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Le Champlain Cruise Ship in the Thames

Photograph – Eric Pemberton

Regular contributor Eric Pemberton often captures some of the more interesting boats and ships on the Thames and he recently managed to take a few photographs of the Le Champlain cruise ship as it made its way around the Isle of Dogs.

Whilst many cruise ships have got bigger and bigger, Le Champlain has gone to the other extreme with only 180 passengers and a more luxurious cruising experience. The ship has only 92 staterooms and suites with large windows, and lounge areas that open onto the outside.

Photograph – Eric Pemberton

Le Champlain is owned by the Ponant cruise company and the second ship of the Ponant Explorers-class of cruise ships. Each member of the class has been allocated the name of a famous French explorer, and Le Champlain is named after Samuel de Champlain, “The Father of New France”.

Photograph – Eric Pemberton

Built by VARD, Le Champlain had her hull constructed in VARD’s Tulcea yard in Romania, where her keel was laid down on 20 April 2017. A year later, she arrived at the builder’s Søviknes facility in Ålesund, Norway, for final outfitting. The ship made its maiden journey in October 2018, departed from Honfleur in France, travelling to Lisbon in Portugal.

It is the time of year when the Thames begins to get busier and we look forward to featuring a number of the ships and boats on the river.

Many thanks to Eric Pemberton for the photographs.

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Dar Mlodziezy Tall Ship on the Thames


Photograph by Eric Pemberton

Those taking a walk this morning near the river would have been treated to the sight of a tall ship gliding down the Thames. The Dar Mlodziezy is a Polish sail training ship which was launched in 1981 at the Gdańsk shipyard in Poland. She had been built to replace the frigate Dar Pormoza which had been used to train officers for over fifty years.

Photograph by Eric Pemberton

The Dar Mlodziezy was one of six similiar ships that were were built by the same shipyard. Her sister ships were named Mir, Druzhba, Pallada, Khersones and Nadezhda. Her home port is Gdynia and she has been owned by the Gdynia Maritime Academy since she was built in 1982.

The Dar Mlodziezy was the first Polish-built, ocean-going sailing vessel to circumnavigate the globe in 1987–88 and been a regular in Tall Ships’ Races for over 25 years.

Photograph by Eric Pemberton

The ship is 108.8 m (357 ft) long with a beam of 12 m (39 ft). She usually sails with a crew of around 176 (40 crew and 136 cadets). If you would like a look at the ship, she is currently berthed at Greenwich.

Many thanks to Eric Pemberton for the photographs .

The Remarkable History of the Cutty Sark

In last week’s post about Millwall Dock, I mentioned that in the early 1950s, the Cutty Sark was bought into the Millwall dry dock for an inspection and repairs.

Cutty Sark is now a major landmark in Greenwich where she has sat serenely for over 60 years. But in the 1950s, her future was not clear cut and she became the subject of a public debate about what to do with the famous old clipper. Cutty Sark was built on the River Clyde in 1869 for the Jock Willis Shipping Line, she was one of the last tea clippers to be built and one of the fastest. She came into service at a time that sail was giving way to steamships.

The Cutty Sark spent only a few years working on the tea trade before being used to bring wool from Australia, quite often she would bring her cargo into West India Docks. The Cutty Sark became famous due to her races against Thermopylae, especially the one that took place in 1872. The Cutty Sark was damaged and finished second but most people were agreed that she was one of the fastest clippers of all time. The ship held the fastest time achieved between the UK and Australia for ten years.

Cutty Sark and HMS Worcester at Greenhithe in 1938

For all her fame, the days of sail were nearly over and the ship was sold to the Portuguese company Ferreira and Co. in 1895 and renamed Ferreira. There she continued as a cargo ship until purchased in 1922 by retired sea captain Wilfred Dowman who remembered some of her past glories and he used her as a training ship in Falmouth. After he died, Cutty Sark was transferred to the Thames Nautical Training College which was based near Greenhithe in 1938. There she became an auxiliary cadet training ship alongside HMS Worcester.

By the early 50s, it was considered that this career had come to an end and various ideas were put forward as regards what to do with her.

A number of newspaper reports of the time gives some idea about the debate.

Cutty Sark to Sydney?

LONDON, December 25 1951 (A.A.P.).— A famous tea clipper may end its days in Sydney Harbour.The Evening News’ gossip writer says that sailing enthusiasts are discussing the possibility of sailing the Cutty Sark to Australia. The Thames Barge Sailing Club president (Mr Hugh Vaudrey) said the lowest estimate of the cost of refitting the vessel was £10,000 sterling. Mr. Vaudrey believes that strongly-supported Cutty Sark societies in Australia and New Zealand would help bear the cost. He added : Out there they regard the Cutty Sark the same way as Americans do the Mayflower.

Plan for Cutty Sark to Sail Again

A dispute has arisen over a proposal to reconstruct and refit the world’s only surviving clipper, 83-year-old Cutty Sark, and sail her to Australia and New Zealand. The man behind the idea is a London solicitor, Mr. Hugh Vaudrey, who says the plan has the sympathetic backing of members of Cutty Sark societies in Australia, New Zealand, America and Canada. Mr. Vaudrey, who founded the Thames Barge Sailing Club, which has the Cutty Sark Preservation committee, believes that the clipper could be made seaworthy and a crew recruited.

The project is strongly opposed as completely impracticable by the Greenwich National Maritime Museum, which considers that the vessel could not make a sea journey of any length and that officers and crew would be unobtainable.

Director of the museum, Mr. Frank Carr, said: — ”We would like to see the Cutty Sark cradled in concrete at Greenwich as Nelson’s Victory is at Portsmouth. This would cost upwards of a quarter of a million sterling, but we are assured of Government, London County Council and private support, and feel sure all Dominion shiplovers would help also.

‘However we feel that the present isn’t the time for such expenditure and are prepared to wait for upwards of four years before launching an appeal. ‘The vessel is at present owned by the Thames Nautical Training College, and is capable of staying afloat at her berth at Rotherhithe for at least that time.

Permanent Home For Cutty Sark

LONDON, Tuesday. — Famous old racing tea and wool clipper Cutty Sark may be preserved for all time as the result of an offer by an “anonymous body.”

AN official of the Thames Nautical Training College, where the clipper is moored, said that she would be taken from Greenhithe to Mlllwall tomorrow for survey to see if she was in suitable condition for permanent preservation.

After that she will either moored in the river or put into dry dock at the college to be kept open for visitors.

The Cutty Sark was taken to Millwall for a survey and repairs but this was not without incident. In January 1952, the 800-ton tanker MV Aqueity collided with Cutty Sark’s bow in the Thames. The two ships were locked together after the collision which forced Cutty Sark’s jib boom into Worcester’s forecastle rails, snapping the boom before scraping along Worcester’s starboard side. Cutty Sark’s figurehead lost an arm in the process and the Cutty Sark was towed to the Shadwell Basin for repairs.

In the end the money was raised and the ship was finally bought to dry dock in Greenwich. But as many people may know, even that was not the end of the story with two fires that threatened to destroy the old clipper.

It is always a pleasure to see the old girl at Greenwich from the bottom of the Island and its important to remember that the ship has many longstanding ties with the West India and Millwall Docks.

The PS Waverley passing under 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 moored before finally arriving at the Tower and then maybe on towards London Bridge.  Whilst enjoying the sunshine near London Bridge, I noticed in the distance the familiar outline of a ship.  It was the PS Waverley being pulled by the tug, in 2016, I was on Tower Bridge when the Waverley passed underneath. This time I had a grandstand view as she slowly made her way towards the bridge.

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.

Eric Pemberton managed to photograph the Waverley a couple of days ago going past the Isle of Dogs before it was light.

 

 

 

 

 

 

MV Ocean Majesty on the Thames

At this time of year, the Thames sees the arrival of many cruise ships which make their way up to Tower Bridge, Eric Pemberton managed to capture some photographs of the MV Ocean Majesty as it passed by the Isle of Dogs.

The MV Ocean Majesty is a small cruise ship that was originally built-in 1966 as the ferry Juan March. As the Juan March, the ship worked on routes for the Madrid based ferry operator Trasmediterránea. During her service with her original owners, Juan March was mainly used to ferry passengers from Spain to the Balearic Islands.

In 1985 Juan March was sold to the Sol Mediterranean and became Sol Christina.She quickly changed name when she became the Kyros Star of Opale Lines. Eventually she was then sold to Majestic International Cruises, who rebuilt her from her original ferry-like form into a cruise ship, and she received her current name Ocean Majesty.

Since 1995, she has been charted out to other companies including Page & Moy and German cruise company Hansa Touristik.

The MV Ocean Majesty has a length 135 metres (443 ft) and beam of 15.8 metres (52 ft) and has 274 cabins, of which 185 are outside.

Thanks to Eric Pemberton for the photographs and it is time for us at Isle of Dogs Life to take a summer break for around three weeks.

MV Hebridean Princess in London

Eric Pemberton very kindly sent me a couple of photographs of the MV Hebridean Princess as she recently made her way up the Thames to Tower Bridge.  The ship visited West India Dock in 2015 and I was then able to have a closer look at what is considered one of the smallest luxury cruise ship afloat .

The MV Hebridean Princess  has an intriguing history and a Royal connection and is considered the height of luxury, however the origins of the ship were much more mundane.

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West India Dock 2015

The ship began life as the  MS Columba which was the last of three car ferries built in 1964 by Hall, Russell & Company, Aberdeen and operated by David MacBrayne Ltd, the ship also took up the Isle of Mull service. She travelled around the various Scottish Isles visiting Stornoway, Mallaig, Oban, serving Coll and Tiree, Colonsay, Iona, Lochaline and Tobermory.

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West India Dock 2015

In 1988, she was acquired by Hebridean Island Cruises to offer luxury cruises. After a major refit she emerged as the luxury cruise ship, the MV Hebridean Princess. She began providing luxury cruises around the Western Isles of Scotland. In recent times , the ship’s itineraries have been extended to include Ireland, the Orkney and Shetland islands, the Norwegian Fjords and France.

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West India Dock 2015

The ship is 72 metres long with a  beam of 14 metres, gross tonnage of  2112 and an average speed 12 knots (14 miles per hour). There are only 30 bedrooms on board, all named after West Coast Scottish islands, castles, sounds, lochs and bays – individually designed in the style of a large country hotel – with 10 cabins specifically designed for single occupancy.  With 50 guests looked after by a crew of around 38, The ship is very popular for cruises around the Scottish Isles where her size allows access to many locations not accessible to larger cruise ships.

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West India Dock 2015

The ships transformation from humble car ferry to luxury cruise ship was given a royal seal of approval when HM Queen Elizabeth II chartered the entire ship for a ‘family holiday’ around the Scottish Islands both in 2006 and 2010. It was estimated the charter cost was £125,000 for the use of the ship.

MV Hebridean Princess is one of the most unusual cruise ships in service and is always an interesting visitor to London.

Many thanks to Eric for the photographs.

Superyacht Elandess, BNS Crocus and other ships on the Thames


Sitting at Westferry Circus in the warm weather is one of the delights of living on the Isle of Dogs. It is a very good location to watch the various ships going up and down the river. In quick succession, two very different ships passed by.

The first was the very large super yacht called Elandess, the 244 ft yacht was on its maiden voyage after being built by Abeking & Rasmussen in Germany at their Bremen shipyard. Elandess has been designed to accommodate up to 14 guests overnight in 7 cabins and can carrying up to 24 crew onboard.

The cost of the new yacht is estimated at 75 million pounds and the owner is reported to be Travelex founder Sir Lloyd Dorfman.

The second vessel was the more familiar BNS Crocus (M917) of the Belgian Navy which is a Tripartite-class minehunter.

This type of vessel is very common amongst NATO ships and this one was making its way up to Tower Bridge.

With more limited vessels in West India Dock, a seat overlooking the Thames can be very rewarding for ship watching.

I was not the only one watching the river over the past few days, Eric Pemberton kindly sent me a couple of photographs which included cruise liner Viking Star and old favourite The Portwey which is usually berthed in West India Dock.