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Monthly Archives: September 2019

Dutch Tall Ship Stad Amsterdam on the Thames

Walking around the Island, a familiar tall ship loomed out of the autumn gloom, it was the Stad Amsterdam which has been a regular visitor to West India Dock over the years.

The Stad Amsterdam (City of Amsterdam) is a three-masted clipper that was built-in Amsterdam in 2000, the ship was built when Frits Goldschmeding, founder of the Randstad employment agency and council of Amsterdam decided that the Dutch needed to build a tall ship to represent the historic maritime nation.

The ship was designed by Gerard Dijkstra basing his design on the 19th century frigate Amsterdam, however although she looks like 19th Century ship she is fitted with modern materials which means that she was fast enough to win the 2001 Cutty Sark Tall Ships’ Race.

The Stad Amsterdam is used as a training ship but also undertakes luxury cruises and adventure holidays all over the world, in 2009 she was used by Dutch Television to retrace the second voyage of the HMS Beagle.

She is a fully rigged tall ship with an overall length of 76 m, height of 46.3 and over 2000 square metres of sail. She usually operates with a crew of 32 and can accommodate 120 passengers for day trips and 58 for longer journeys.

After visiting London, the ship will visit Hamburg and Amsterdam before going in for a refit to prepare the clipper for an around the world  trip starting in 2020. The SDG World Tour will start in August 2020 and will take two years to complete.
The main goal of the tour is to help achieve the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by increasing knowledge and awareness around the world. The tour has 17 stops, one for every SDG, and at every stop many events will be organised and best practices will be shared. The SDG World Tour is endorsed by the UN.


Hay Barges on the Thames

Charles William Wyllie (1853-1923) ‘A view on the Thames’ credit Barry Ashworth

Recently I had a conversation with Barry Ashworth who worked for a long period at Dunbar Wharf, during the conversation he mentioned a painting he acquired at auction. The painting is entitled A View of the Thames by Charles William Wyllie and shows a barge full of hay berthed near Limehouse.

Charles William Wyllie (1853-1923) ‘A view on the Thames’ credit Barry Ashworth

It is a fascinating painting that clearly shows the famous Limehouse waterfront near the Grapes that have attracted a number of artists. However it is the barge laden with hay that really draws your attention and is a reminder that within the streets of London that for a long period it was not cars but horses were that were king.

Hay-boat on the Thames. 1859. From The Book of the Thames from its Rise to its Fall,

There were thousands of horses on the streets of London and they had to be fed and it would have been a common sight to see Thames sailing barges heavily laden with hay. Although generally known as hay barges, for those in charge of the barge they were known as ‘stackies’. There were special adaptations made to the Thames sailing barge to allow the large amount of hay to be stacked on board. To provide some stability, below the hay were bricks for the various developments in London. The hay was collected from the farms of Suffolk, Essex and Kent and transported up the Thames. Once the hay and other cargo had been unloaded in London, the barges were then filled with manure from the horses which were taken back to the farms to spread on the fields.

Hay-Boats on the Thames, 1872 After Gustave Doré

This cycle was played out over a long period of time and became a way of life for the bargees that plied their trade up and down the Thames.

Hay Barge off Greenwich by Edward William Cooke Date: 1835 (National Maritime Museum)

As with most things, progress bought technological changes with the arrival of the combustion engine which slowly took over the London streets until the early 20th century when horses were not needed in large numbers and the hay trade declined.

In the early 21st century, the hay barges have virtually been forgotten until we come across paintings like Barry’s that remind us of the past.

Charles William Wyllie was part of family of artists that became known for their marine landscapes, river and coastal scenes. His brother, William Lionel Wyllie was considered one of the country’s most famous marine painters. Charles trained at Leigh’s School of Art and at the Royal Academy Schools.


Super Yacht Bellami.com in West India Dock

Another unusual visitor to West India Dock is the 53.4-metre super yacht Bellami.com with its very distinctive metallic golden hull. Until recently the yacht was known as the Kinta built by Turquoise Yachts in 2008.
The yacht was given its gilded hull for an advertising tour across the Mediterranean on behalf of Bellami, the American hair extension company. The tour ends with the visit to London Fashion Week.
The yacht had a refit at Palumbo Superyachts in 2018. She can accommodate 12 guests in six staterooms and has a swimming pool, the pool features a glass waterfall, spa and sundeck.
Rather surprisingly, it looks like that the vinyl golden hull is being stripped away whilst the ship is in dock. This may be because the yacht is supposedly on sale for 20 million dollars and not many may like the present colour scheme.
The technique for gilding yachts has been popular for cars and small boats, but is not often applied to bigger yachts because of the cost. The 600 square metres of golden vinyl coating with a mirror effect were applied to the Kinta, whilst she was docked in the port of Viareggio. They must have had some left over because they gilded the tenders as well. We may not have had many boats in West India Dock during the summer but we have certainly had an interesting mix.

The Start of The Great River Race – 14th September 2019

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.

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 dress 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.

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

The last boats to start are the dragon boats which are a wonderful sight as they make their way up to Tower Bridge.

To give all crews an equal chance, entrants were handicapped according to the calculated potential performance of their boats.

Ocean Dreamwalker III Super Yacht in West India Dock

Anyone walking around West India Dock will be surprised by the range of vessels currently in the dock, some are permanent but we have two interesting arrivals in the last couple of days with the research ship Pressure Drop and Super Yacht Ocean Dreamwalker III.
The 47.0m Ocean Dreamwalker III was built in 2018 by SanLorenzo shipyard’s facility in La Spezia. It was launched last year as part of the Sanlorenzo’s 60th-anniversary celebrations.
The yacht is unusual because it has a longer stern area to accommodate a landing pad for helicopters.
The yacht has an exterior design by Francesco Paszkowski,  cruises at 11.0 kn and reaches a top speed of 16.0 kn. She can sleep up to 10 guests with a crew of 7.
As mentioned many times before, in the secretive world of super yachts, information is difficult to obtain about the owner or how long it will be in dock.

The DSSV Pressure Drop in West India Dock


After a quiet summer, West India Dock is welcoming a number of visitors and the latest has a varied and fascinating history. The DSSV Pressure Drop is a research ship which is  68.3 m / 224 ft in length, and has  accommodation for up to 47 persons.

The ship started life as the USNS Indomitable  and was a United States Navy Stalwart class ocean surveillance ship in service from 1985 to 2002. Indomitable was laid down by the Tacoma Boatbuilding Company at Tacoma, Washington and launched in  1985.

From 2003 until 18 June 2014, she was in commission in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as the oceanographic research ship NOAAS McArthur II (R 330).

In 2017 the vessel was bought by Caladan Oceanic LLC and prepared to serve as a mother ship for the manned deep-ocean research submersible DSV Limiting Factor.

From December 2018, the Pressure Drop has been used  in  the Five Deeps Expedition to support a manned submersible visit to the bottom of all five of the world’s oceans.

The Five Deeps Expedition is the first attempt to reach the deepest point in each of the Earth’s five oceans: the Puerto Rico Trench in the Atlantic, South Sandwich Trench in the Southern Ocean, Java Trench in the Indian Ocean, Challenger Deep in the Pacific and Molloy Deep in the Arctic.

Four of the dives have been successfully completed and have been filmed for a Discovery Channel series. It is expected that the ship will leave the dock tomorrow to continue its epic journey.


Silver Spirit Cruise Ship at Greenwich

Although we are approaching the end of the holiday season, we have a cruise ship berthed near Greenwich. The ship is called the Silver Spirit and operated by Silversea Cruises.
The ship was built at the Fincantieri Ancona shipyard and was launched in 2009, although the ship looks large it only carries a maximum 650 passengers and about 400 crew.
Silver Spirit is considered a luxury cruise ship  with 270 ocean-view suites and six restaurants with plenty of amenities.
Cruise ships are not an unusual sight on the Thames where they often berth at Greenwich or near Tower Bridge.
The Silver Spirit leaves Greenwich today to start its cruise to Barcelona.