. She was built by Harland & Wolff shipyard in Belfast, the connection obviously stuck. Accepted into the Royal Navy in August 1939 just in time for WW2 she got of to a bad start, hitting a sea mine in November that same year, she was out of it for repairs until August 1942, a long repair that had her return with better guns, armour and radar she did escort duties in the arctic for convoys going tot he Soviet Union in 1943. In December 1943 she took part in the battle of the North Cape where the German battleship Scharnhorst  was sunk. In 1944 she took part in operation Overlord, the D-day landings.
Thereafter sent to the Pacific area, she arrived just before wars end. Her final actions were in the Korean war. She left the Royal Navy in August 1963 and nearly got scrapped but was saved by the HMS Belfast Trust  in 1971 after the government ignored efforts to have her restored and kept as a museum ship. Tight sods.  She then became part of the Imperial War Museum in 1978. I went on her a few times in the 1980's myself.
It's not unusual to see visiting warships or cruise liners tied up next to her, this is because her Jetty that keeps her in deep water whatever the tide is the only one left that's up to the job, she therefore makes other things possible. 
She has been in the news recently, in November 2011 a pedestrian gangway was being repaired when this went tits up and it fell in the river, two workmen had slight injuries, but I think the reaction was way over the top myself, even though I flew down to the river to make a video (see below) when I heard the news flash. She is due to reopen after Easter..wow, that took  long time!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Havengore and MTB 102

MTB 102 in St.Katherine's Dock 
The 'Havengore' leaving St.Katherine's Dock 

The 'Havengore' and the MTB 102 ( Motor Torpedo Boat) are two boats with one thing in common, they have both carried Sir Winston Churchill, Britain's wartime leader.
While the MTB 102 is only a visitor, photographed by myself here in September 2009, the Havengore is permanently resident.
The MTB carried Churchill at a review of the 1944 invasion fleet in the company of General Eisenhower, the Havengore carried Churchill's coffin up the Thames at the end of his funeral in 1965...all a bit different!
The Havengore was built to be a hydrographic survey vessel for the Port of London Authority in 1956 and stayed that until 1995, making it their longest serving vessel. It can now be seen on the river quite often doing private  cruises.
It has a website.. http://www.havengore.com/
The Havengore will be one of the leading boats at the Queens Jubilee sail past in June.

MTB 102 has quite a history , a 20th century warship made of wood, good job she could do over 40 knots, she was one of the Little ships used in the evacuation of the British forces at Dunkirk in 1940, where, due to the disablement of HMS Keith by a Stuka dive bomber she became the flagship to Rear Admiral Wake-Walker for the last two nights of that operation.
Post war she was sold to private owners and featured in the film The Eagle has landed and Soldier of Orange. She also has a website...  http://www.mtb102.com/

Friday, March 16, 2012

Beachcombing and Magick charms of the River

The banks of the Thames and plenty of other rivers will offer the same finds as the beach, be it Sea glass, Hag stones or  fishing net floats if you are really lucky, they make great Witch balls. I havn't been THAT lucky though.
All the Hag stones I keep to ward off evil intent, be they on my Sea Witch style Altar, key ring or nailed to my front door next to Horse Brasses came from the Thames bank, no need to go to the coast!
I wouldn't have to much faith in the Horse Brass I came upon recently though, featuring Tower bridge it was named on the Brass as London Bridge, it seemed that this brass was made by someone beyond help! Horse Brasses are excellent for warding off the evil eye, after all, that's what they where made to do.
To date I have only found one horse shoe, under Tower bridge and now nailed above my front door, but if you extend to old bones you are spoiled for choice, they abound.
However, it's not all finding, a few nights ago I went to Tower bridge and threw a matchbox containing a note with all my current troubles in it down into the river for the tide, river and waning moon to carry off, and I can't think how many silver coins lay on the rivers bed, a wish being made first. Those who throw them into the Tower of London moat at the 'Traitors gate' must be making someone really happy....they all vanish again whenever they drain it!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Bermuda Ketch 'Suhaili' in St. Katherine's Dock

The Bermuda Ketch 'Suhaili'
In April 2009 I saw a very special boat on display at St.Katherine's Dock, the 'Suhaili' , this is the Bermuda Ketch that Sir Robin Knox-Johnson sailed to victory in the Sunday Times Golden Globe race of 1968-9, making him officially the first man to sail around the world non-stop and single handed. Compared to the Trimaran sailed by Dame Ellen MacArthur it looks very old fashioned, and I like it's classic lines too. Another boat with similar sort of kudos was the Gypsy Moth sailed around the world by Sir Francis Chichester, that boat was for many years on display and open to the public next to the Cutty Sark further downstream at Greenwich  but was deteriorating and had to be moved. 
I still know Sir Robin better for his illustrated book The Twilight of Sail, my well thumbed copy is kept company by many books on the topic I have.  I'm  a great fan of the Clippers and late era sailing ships.

RRS Discovery

So I wasn't to happy when polar explorer Captain Scott's ship the Discovery was moved up to her birth place ...Dundee in Scotland, she had spent many years alongside at the Embankment in central London, and a short while in St.Katherine's Dock where she was open to the public and I bet I went on her, the last wooden three masted sailing ship built in Britain (steel hulled ones continued until about 1914) Further reading..http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RRS_Discovery

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Timepiece Sundial & Girl with a Dolphin

The 'Timepiece'.

The river bank is home to many works of art, most of which are statues and sculptures as can be expected, but this favorite of mine is neither. The Timepiece by Wendy Taylor has been at it's place by St. Katherine's lock near Tower bridge since 1973.  It is a stainless steel equinoctial Sundial that has a 3.66 meter diameter, supported on three rigid chains that get you wondering how it could be done! It certainly features in the City of London Sundial walk.. City of London Sundial walk there are quite a few sundials within a mile of this one.
I have produced a poster among other things of my photo here...Sundial poster 

The 'Girl with a  dolphin' is just meters away from the sundial, it's set in a pond with a fountain, you can see that operating in my video here...Girl and Dolphin video it was made by the sculpture David Wynne in 1973, it has a sibling upstream at Cheyne walk called the 'Boy with a  Dolphin made in 1975..... boy and dolphin video which doesn't have  a fountain, but it's just as impressive!