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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.
Walking near to Westferry Circus, I saw the unmistakable sails of a tall ship and hurried to see which ship it was. To my surprise it was the Morgenster which reminded me of one of my great experiences from last year.
Morgenster was one of the ships taking part in the Rendez-Vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta and I was fortunate to be invited to take a trip on the Morgenster from Woolwich to Greenwich.
Whilst I have seen a lot of Tall Ships in West India Dock and at Greenwich and occasionally been on board to have a look around, actually sailing on a ship down the Thames was a wonderful experience.
There was something special about being under sail even in the safe confines of the Thames, before I get carried away it is worth mentioning that for the crew it is more hard work bringing down the sails and carrying out various duties. It did give me some insight into how much work would be involved sailing one of these ships across the Atlantic.
The Morgenster or (Morning Star in Dutch) is a sail training ship based in the Netherlands. She was originally built, as a herring lugger under the name De Vrouw Maria, in 1919. In 1927, she was converted into a motor fishing vessel. She was renamed Morgenster in 1959 and continued to be used as a fishing vessel until 1970. After a period of use for sport fishing and a pirate radio station, she was converted back to a sailing vessel in 1983. She made her maiden voyage as a sail training ship in 2008, having been refitted as a brig.
She certainly looked a magnificent sight as she meandered her way along the Thames on her way to Tower Bridge.
For those at the bottom end of the Island, the arrival of the RFA Argus in Greenwich provides considerable interest.
The RFA Argus is one of the more unusual ships in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary operated by the MoD under the Blue Ensign. The ship was built in Italy as the container ship MV Contender Bezant. The ship was requisitioned in 1982 for service in the Falklands War and purchased outright in 1984 for use as an Aviation Training Ship.
Before the ship entered service, the ship spent four-years at Harland and Wolff in Belfast to be converted from a container ship into a hospital ship. In 1991, during the Gulf War, she was fitted with a fully functional hospital to assume the additional role of Primary Casualty Receiving Ship.
The unusual layout of the ship allows the ship to be used for aviation training when small helicopters can land on flight deck.
Since its conversion, the RFA Argus has been seen service in Bosnia, Kosovo, Middle East and Sierra Leone and many other areas.
The ship has undergone upgrades to its hospital functions with its Primary Casualty Receiving Facility consisting of over 40 different medical and surgical specialties, and is manned by personnel drawn from the MOD Hospital Units and Royal Marine Band Service.
The unit has a state-of-the-art emergency department, resuscitation and surgical facilities, a radiology suite that includes a CT scanner, a critical care unit, a high dependency unit and a 70-bed general ward.
Argus is generally stationed at her home port of Falmouth in Cornwall.
Although we have often seen the HMS Ocean berthed at Greenwich, it is rare to see the RFA Argus with its very unusual design.
One of the popular aspects of the Tall Ships Festival is the evening firework displays, even from the top of the Island they looked more spectacular than normal this year.
Fortunately, regular contributor L. Katiyo was on hand to get some photographs of the evening’s display.
The Tall Ship Festivals are a wonderful celebration of all things maritime and are enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of people over the four days.
We are fortunate on the Island to be surrounded on three sides by the Thames which gives us wonderful views of the various maritime events.
The river seemed very quiet after the last few days and we can now look forward to the next event.
Congratulations to all involved for another amazing event that pays homage to London’s maritime past and provides opportunities for young people to undertake adventures of a lifetime.
Earlier I joined the thousands of people in Island Gardens and at vantage points at the bottom of the Island to watch the spectacular Parade of Sail which was the final element of the Rendez-Vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta in Greenwich & Woolwich and Tall Ships Festival.
Locals and visitors lined the riverfront to watch the whole fleet of 30 Tall Ships congregate and then set off from Greenwich to carry onto the next stage of their journey which for many of the ships will be Sines in Portugal.
On board some of the ships will 50 Tall Ships Sail Trainees, local young people who will help crew the ships en route to Portugal over 15 nights.
Over the last few days, thousands of people have enjoyed the various entertainments in the festival culminating in spectacular firework displays. It is estimated over 10,000 visitors managed to get on board some of the Tall ships during the weekend.
Watching the various Tall Ships sailing in front of Greenwich, it was easy to let your mind wander to the past, when the river was crowded with all manner of vessels.
In another nod to the past, The Queen has written a letter to the people of Canada which will be delivered on board vessels taking part in the Rendez-Vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta.
The personal message will be carried onboard the Tall Ships taking part in the Regatta from the Royal Borough of Greenwich to Quebec to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Canadian Federation. A scroll containing the letter was handed over to Captain Jurgens Hanekom of the Wylde Swan this morning.
Fortunately we do have regular Tall Ship visitors to to provide interest but to see some many Tall Ships in one place is a rare treat that was enjoyed by thousands of people on both sides of the river.
On the eve of the Rendez-Vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta, I was fortunate to be invited to take a trip on one of the Tall Ships on the Thames from Woolwich to Greenwich.
Whilst I have seen a lot of Tall Ships in West India Dock and at Greenwich and occasionally been on board to have a look around, actually sailing on a ship down the Thames was to be novel experience.
Many of the Tall Ships for the Regatta are berthed at Woolwich and provide a wonderful sight that is perhaps a reminder of past especially in the West India and East India Docks.
Travelling down the river offers a very different perspective on familiar sights and after passing the Thames Barrier, I began to scan the riverside for familiar landmarks.
Not surprisingly, the lighthouse at Trinity Buoy Wharf grabbed my attention before we approached the O2 and the Emirates Airline cable car overhead.
The familiar skyline of Canary Wharf dominated the next stretch but I was surprised how the familiar buildings on the riverfront took on a completely different aspect, even the Blue Bridge which is the entrance to West India Dock looked quite small from the river.
Travelling around the bends of the river, new viewpoints appeared quickly until the stately outline of Greenwich came into view and the masts of the Cutty Sark.
With a number of Tall Ships in the river at this point, you did not need a lot of imagination to go back in time when the river was full of ships of all descriptions.
It was not just the views that takes your interest, watching the crew bringing down the sails and carrying out various duties gives a little insight into how much work will be involved sailing one of these ships across the Atlantic.
Which is the destination of many of the boats after the Regatta in Greenwich and Woolwich, the regatta, organised by Sail Training International, will sail from Greenwich to Quebec in Canada, to mark the 150th anniversary of the Canadian Confederation. A fleet of over 30 large Class A and B Tall Ships will sail for Canada via Sines in Portugal, Bermuda and Boston.
If you are in London and would a trip down the Thames on a Tall Ship, some cruises will be available over the weekend or you visit some ships which will be open for visitors to get on board to look around and talk to the crew.
Two Tall Ships festival villages are open at the Maritime Greenwich UNESCO World Heritage Site in Greenwich town centre, and the Royal Arsenal riverside in Woolwich.
The most spectacular part of the Regatta will take place on Sunday when the huge Parade of Sail starts at 5pm from Deptford Creek, during the Parade of Sail, the whole Tall Ships fleet will sail together down the Thames to the sea, before crossing the Atlantic and arriving in Quebec on 18 July 2017.
If you would like to find out more, visit the Royal Greenwich website here
In an exciting few weeks for the Island, we will have two major events on our doorstep. Later in the month is the London Marathon, but next week is a Tall Ships Regatta at Greenwich.
Over the Easter weekend, Greenwich will host the start of the Rendez-Vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta. The regatta, organised by Sail Training International, will sail from Greenwich to Quebec in Canada, to mark the 150th anniversary of the Canadian Confederation.
The fleet of over 30 large Class A and B Tall Ships will gather for four days on the River Thames at Greenwich and Woolwich before setting sail for Canada via Sines in Portugal, Bermuda and Boston.
The ships will be anchored in the Thames alongside two Tall Ships festival villages. These will be located at the Maritime Greenwich in Greenwich town centre, and the Royal Arsenal riverside in Woolwich.
In the festival villages, there will be food stalls serving street foods and drinks will be available at bars at each of the Festival sites.
Some ships will be open for visitors to get on board to look around and talk to the crew and visitors can buy tickets to enjoy a cruise on the Tall Ships on the Thames to Tower Bridge and back.
There will plenty of maritime entertainment and live music from Thursday 13 April to Sunday 16 April, before the huge Parade of Sail starting at 5pm from Deptford Creek on Sunday 16 April.
During the Parade of Sail, the whole Tall Ships fleet will sail together down the Thames to the sea, before crossing the Atlantic and arriving in Quebec on 18 July 2017.
Watching the tall ships is always a fantastic sight and I will be out and about bringing you some stories and articles from the Regatta.
If you would like to find out more, visit the Royal Greenwich website here