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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.







The SS Robin Returns Home


Around three years ago, I posted the remarkable story of the SS Robin which has been located in the Royal Docks. I am delighted to report that plans have been announced to move the ship to Trinity Buoy Wharf, close to where she was built in 1890. Urban Space Management, leaseholders of Trinity Buoy Wharf, have agreed to maintain the SS Robin and to make her story more accessible to the public alongside other important ships.  

It is planned that the collection of the SS Robin, and the tugs Knocker White and Varlet and lighter Diana will form the basis of an open air museum to help bring to life the rich heritage of the area from East India Dock Basin to Trinity Buoy Wharf.  For the past few years the tugs Knocker White and Varlet have been berthed near the Museum of Docklands in West India Quay.


The SS Robin is the world’s oldest complete steam coaster and the last of her type in the world. The Dirty British Coaster was immortalised in John Masefield’s poem ” Cargoes .”

Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir,

Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,

With a cargo of ivory,

And apes and peacocks,

Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine.


Stately Spanish galleon coming from the Isthmus,

Dipping through the Tropics by the palm-green shores,

With a cargo of diamonds,

Emeralds, amythysts,

Topazes, and cinnamon, and gold moidores.


Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack,

Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,

With a cargo of Tyne coal,

Road-rails, pig-lead,

Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.


The British coastal cargo steamships were the workhorses of the Merchant fleet in the late 19th, early 20th Century around the ports of Britain and Northern Europe. However by the 1960s they had virtually disappeared.

SS Robin is a traditional raised quarterdeck coastal cargo steamer built in Orchard House Yard near the famous Thames Ironworks on the eastern tip of Isle of Dogs and launched in 1890.

She was built to high standards regarding materials and workmanship with her hull fitted out in East India Dock. From there she was taken to Dundee to have her boiler and engines fitted. After trials she was taken to Liverpool to begin her career as a coastal steamer in 1890.

For the next ten years she plied her trade around the ports of Britain and occasionally some of the continental ports carrying the heavy cargoes such as coal, steel and china clay for which the steamers became famous for.

However in 1900, she was sold to a Spanish owner who renamed her Maria and spent the next 70 odd years going up and down the North Atlantic coast, she survived Two World Wars, once getting an escort from the French Navy to protect her from U Boat attacks.

But then at the end of a hard working life and due to be scrapped, there was another twist of fate she was recognised by the Maritime Trust as a one of a kind and in 1974 was purchased and travelled back to Britain under her own steam.

From 1974 she was given her original name back and moored in St Katherine’s Dock and her restoration began. In 1991 she moved to West India Quay where between 2003-2007 she was used as an Education Centre and Gallery.


However more structural restoration was needed, so in 2008 she went back to the coast this time to Lowestoft to prepare for her latest reincarnation in the Royal Docks where she returned in 2011.

 She may still be a Dirty British Coaster of John Masefield’s poem but now she is in elite company. She’s part of the National Historic Fleet and one of only three ‘Core Collection’ (Grade 1) vessels in the capital. The other two ships are the Cutty Sark and HMS Belfast.

Although the SS Robin is considered too fragile to be able to float again, she and the other boats will be a wonderful reminder to visitors to the Trinity Buoy Wharf area of the long and glorious history of shipbuilding in the area.

Clipper Round The World Race 2015 – The Start


Photo L Katiyo

After all the preparation and the training, the twelve 70 feet yachts yesterday left the safe harbour of St Katherine’s Dock and the razzamatazz of the start of London to sail serenely down the Thames to begin the World’s longest yacht race properly.

Photo L Katiyo

The first Clipper Race crew left Plymouth in October 1996 and during the race’s 18-year history,  3,000 people have taken part and 55 ports have played host to the Clipper Race. It is one of the greatest endurance tests sailing 40,000 nautical miles to race around the world on a 70-foot ocean racing yacht. Divided into eight legs and 16 individual races, it is the only race in the world where the organisers supply a fleet of twelve identical racing yachts, each with a fully qualified skipper to safely guide the crew.

Photo L Katiyo

Watching the yachts sail around the Isle of Dogs it a worth reminding ourselves the ordeal that face the crews who are a mix of professional sailors and amateurs. Some of the crew will do the entire journey whilst other do individual stages.


Photo L Katiyo

The first leg sees teams travel 6,000 miles to Brazil’s Rio De Janeiro. then yachts will go on to South Africa, Western Australia. Queensland, Vietnam, China. Seattle and New York.The final leg  sees the yachts travelling from New York back to London, where they are due at the end of July next year.


Photo L Katiyo

Full Route

Leg 1 London, UK – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Leg 2 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – Cape Town, South Africa
Leg 3 Cape Town, South Africa – Albany, Western Australia
Leg 4 Albany, Western Australia – Sydney – Hobart – Whitsundays, Queensland
Leg 5 Whitsundays, Queesnland – Da Nang, Vietnam – Qingdao, China
Leg 6 Qingdao, China – Seattle, USA
Leg 7 Seattle, USA – Panama – New York, USA
Leg 8 East Coast USA – Derry-Londonderry – Den Helder – London, UK


Photo L Katiyo


Da Nang – Viet Nam
GREAT Britain
LMAX Exchange
Mission Performance
PSP Logistics
Visit Seattle

On a very busy day on the river, the Chilean Training ship Esmeralda left the dock.


Photo Eric Pemberton


Photo Eric Pemberton

Thames Sailing Barge Will in West India Dock- November 9th 2014


After all the excitement of the Tall Ships festival, West India Dock has had very few visitors but today welcomes a Thames Sailing Barge that is a familiar sight to many Thames watchers.


The Thames Sailing Barge Will is usually based at St Katherine’s Dock where she has been available for charter .


The ship has an interesting history, Built of steel in 1925 by Fellowes at Great Yarmouth, for Everards ,a family firm  who ordered four of the ships and named them after the  partners of the business. They were named  Alf Everard, Ethel Everard, Will Everard and Fred Everard. cost around £500 each to build, with dimensions 97.6 x 23.1 x 9.6 feet.


The Will Everard worked by sail alone until 1950, and spent a great deal of her working life transferring coal between Margate and the Humber.


In more recent times she was renovated and was once  the private floating dining room of the directors of P&O.


Round the World Clippers Homecoming parade past the Isle of Dogs


In a previous post this week I give some details of the journey undertaken by the Clipper round the world yachts.


Crews  experienced a wide range of weather conditions from the benign to the extreme: one boat was struck by a tornado, some crews had endure giant waves,  hurricane force winds, dodged icebergs and growlers; extreme heat and cold; be on alert for pirates; had coast guard assisted medical evacuations and a miraculous rescue of a man overboard after being lost in a Pacific storm for over an hour.

The final race was from the Netherlands to Southend which decided the final places.


1 Henri Lloyd
2 GREAT Britain
3 One DLL
4 Derry~Londonderry~Doire
5 Switzerland
6 Old Pulteney

7 Qingdao
8 Jamaica Get All Right
9 PSP Logistics
10 Team Garmin
11 Invest Africa
12 Mission Performance


The yachts will go back to St Katherine’s Dock for the prize winning awards and have a well earned rest.


Photo by Roxy Kapranos


Photo by Roxy Kapranos


Photo by Roxy Kapranos

Clipper Round the World Yachts – The Race begins


After all the preparation and the training, the twelve 70 feet yachts today leave the safe harbour of St Katherine’s Dock and the razzamatazz of the start of London to sail serenely down the Thames  to begin the World’s longest yacht race properly.


Watching the yachts sail around the Isle of Dogs it a worth reminding ourselves the ordeal that face the crews.


Once out into the English Channel they will be racing past Spain onto the Canary Islands and then on to South America, the 5630 mile journey will take around 33 days using the Trade Winds but hoping to avoid the Doldrums. This first leg is only the first step of a race that will test boat and crew to the limit.








other posts you may find interesting

Clipper Round the World Yachts in St Katherine’s Dock press  here

Clipper Round the World Yachts in St Katherines Dock

DSC03618In the picturesque setting of St Katherine’s Dock sit the twelve 70 foot racing yachts due to take part in the Clipper 2013-2014 Round the World race.


The race itself starts on September 1st from London Bridge and will be the first time in 40 years that the Thames staged a round the world sailing event.

Sunday 1 September:

1000 – Official departure ceremony starts

1300 – 1330: Parade of Sail on the Thames


The fleet will not return until July 2014 after 670 crew race 40,000 miles and visit 16 ports on six continents, in the world’s longest ocean race.

The first leg of the Clipper Race ends in Marina da Gloria, Rio de Janeiro, the destination for the 2016 Olympic sailing events. They then continue on via South Africa, Western Australia, Sydney (including the world-famous Sydney-Hobart Race), Singapore, China, San Francisco, Panama, Jamaica, New York, Derry Londonderry and the Netherlands before returning to London’s St Katharine Docks for Race Finish in July 2014.


What is unique about the race is that the crew is made up of professionals and amateur sailors of all abilities allowing anyone to experience this once in a lifetime adventure.

Just around the corner from the Clipper Yachts is the Gloriana which played an important part in the Queen’s Thames Pageant last year.