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Monthly Archives: September 2016

The PS Waverley at Tower Bridge


Regular readers will know that one of my favourite walks on a Sunday morning is from the Isle of Dogs to the Tower of London.  Once you leave Canary Wharf behind, you enter the old docklands walking along Narrow Street in Limehouse to Shadwell Basin and then passed by Tobacco Dock to Wapping.


Finally you can walk around St Katherine’s Dock where you will often see the Gloriana and Havengore moored before finally arriving at the Tower. Quite often I will cross Tower Bridge to explore the south side of the river, this week my progress was halted by the raising of the bascules to allow a ship pass through. Although I have seen the bridge raised many times, I have never been on the bridge when it has happened. Therefore I joined the excited throng of people looking over the bridge to see what ship was coming underneath.


To my great surprise, it was the PS Waverley being pulled by the tug General VIII. The PS Waverley is the last seagoing passenger-carrying paddle steamer in the world and since 2003 Waverley has been listed in the National Historic Fleet by National Historic Ships UK as “a vessel of pre-eminent national importance”.  


Built in 1946, she used to sail from Craigendoran on the Firth of Clyde to Arrochar on Loch Long until 1973. She was then restored and now operates passenger excursions around the British coast.


She is a regular visitor to the Thames and is one of the great sights of the river chugging up and down with lots of passengers.


Unfortunately there was little chugging this time as the PS Waverley was pulled through the bridge and off to be repaired.


Sail Greenwich Highlights by L Katiyo


Photo – L Katiyo

Whilst I have been watching the activity in West India Dock over the last week, regular contributor, L. Katiyo has been watching the river and especially the Tall Ships who returned to London to take part in cruises on the river Thames.


Photo – L Katiyo

These cruises went from the Greenwich Heritage Centre and Woolwich Royal Arsenal Pier past many of the historic landmarks on the Thames up to Tower Bridge.


Photo – L Katiyo

The night cruises ended with spectacular fireworks displays.


Photo – L Katiyo

As L. Katiyo’s photographs show, the sight of Tall ships going around the Island up to the centre of London is a great spectacle and was enjoyed by many.


Photo – L Katiyo

This year there was around ten tall ships taking part including Gallant, Iris, J.R. Tolkien, Jantje, Mercedes, Morgenster, Oosterscheld, Thalassa and Zephyr.


Photo – L Katiyo

Many of the ships will be familiar to regular Thames watchers having taken part in many events before.


Photo – L Katiyo

This year’s Sail Greenwich is a taster for the Transatlantic Tall Ships Festival in April 2017, when a number of tall ships will be anchored at two festival sites in Greenwich and the Royal Arsenal Riverside in Woolwich. The finale of the festival will be a huge Parade of Sail on 16 April, when around 40 tall ships will sail down the Thames.

Stavros S Niarchos Tall Ship in West India Dock


With all the activity in West India Dock , it was a pleasant surprise to see the arrival of the British Tall Ship Stavros S Niarchos into dock today. The Stavros S Niarchos was last in the dock in July and is a regular visitor to the West India Dock, Thames and  Tall Ship events. The Stavros S Niarchos is a British brig-rigged tall ship owned and operated by the Tall Ships Youth Trust.


Built in 2000, she has been used to give young people the opportunity to develop skills and talents whilst undertaking voyages to various locations. She is also available for voyages and holidays which provide revenue to maintain the operation of the ship.


When she visited last year, the Stavros S Niarchos was put up for sale, it does appear that is still the case, so if you have dreamed of owning your own tall ship here is your opportunity.


The ship has a length of  197ft , masts of 148ft  and beam of 32ft, she usually operates a crew of 69 which include regular crew and volunteers.



Super Yacht Kismet in West India Dock


Recently has been very busy in West India Dock with the Thames Barges saying farewell yesterday and the arrival of one of the biggest Super Yachts Kismet which is said to have cost $200 million. Kismet has visited the dock before in 2014 when by a strange coincidence there was a French Patrol boat and a Thames sailing barge in dock. Kismet joins the French Navy Ship Cephee and the Super Yacht Ilona in the dock.


Last time the ship arrived in London it caused a bit if a stir when it was initially moored near Tower Bridge for a few days.  Part of the reason for the interest in the Super yacht Kismet is that it is owned by the owner of Football and NFL teams, Pakistani-American billionaire businessman Shahid Khan.


This visit is much more low-key with the massive yacht tucked away at the bottom of the dock. Part of the reason could be that some work may being done on the yacht. I could not fail to notice it had lost the letter ‘T’ from its name plates. The question to ask,  is the yacht changing its name ? Which may indicate that it had been sold.


Kismet is 308ft long has three decks and a private sundeck with a pool-Jacuzzi-BBQ area and all mod cons. The ship features exterior styling by Espen Øino and interior design by Reymond Langton Design featuring marble and rare woods, it will accommodate 12 guests in six staterooms, and has a crew of 20. This ship is the second vessel named Kismet owned by Mr Khan , a previous 223ft yacht was sold for a rumoured £70 million in 2013. The new Kismet was built at German boatyard Lurssen.


Unusually for the secretive super yacht world, a great deal seems to be known about Kismet and  if you fancy life aboard, the super yacht can be chartered for £940,000 or  1.6 million dollars a week.


Thames Sailing Barge Parade and Open Day in West India Docks – 17th and 18th September 2016


It is a great time for nostalgia on the Thames with Tall Ships floating past the Island and one of the biggest parades of Thames Sailing Barges seen for a long time in London over the weekend.


Lined up in West India Dock is around ten Thames Sailing Barges which at around 3.30pm on Saturday will form a parade and make their way onto the Thames and sail up to Tower Bridge.The Barges going under the raised Tower Bridge will be a wonderful sight and reminder  of when hundreds of the barges would sail into The City of London to pick up and discharge cargo.


The Thames sailing barge was the name given to a type of working sailing  boat common on the Thames in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The flat-bottomed barges were perfectly adapted to working in the Thames Estuary and beyond. Some worked along the coast and even went to continental European ports.


They carried many different cargoes, but often transported bricks, sand, coal and grain. Due to the efficiency of a Thames barge’s design, they only needed a crew of two for most journeys. Known as one of the ‘workhorses’ of the Industrial Revolution, in their heyday there were thousands of Thames Sailing Barges but it is now estimated that there are less than one hundred.


If you would like to see the Barges close up, on Sunday 18th September there will be a Sailing Barge Open Day at West India Dock. The Barge area will become a Popup Museum, open free to the public.


Shoreside activities at West India Dock include full access to the partaking barges so the public can learn of the barges history as well as meet and mingle with barge owners and crew members,.

French Navy Ship Céphée in West India Dock


In a rather crowded West India Dock, we welcome the  French Navy ship (M652) Céphée which was  formerly in the Belgian Navy and  known as (M919) Fuchsia. The Céphée  is one the Tripartite class of mine warfare vessel  mainly used by the navies of Belgium, France and the Netherlands.


The Tripartite Class  of vessels was a joint venture of the navies of  Belgium, France and the Netherlands which were conceived in the 1970s and built in the 1980s. France built the mine-hunting equipment, Belgium provided the electronics, and the Netherlands constructed the propulsion. France and the Netherlands originally bought 15, with Belgium buying 10.


All three countries’ Tripartite ships contribute at times to NATO’s Standing Maritime MCM capability groups (SNMCMG1 or SNMCMG2) and are quite often seen in the dock when they visit during NATO exercises.


The ship is 51.5 m (169 ft) long, with a beam of 8.96 m (29.4 ft) and has a range of 3,000 nautical miles (5,600 km) at 12 knots (22 km/h)  The ship usually carries a crew of 4 officers, 15 non-commissioned officers and  17 sailors.


There is usually little information about how long the ship will be in dock or the purpose of the visit.

The Changing Island Photographic Exhibition at Café Vert in George Green’s School


Yesterday I was delighted to attend the opening of “The Changing Island” photographic exhibition taking place in Cafe Vert at George Green’s school. This is part of the school’s  Heritage Lottery Funded project celebrating 40 years on this site and the history of George Green.


‘The Changing Island’ photography project involved students from the school working with well-known photographer Mike Seaborne. The students  were introduced to the idea of using old photographs taken by Mike in the 1980s to explore the past and re-photographing certain locations to produce a ‘Then and Now’ comparison.


Looking around the exhibition it became clear that the project had provided an opportunity to the students to illustrate how many of the old industries on the river front have disappeared to be replaced by residential developments.  Change has been a constant theme on the Island for the last 200 years, however although buildings may disappear, there of echoes of the past all around us if you know where to look.


It was also pleasing to see many local residents turning up to the exhibition and sharing their memories with the young people. With less extended families living on the Island , communication between the young and old is vitally important for local knowledge to be handed down.


The exhibition is just one of many initiatives looking into the history of the Island at the moment which builds on the many projects of the last 30 odd years. Contrary to popular belief, there are not that many people who record the changes happening around them. Mike Seaborne’s photographs of the 1980s are one of very few records of change on the Island  in that turbulent period. Hopefully the exhibition will encourage more young people to record the changes around them for future generations.



Sail Greenwich – 15th to 18th September 2016


From 15 to 18 September 2016, a number of Tall Ships will return to London to take part in cruises on the river Thames. These cruises will take you from the Greenwich Heritage Centre and Woolwich Royal Arsenal Pier past many of the historic landmarks on the Thames up to Tower Bridge. There will be day trips and night cruises which end with fireworks displays.


West India Dock has regular visits from Tall Ships, however the sight of Tall ships going around the Island up to the centre of London is a great spectacle and is enjoyed by many. This year there will be nine or ten tall ships taking part including Gallant, Iris, J.R. Tolkien, Jantje, Mercedes, Morgenster, Oosterscheld, Thalassa and Zephyr. Many of the ships will be familiar to regular Thames watchers having taken part in many events before.


It has been a couple of years since the spectacular Royal Greenwich Tall Ships Regatta Parade of Sail but there is news that a large number of Tall Ships will be in Greenwich over the 2017 Easter Weekend for the start of Transatlantic Tall Ship Regatta.


The Regatta will start from Greenwich in April 2017 calling at Sines, Portugal before crossing the Atlantic to the USA, various ports in Canada and the Gulf of St Lawrence before reached Quebec City in July; the fleet will return to Europe in early September 2017.

It is expected that from 13 to 16 April 2017, ships will be anchored at two festival sites in Greenwich and the Royal Arsenal Riverside in Woolwich. The finale of the festival will be a huge Parade of Sail on 16 April, when around 40 tall ships will sail down the Thames.

As a reminder of what the Thames looks like when full of Tall Ships, I have included some photos from the 2014 Parade of Sail.

For more information about Sail Greenwich 2016, visit their website here


London’s Burning by L. Katiyo


Photo – L Katiyo

The Fire of London in 1666 is considered one of the major events in the history of the city and to commemorate the 350th anniversary, a series of events are planned.

One of the more unusual and ambitious event was a mini recreation of the event designed by American artist David Best. With the help of many young Londoners not in education, employment or training, Best recreated a vast 120-metre-long wooden sculpture of Restoration London that was floated onto the Thames and set alight.


Photo – L Katiyo

Fortunately, regular contributor L Katiyo was there to report for Isle of Dogs Life and provide some dramatic photographs of the event.


Photo – L Katiyo

The ambitious project involved many months of learning and participation work with children and young people across five boroughs adjacent to the City of London (Hackney, Camden, Southwark, Tower Hamlets and Islington).


Photo – L Katiyo

Six hundred schoolchildren have taken part in workshops exploring the history of the Great Fire. Many of their designs were crafted into decorative panels and become part of the final sculpture.


Photo – L Katiyo

Although the Isle of Dogs was not directly involved in the Great Fire of 1666, anyone living in the area would have had a clear view of the flames and smoke in the distance, they would have also seen the many thousands of people trying to ferry their goods down the river to safety or homeless trying to find somewhere to stay. The Fire changed London in many ways and the dramatic visual reconstruction gives a small insight into the spectacle and scale of the event.


The Start of The Great River Race – 3rd September 2016


The UK Traditional Boat Championship or the Great River Race as it is known has become a favourite with crews and the public, to understand why it is worth going down to Millwall slipway in the morning before the race to savour some of the excitement and anticipation of the competitors.

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Collecting over 300 boats of assorted sizes in order would seem to be a logistic nightmare, however the organisation always seems assured and efficient.


Many of the crews dress up in fancy address and take part to raise money for charity, so a few strange and unusual sights are about.


The Great River race is known as the ‘River Marathon’ because the course is  21.6 Miles from the Isle of Dogs  to Ham in Surrey and attracts over 300 crews from all over the globe and appeals to every level of competitor from the fun rowers to the more serious racers.There are 35 trophies at stake for the various classes of boats and competitors.

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The start has the slowest boats starting first before the great bulk of boats are launched to create a wonderful sight on the river with all the boats taking part and many other passengers boats following  the race.

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To give all crews an equal chance, entrants were handicapped according to the calculated potential performance of their boats. This was done using a sophisticated computer programme.