Home » River Life
Category Archives: River Life
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.