Association of Thames Yachts in West India Dock

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Over the year, I do my best to chart the movements of ships in and out of the West India Dock, we have a number of super yachts, naval ships and tall ships. However around bank holidays, the dock is sometimes used for rallies where a large number of smaller ships and boats converge for a weekend of events.

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Over this August Bank Holiday, we have the pleasure of welcoming the members of the Association of Thames Yacht clubs to West India Dock for their 62nd Rally.

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The Association represents the smaller yachts on the Thames and organise a series of events to encourage boating skills including competitions, training sessions and social interaction with a BBQ and other get togethers.

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If you are visiting West India Dock over the weekend, you will have quite a range of craft to look out, the HMS Falken tall ship, the super yacht Ilona and the small yachts are soon to be joined by a regular visitor, the tall ship Stad Amsterdam.

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Swedish Navy training ship HMS Falken in West India Dock

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After the short visit from the Lord Nelson, West India Dock welcomes another tall ship with the arrival of the Swedish Navy training ship, the HMS Falken.

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The Falken, sails with 9 officers, 19 midshipmen and 5 crew members and is 132 ft long. Like many naval training ships, the Falken is used to train cadets to give them a high degree of practical seamanship and navigation. Cadets are also assessed for leadership and team building skills.

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The Schooner was built from a Tore Herlin design in 1947 at the Naval Dockyard in Stockholm. Sail training has a long history in the Swedish navy dating back to the 17th century, this tradition is carried on by HMS Falken and HMS Gladan.

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The visit is a bit of a surprise to West India dock watchers, therefore little is known about how long the schooner will be in dock and whether she will be open to public visits.

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STS Lord Nelson in West India Dock – 21st August 2016

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With the Royal Greenwich Tall Ships Festival  due to take place in September, the West India Dock welcomes a Tall Ship which is a regular visitor to the dock and one of the pioneers for providing training  for disabled and able-bodied people.

The Lord Nelson was the first tall ship that was purpose-built with the aim of integrating disabled with able-bodied people. The ship was the fulfilment of the vision of JST’s founder, Christopher Rudd who believed that physically disabled people should be able to sail alongside able-bodied people as part of the crew. The charity raised the money to build the ship aided by a grant from the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Appeal which led to the charity to being called the Jubilee Sailing Trust.

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The Lord Nelson sailed on her maiden voyage in 1986, Since that voyage, the STS Lord Nelson has sailed 461,943 Nautical Miles and taken nearly 29,000 people to sea. Of these, 10,500 people were physically disabled and more than 3,500 were wheelchair users.

One of the most remarkable aspects of the ship is that Lord Nelson’s has many facilities for disabled crew including flat wide decks, powered lifts, speaking compass, Braille signage and bright track radar for visually impaired crew members. An induction loop and vibrating alarms have been installed for hearing impaired crew members. There are also special cabins, toilets and shower facilities for disabled crew.

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However, the whole purpose of these facilities is to enable the disabled crew to work side by side with the able-bodied crew, there is no room for passengers, everyone has duties to perform.

Between 2012 and 2014, the Lord Nelson undertook its greatest challenge by completing a voyage around the world visiting 7 continents and 30 countries. Whilst in Australia and New Zealand she raced in tall ships races and also carried out an Antarctic Expedition.

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The Lord Nelson is a 55m barque that usually has a crew of 50, there is a permanent Crew of Master, First Mate, Second Mate, Bosun, Chief Engineer, Second Engineer, Medical Purser, Cook, two volunteer Bosun’s Mates, volunteer Cook’s Assistant and Deck Officer Cadet. The Voyage Crew consists of 38 people, 50% of whom may be physically disabled (up to eight wheelchair users).

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The Jubilee Sailing Trust and the Lord Nelson were pioneers in promoting integration between able-bodied and physically disabled adults through the medium of tall ship sailing. Their success has enabled disabled people to undertake adventures as part of a working crew and earn respect for their contribution. It was this success that led to the Jubilee Sailing Trust to build a second ship, Tenacious, a 65m wooden barque which is the largest ship of her kind to be built-in the UK in over 100 years and undertook her maiden voyage in 2000.

The Tenacious  is also a regular visitor to West India Dock and both ships are a wonderful reminder of what can be achieved by fulfilling a vision of providing  opportunities to people with a wide range of abilities.

The Strange Story of an Infernal Machine in Limehouse Cut in 1882

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Tower of London Explosion 1885

Regular readers will know that I am always on the lookout for unusual stories about the local area and recently I came across the following newspaper report from 1882. As usual when looking into the past we find that many of what we think of as modern problems, in fact have a long history.

Supposed Infernal Machine in the Regent’s Canal.

Extraordinary scenes

As a man named William Peacock, a lighterman of 110, White Horse Street, Stepnev, was rowing his barge down what is known as the Limehouse Cut, he noticed under one of the bridges, an extraordinary looking object lying right in the track of his barge. There was a kind of crackling noise proceeding from it, and he saw or fancied he saw, small flames  darting upward from the mysterious body. he brought his craft to anchor, waited for a short time, and was presently joined by several other men who were navigating their barges down the cut. He pointed out to them what he had seen, and they, after looking for themselves bought their craft to anchor, none of them daring to pass the uncanny looking article under the bridges. By degrees there, was quite a fleet of barges lying moored near the spot.

Whilst the men in charge of them lined the banks watching the phenomena that none of them could explain, and none of them cared to get too close in case of an explosion. At last one of the number suggested that the police should be communicated with, and one of them went and fetched a constable, Joseph Chapman, 93K. After some consideration the constable determined to go and investigate the phenomena, and asked one of them to lend him a boat. He was strongly presented against it. but persisted in his intention. Once a boat being bought, the constable rowed out towards the article which had caused so much commotion. In spite of the ominous cracklings and the fire which was proceeding from it, Chapman lifted the thing into his boat, and rowing to the bank, jumped out, and ran as hard as he could towards the Pigott Street Police Station,, amid the ringing cheers of the lightermen, who regained their barges and got them under way.

On his arrival at the station, Chapman placed the object in the yard, and called Inspector Nelson and Nunan to examine it. As the thing was still blazing away, a large quantity of earth was then shovelled on top of it until it was completely buried. After about an hour the earth was removed and it was that found that the flames had been put out. The article was examined with great caution being exercised . It was found to consist of a large piece of wood, about 18in. by 28in. ; a round hole was cut in the centre of this, and sunk in the hole was a large tin canister about 4inches in diameter and 12in long. In the upper end of it a very small hole was bored, and it was through this that the small flames and the peculiar crackling noises proceeded. The top of the tin was removed with very great care and it was found to be filled with some chemical composition, the exact nature of which is not known at present, ? but it is believed to be Greek fire. The tin, however, is to be taken to a chemist to analyse its contents. It cannot be conjectured why the machine should have should have been placed where it was found unless it was the intention of the person who put it there to blow up some of the crafts as they passed up and down. A threat of this kind was made 12 months ago, the police are strictly investigating the matter.

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Scotland Yard Bombing 1883

Whilst the modern reader may find the incident quite amusing, however, a little bit of background research suggest more sinister motives may have been at work. Infernal machines generally referred to bombs or explosive devices made and used by anarchists or terrorists as they would be termed today. The Fenians mounted a bombing campaign from 1881 to 1885 when they set off a series of explosions in a number of British cities including explosions in the Tower of London, Westminster Crypt and the Chamber of the House of Commons in 1885 in an event immortalised as ‘Dynamite Saturday’. Also at this time, anarchists set off bombs all over Europe to further their own particular ends.

Although these type of attacks were not unknown in the past, the wholesale use of infernal machines being used in such a concerted way was the forerunner of terrorist campaigns in the 20th and 21st centuries.

The Fenians had a lot of support in America and bomb campaigns had been undertaken in the United States after the the Civil war when a industry for the construction of infernal machines began to develop. If this was not bad enough, the availability of cheap scientific journals to the general public saw a rise in the home manufacture of explosives by individuals who would then use them for a variety of reasons. Disgruntled employees were often the perpetrators of a number of ‘infernal machine’ incidents. The ‘Greek Fire’ referred to in the report was a chemical that reacted with water to create an explosion on the water.

Whether the Limehouse Cut incident was part of a wider campaign or a disgruntled loner, we will probably never know. However it had been only a few years previously  that a barge carrying gunpowder exploded on the Regent’s Canal causing a number of deaths and widespread destruction. This was not a terrorist attack but gives some indication of the dangerous materials being bought through the city at the time and provides evidence that working on the canal had its own particular dangers.

 

Super Yacht Ilona arrives in West India Dock – August 2016

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On a warm sunny day , the West India Dock  welcomed the Super Yacht Ilona, the Ilona last  visited the dock in December last year and also visited when the 2012 London Olympics was taking place.

The yacht stayed in West India Dock for a considerable time on her last visit and created quite a large amount of interest and will likely turn a few heads this time.

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The 73.81 metres (or 242 ft) long custom built yacht was launched by Amels in the Netherlands in 2004 and she has also refitted in 2006, and 2012. She is classed as one of the world’s top 100 largest private yachts and has the unusual feature of a helipad, when she was built the helicopter could be stowed in a hangar below deck. In the latest refit, the helicopter garage was replaced by a large 10m by 3m swimming pool.

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Estimated to have cost 100 million dollars, the Super Yacht Ilona is owned by one of Australia’s richest men, businessman Frank Lowy who made much of his fortune developing shopping centres with the Westfield Group. Lowy has also been one of the main individuals  responsible for developing professional football in Australia in the last decade.

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Unusually for a Super Yacht owner, Lowy and his family have used the yacht to travel extensively around the world and the boat is the fourth yacht called Ilona which has been built and launched for the owner.

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As usual in the secret world of Super Yachts, little is known about plans of the owner or the boat during its stay. Whatever the plans, the boat provides plenty of on board comfort with a cinema, a massage room and a gymnasium. The boat can also accommodate a maximum of 16 guests, in 6 cabins and carries a crew of around 28.

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The Changing Face of the Isle of Dogs – August 2016

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Regular readers will know that when writing about the Isle of Dogs, I feel it is important to keep readers up to date with the latest developments on the Island and Canary Wharf. In April, I wrote a post about the building developments currently under construction. Considering it was time for an update, I began to walk around the various developments.

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The developments in Canary Wharf are taking place in the east and west fringes of the estate. two major schemes are under development, New Phase (formerly known as Wood Wharf) and the Newfoundland development.

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Both developments have had considerable progress with the foundations of the Newfoundland development being constructed , at the New Phase it is the core of the new tower that is rising up from the foundations of the new complex. Both of the developments have built cofferdams that have reclaimed parts of the dock to enable building to be undertaken.

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When completed there will be 58-storey residential tower on the Newfoundland site and the New Phase site will have a mix of uses, including a residential area for over 3,200 new homes, nearly 2 million sq ft of  commercial office space, and 335,000 sq ft of shops, restaurants and community uses.

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A new development is just starting over the road from the Newfoundland site, based on the old City Arms site is Landmark Pinnacle which will have 75 levels which the developers claim will be London’s largest residential tower.

The other major buildings changing the skyline at the top of the Island are the new Novotel hotel, Baltimore Tower and the Dollar Bay development.

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Each of these developments seem to making significant progress with the Novotel Hotel possibly open for business as early as late 2016. Novotel Canary Wharf will have a height of 124m and consist of 39 floors.

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The Dollar Bay development at the bottom of South Dock looks to be built up to its 31 storey tower, Baltimore Tower in Millwall Dock area is likewise built to around 45 floors.

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Many people who live in the area probably take little notice of the sites in the development stage, however in the next decade, the whole skyline of the Isle of Dogs will change dramatically. It is part of the process that started with the building of Canary Wharf skyscrapers that seemed to change London’s attitude to skyscrapers. With the City of London and many other London neighbourhoods dealing with their own development sites, one question may be whether the effect of Brexit will slow down this process or speed it up.

Island History : George Green’s School Days – A Living Legacy

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In recent months, I have written about some of the many initiatives looking into the history of the Island. The latest initiative is an exciting project being undertaken by George Green’s School, they have been awarded a Heritage Lottery Fund grant to enable a group of young people from the school to investigate the school’s links to local history connected to shipbuilding, the docks, and the development of Docklands.

Laurence, Samuel, 1812-1884; George Green (1767-1849)

Laurence, Samuel; George Green (1767-1849); National Maritime Museum

The young people will learn research skills by exploring the Island History Trust collection at Tower Hamlets’ Local History Archives and visiting the National Maritime Museum which holds material connected to George Green and his family. Students will take part in activities such as photography with well-known photographer Mike Seaborne, and be trained in oral history interviewing by Eastside Community Heritage. They will produce an exhibition of photographs, a book and an exhibition of images and text. National Maritime Museum curators will also provide them with a workshop on how to create their own ‘pop up museum’. The project will form the central theme of two large scale public events and exhibitions in the Autumn, where young people and the local community come together to exchange ideas and memories and celebrate the local heritage of this unique part of East London.

Dixon, William, 1775-1830; View of Mr Perry's Yard, Blackwall

Dixon, William; View of Mr Perry’s Yard, Blackwall; National Maritime Museum

George Green was an interesting character who was an apprentice at Perry’s famous Blackwall yard which built and repaired many of the ships owned by the East India Company. In 1796, Green married Perry’s daughter and gradually took over parts of the company. In the 1820’s , George Green founded a line of popular passenger sailing vessels to India and Australia, known as the Blackwall frigates and became involved in the whaling trade. He made a considerable fortune and retired in the 1830s to undertake philanthropic works which included almshouses, sailors homes, a chapel and schools, the first George Green’s School was founded in 1828 in East India Dock Road.

Callow, H. J.; The Blackwall Frigate 'Maidstone' at Sea

Callow, H. J.; The Blackwall Frigate ‘Maidstone’ at Sea; National Maritime Museum

This year George Green’s School, will be 40 years old on its current site on the Isle of Dogs. The project will celebrate the history and heritage of the school with young people  making connections with members of the local community and ex-pupils to collect personal memories of the school, both at its current location on the Isle of Dogs, and on its previous site in Poplar.

If you went to George Green’s School when it was in Poplar or on the Island and would like to share your memories, the project would like to hear from you.

For further information you can contact Jane O’Sullivan at George Green’s School via email at josullivan@georgegreens.com or telephone 0207 967 6032 ext 527

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