Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Our Destiny in Lights

A narrowboater was lambasted for crossing the Thames to the opposite side of the river and passing through the main working arch of the Blackfriars Rail Bridge, nearly running into a passenger vessel coming the other way.

The bridge has five arches; three were closed, one was open with lights and the remaining one was unmarked.

The boat apparently crossed over to the wrong side of the river and passed through the lit one. Lights are the key on the Thames Bridges and your destiny can be easily reshaped if you fail to understand or obey them. ... /site/News

The upshot of this is that the PLA maintains that when there are “no lights or signs showing” this indicates “an arch available for navigation by vessels when height of tide, draft, air draft and good seamanship permit”.

Okay, in smartass hindsight, he should have known this and he should have radioed VTS to request permission to cross the river, but it’s easy to be clever after the event.

I have just written a post on the canal forum on this subject and included a complete set of photographs covering the pilotage of the tideway from Tower Bridge to Lambeth Bridge.

As you can see below, quite large vessels use the side spans sometimes.

In fact, the PLA recommend that recreational vessels use the side spans of Tower Bridge. Photo above - The lights on the centre arch are flashing in isophase, indicating a large vessel approaching. You will notice that the trip boat has noticed and is taking the side span, to keep out of the way. The RNLI station pier is now located underneath No.1 arch of Waterloo Bridge. Strangely, it is still known as Tower Pier, probably because that is where it was moved from a few years back. This is Cannon Street Railway Bridge looking downstream.

You will notice the Rubbish facility on the North bank of the river, where the cities' rubbish is transferred to barges in small containers.

These are then towed downriver to be dumped at Mucking.

More information on this subject (and a lot more photos) can be found at:

Saturday, 26 March 2011

James Bond, Towers and VHF Parrots

I passed the Maidens Tower in the Bosphorus.

I remember this Istanbul tower from the James Bond film, "The World is Not Enough".
In the film, a submarine enters a subterranean cavern under the rock that the tower stands on.

For several years, I imagined that the water was very deep around the tower, as the Bosphorus is very deep.

Considering that the waterway is only half a mile wide at this point, the deeper parts in the middle are over 150ft deep.

Although I knew that the cavern was fictional, I was disappointed to learn that the water around the tower is just a few metres deep and the shelf that falls away on the outward side of the tower is only about 35ft.

Not deep enough for an atomic submarine, I'm afraid, M.

Movies - pah..

I love Istanbul.

It has all the ingredients that I adore - water, boats, cats galore and the exotic food of the east.

Its harbours always bustle with a myriad of different vessels, bobbing in its deep, choppy, fast flowing currents, which teem with fish.

This is the ships radio station - a modern GMDSS system with DSC and satellite.

On a VHF radio, it's very easy to miss somebody calling you or some other vital piece of information.

These VHF sets record whatever is received on the channel and the sound message can be played back on demand, by pressing a dedicated playback button.

The recording is done on an internal solid state integrated "chip".

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Ciao Cio-Cio San

As long-standing Puccini fans, you can imagine how excited we were to discover that his opera, Madam Butterfly was coming to London.

We used to play the soundtrack often in our old apartment and its famous aria is our favourite classical piece of all time.

I was very fortunate to get tickets for the opera at the Royal Albert Hall, coinciding with the first mates birthday month.

The Albert Memorial in Hyde park - 176ft tall and erected to the memory of the late Prince Consort at a princely cost of £120,000 (1896)

Needs no introduction - well okay then - it's the Royal Albert Hall..

The oriental and opulent set is a Japanese water garden containing some 15,000 gallons of water, which can disappear into concealed tanks in a thrice, leaving a brushed gravel Japanese garden.

I was impressed as to how many Japanese visitors made the effort to attend - many in national costume and complete with cameras hidden in the folds of kimono.

The wedding photograph as Cio-Cio san marries the imperialist US naval lieutenant, Pinkerton.

Once he has had his wicked way with the geisha, he trots back to America and marries his second wife, leaving Cio-Cio with child.

Needless to say, it ends in tears, both literately and literally.

Cio-Cio commits hari-kiri when they try to take her child from her and she is disowned by her own people.

Asako Tamura, who played and sang the lead, ended up with the mascara running down her face as the audience gave her a 5 minutes long standing ovation.

Absolutely brilliant.

What has this to do with canals - unadshamely nothing at all - Puccini did have a dayboat called "Butterfly" on the lake at Torre del Lago.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Outward and Homeward Bound 2

It's like the old joke -
You know the best thing that comes from Liverpool -
The road home - boom boom.

Only joking.

Well in this case, it's the route home.

The Salthouse Dock, Liverpool

Wapping Basin, Liverpool Docks

Liverpool Marina with Coburg Dock in the background

Brunswick Dock

The Sea Lock - Brunswick Dock

The Lock Chamber - Liverpool Marina

Entrance to Liverpool Marina from the Mersey

A Tanker discharging at Tranmere Terminal, River Mersey

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Outward and Homeward Bound

"An' when we gets to the Liverpool docks,
The pretty girls come down in flocks,
One to the other you can hear them say,
Here comes Johnny with his three years' pay,
Hurrah, we're outward bound.."

A Sea Shanty often sung on clippers trading from Liverpool................

Salthouse Dock and the largely empty BW pontoons for the boat show that won't happen.

Oh, I can feel the urge to reach for my concertina for a little shanty..

This wall was built from the remnants of one of the old dock warehouses.

Happy Days

A monument to all the families who emigrated and never saw Liverpool again

Capstan Full Strength ?

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Saying Goodbye to Ellesmere Port

Well who said that all boats in a museum need to be in pristine condition ?

Seriously though, it is heart rending to see these old boats in such a state, but it's still possible to appreciate them.

I think this must have been a tug of some description judging by the size of the prop that it could have turned.

This is another view of "Ferret".

What museum could be complete without their own Bolinder ?

"Regulus" is a butty, built by W.H. Yarwood & Sons of Northwich in 1935.
She was reunited with her original motor "Radiant" in 1994.

This is the Whitby lighthouse at Ellesmere Port. It was designed and built by Thomas Telford in 1829 to guide vessels into the dock complex from the River Mersey.

When the Manchester Ship Canal reached Ellesmere Port in 1891, vessels had to enter at Eastham and the light was no longer needed.

Friday, 11 March 2011

The Road To Eastham and the M.S.C

This blogpost explores the passage through Ellesmere Port from the Shropshire Union and out on to the Manchester Ship Canal.

The National Waterways Museum offers moorings for 7 days (and free entrance to the museum) for the normal price of an admission ticket.
There are no facilities on the moorings, but there is a single water point, which you can see outside the reception building (on the right of the photo below).

The photograph below shows the museum reception building and the free short term 48 hour moorings on the right (where the narrowboat is moored).

Boats coming from the Shropshire Union into the port enter from right to left. The far lock is the Whitby Top Lock.

Looking down towards the lower basin, you can see that the functioning Whitby Locks are on the right whereas the left side locks are being used as an impromptu drydock for the trip boat.

In the photograph below, you can see the Whitby Lower Lock on the right, the lower basin (wider expanse of water) and then in the far distance, the last narrow lock which separates the lower basin from the Manchester Ship Canal. Note the funnel from the sunken boat, sticking out of the lower basin.

A close-up of the wreck is shown here. Whitby Lower Lock is off to the left and the last lock is out of shot, to the right. The channel ahead shows the route through to the lower basin moorings and Raddle Wharf, so named because it was originally used for the handling of red ochre associated with ore. It is also the route to the wide lock shown further down below.

The sunken boat is something of a navigation hazard for a longer boat trying to enter
the final lock - the submerged hull sticks out quite a way !!
She is ex Admiralty Harbour Launch Diesel (HLD) No.39461. She was largely exposed last year when the water level in the basin was lowered by about 5 feet.
You can see that a swing bridge straddles the lock.
The local council have to be called out to swing the hydraulically activated bridge for you and they need 8 hours notice.

This is the view from the final lock, looking down into the ship canal basin, currently occupied by a Dutch tug.

Out past the tug and the lighthouse, into the Manchester Ship Canal.

If the other route is used, past Raddle Wharf, the ship canal can only be accessed via the wide lock, which looks like it hasn't been used for a while.

This is the view on the ship canal up towards the Weaver.

This is the view towards Eastham Locks and the Mersey.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

The Best Little Museum in Canaldom

We finally managed to get to the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port and what a little cracker it is.

In our cruising, we have visited the London Canal Museum and Gloucester, but this one is the jewel in the crown.

Ellesmere Port was basically a transhipment port.

It sits between the Manchester Ship Canal and the Shropshire Union Canal. The location is only a few miles from the tidal River Mersey with the great port of Liverpool a few miles downstream.

Beyond that, the World.

Cargo would come in to Liverpool or the ports on the ship canal, in large ocean going vessels and get transhipped into wide beam barges or Mersey sailing flats.

Smaller coastal ships or the wide beam barges would enter the lower basins of Ellesmere Port and then their cargoes would be transhipped into working narrowboats in the upper basins.

Once loaded, the narrowboats would travel the canal network, reaching potteries, coal mines, factories and so on. Of course, it would also work the other way round, with British exports originating in the heart of England, being shipped to the colonies and the world market.

Transhipment was achieved by cranes and railway trucks around the dock.

The museum is huge - the waterways are still intact, but some of the transhipment quay buildings and warehouses have been replaced by sympathetic modern buildings like apartments, offices and even a Holiday Inn Hotel. The British Sub-Aqua club have their offices in the modern part of the complex.

In the photo above, you can see how the port looks when entering from the Shropshire Union.

You can see the Whitby Locks (well the lower ones anyway), which allow narrowboats to enter the lower basin.

"Ferret" is shown here. Built by Yarwoods at nearby Northwich in 1926, she is a motor and would have towed an unpowered butty. The building behind is the old dock office.

Bacup is one of the last Leeds and Liverpool Canal motor short boats to be built (1950).

One of the saddest things about the museum is the fact that so much of it is undergoing restoration. It must cost an absolute fortune to keep the buildings in a good state of repair and to renovate the boats. They have done a fantastic job and there were lots of busy volunteers in attendance, working on the boats, surveying, tending the gardens, etc.
There are, however, a lot of boats in very poor condition. Some I imagine are too far gone and some are work in progress.
There is a beauty in their decay and even in death, they still have the power to excite the true boat enthusiast.

"Mendip" is a case in point. They were hard at work on her.
She was an F.M.C boat, also built at Yarwoods and was the fifth boat of six ordered, being
delivered in 1947.

These workers cottages are open to the public. Built in 1833, they had no running water, electric or even gas. They had a shared earth toilet out back. Although this seems primitive now, it was pretty normal for the time.

This boat caught my eye. Amaryllis is a 1954 motor cruiser with mahogany planking on oak frames. Powered by a Morris Vedette engine, she still turns heads with her curvy bilges.
Below is her cockpit - I love the speaker !!

Don't miss part 2 of the Best Little Museum in Canaldom, where I plan to go into some more detail about the basins and lock arrangements and show a few more pictures of boats and wrecks.