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Tall Ships Festival Firework Display by L Katiyo

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.



The Thames Trafalgar Race 2015


Photo L Katiyo

Yesterday on a misty Thames , regular contributor L Katiyo managed to take a few photos of the Thames Trafalgar Race, the race is not as well known as other river races but provides an interesting test for the competitors.


Photo L Katiyo

The race, which is in its third year, is the brainchild of round-the-world-sailor, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston and is organised jointly by the Little Ship Club and Erith Yacht Club. Held over two days, the unique event is open to all types and sizes of yachts both racing and cruising.


Photo L Katiyo

The first days racing starts just below Tower Bridge and carries competitors downriver to the Queen Elizabeth Bridge stopping at the Erith Yacht Club for the Saturday evening’s Trafalgar Dinner. The return leg finishes outside Greenwich Naval College on the Sunday.


Photo L Katiyo

Some knowledge of the river is a great advantage in the race that offers the rare opportunity to race sailing boats competitively on the Thames.


Photo L Katiyo

The finish at Greenwich Naval College on the Sunday is very appropriate considering part of the race is to honour the Battle of Trafalgar and Lord Nelson.

Thames Historic Barge Rowing Race – 4th July 2015


Every summer there is the sight of crews guiding 30 tons barges along the Thames with a large flotilla, this unusual event is the Thames Historic Barge Rowing Race .


This year is the 40th running of this prestigious and unique London  rowing event which was founded in 1975 by a charity called The Transport On Water Association (TOW).


The race consists of about 12 teams of between 4 and 8 members who drive (steer and row) 30 ton barges over a seven mile course for about 90 minutes from Greenwich to Westminster Bridge.


Although it is seen as  a  fun event, it does have more serious objectives,  it commemorates the skills of lightermen who moved freight this way along the Thames up until the 1930s, it hopes to encourage  interest in moving cargo via water and  highlights the need to recruit younger people back into river trades.


Piloting 30 tonnes unpowered barges just with oars riding the  tidal river currents is a major undertaking.


The effort to travel along the river with such a large barge is considerable and is a real test of strength and the ability to read the river.


If you would like to find out more about Thames historic barges, visit their website here


Greenwich Tall Ship Festival Fireworks by L Katiyo


Photo by L Katiyo

With  the Greenwich  Tall Ship Festival coming to its conclusion today, it may be time to reflect on one of its highlights.


Photo by L Katiyo

Every night of the festival there has been spectacular firework displays  which have entertained the crowds.


Photo by L Katiyo

Regular contributor  L Katiyo  joined the crowds to watch Greenwich light up the London skies.


Photo by L Katiyo

Just a reminder that the festival finale , The Parade of Sail takes place today, when all of the Tall Ships that have come to Royal Greenwich for the Tall Ships Festival take to the Thames together .

The ships will gather near Maritime Greenwich at around 12 noon, before departing eastwards in the Parade of Sail along the Thames towards Tilbury from around 1.30pm.

  • The first ship will leave Greenwich at around 1.30pm.
  • It is then expected to cross Woolwich at about 2.30pm.
  • It can take as much as two hours for all the ships to pass a particular point on the river


Photo by L Katiyo



The Great River Race 2013


Often people complain about the Thames being quiet and under used, the recent events like the Tall ships at Woolwich and Greenwich and the start of the Clipper round the World race have challenged those assumptions. Today we have yet another event that will see the Thames full of boats of many different shapes and sizes.


Many people will be familiar with the role that the isle of Dogs plays in the London Marathon, however many may not be aware that it is the starting point for the “River Marathon” better known as  The Great River Race.


The Great River Race  is a 21 mile spectacular boat race up the River Thames that attracts over 300 crews from all over the globe and thousands of spectators. The race starts at Millwall Dock slipway and finishes in Ham in Surrey, what adds to the enjoyment is the varied types of boats taking part  which have included  in the past an Hawaiian outrigger war canoe, Viking longboat, Norwegian scow, Canadian C-8 canoe, Chinese dragon boats, magnificent replica 54′ bronze age Greek galley and numerous Cornish pilot and other gigs, skiffs and cutters.


Because the race is run on a handicap system all types of boats and crew can take part and have equal chance to win. When the race was first run in 1988 there were 72 boats, this has now grown to 300 boats representing most parts of the UK and other crews from around the world.


To acknowledge its status as the biggest event of its kind in Europe it has been included in The Mayor’s Thames Festival, which offers 10 days of Thames themed  entertainments.





Lighting up the River – Thames Barge Driving Race 2013


It is always a pleasure to see the river full of traffic, and today we saw the Thames Barge Driving Race passing past the Isle of Dogs.


The race consists of about 12 teams of between 4 and 8 members who drive (steer and row) 30 ton barges over a seven mile course for about 90 minutes from Greenwich to Westminster Bridge.


As well as the barges there is a flotilla of other boats that follow the action.

It is  38th running of this annual event. Set up in 1975 by a charity called The Transport On Water Association (TOW) with the backing of Members of Parliament and Members of the House of Lords.


​The event celebrates the skill of lighterman who moved large amounts of cargo in unpowered barges.

It takes a great deal of river craft navigating a 30 tonne barge in the Thames river currents and the race was created to encourage young people to consider working on the river.

The teams are usually made up by employees of Thames lighterage companies, Port of London Authority  and other Thames organisations.


Interested spectator



Searching for the River in Docklands – Benny Green 1971


There is nothing better on a warm summers day than to take a walk next to the river, on the Isle of Dogs there are many areas where you can enjoy these walks.

However to get access to the river on the “Island”  in this way is a relatively recent phenomenon for up to the 1980s much of the riverfront was taken up by various industries and was not accessible to the general public.

The ability to gain access to the river is the theme of the following humorous article written by Benny Green who was a well-known broadcaster, writer and Jazz musician in 1971.

The first things I see are these: outside a shop in West India Dock Road the suits of sou’westers dancing on hangers like headless men celebrating their own whimsical condition; overhead the Limehouse sky punctured by cranes which took from a distance like the ship’s rigging that nobody will ever see again on London’s river; across the road the glum functional solidarity of ‘The Mariners Hotel,’ belying its name and telling you somehow that very little bridge ever goes across the water in these parts. Three contradictions almost before I have begun, so I wander off in search of at least one aspect of Dockland able to corroborate itself, and stumble on to a semi-detached out to be which on closer examination turns out to be advertising itself as the Public Baths, whether fraudulently or not I do not stay to see. By now I am altogether confused, and not helped by the presence all around me of a vague aroma compounded of fish, wood, rust, dry rot, damp, salt, tobacco, spice, seamen and poverty, an insidious perfume which keeps suggesting to me that now might be as good a time as any to find out once and for all, from the horse’s mouth, the difference, if any, between a binnacle and a spinnaker.

The foreshore of London’s river is so cluttered, so obstructed by the processes of commerce, so masked by perspective that it is very nearly impossible actually to arrive at the water’s edge and trail your fingers in the muddy tide. At first it looks simple enough. A ship’s funnel behind the rooftops, a flight of gulls hovering, human voices amplified by the freakish acoustics of all large bodies of water, these are sure signs that the open sea cannot be very far away. But always there is a wall, or a warehouse, or a row of houses, between you and it.



A man might walk for miles without finding a gap in the fortifications, although with luck and perseverance he might get his reward. The river glimpsed silver-grey from a side street, through the cavern of an empty warehouse, can still seem like a seascape suddenly rendered animate; or an incoming ship spotted from the top deck of a bus, reminding the eye that the Thames remains what J. B. Priestley once called it, London’s broadest street. And then there is the water itself, opaque with filth as it slops on to the foreshore, cutting its serpentine path around the Isle of Dogs, another romantic name, by the way, which has more or less nothing to do with the thing it is supposed to be describing.

The Isle of Dogs is neither an island nor a dog sanctuary, but only a stark peninsula looped by the twisting lines of the river. There is only one main road in and out, and the explorer on wheels repeatedly finds himself brought up short by a notice saying ” Shipping supplied “; a corrugated iron fence whose forbidding aspect has to be seen to be believed. Overhead the gulls wheel in with their rumour of the river beyond, but on casual examination the back streets of the Isle of Dogs — there are no front streets — might be any back streets. But then, like ghosts materialising, the signs of maritime life make themselves apparent to the naked eye. A fruiterer whose chromatic display of apples and oranges is overhung by a notice saying “Shipping supplied;” a plaque on the most improbable of all brick walls claiming that the ‘Great Eastern’ was launched here; the street names, Hesperus, Arethusa, Barque, Schooner, every one of them with grim facades mocking the poetry of their titles.

And occasionally the narrow space between wharves where a pedestrian can actually find the river’s edge. I found one such aperture, littered with the sad jetsam of river life, a rusting capstan, a seaboot, an anchor chain, a broken oar. And beyond this the river, grey under a fine afternoon rain, the gulls sitting complacently on its surface riding the tide, and on the far shore the fine lace filigree of the ‘ Cutty Sark’s’ rigging, tricked by the perspective into squatting in the lap of the eighteenth century, preserved in the lines of the Greenwich Maritime Museum. Though it is mid-afternoon, there is nobody in the streets, which makes me feel that tomorrow none of this will be here. A narrow street, hemmed in by wharves, and underfoot a forgotten length of tramline intersecting the road at an angle. Perhaps tomorrow the houses will be removed to make way for a spectral tram to retrace its old route. Dockland Settlement, where they dispense Christian charity in what looks like the purlieus of hell. And then the, grimmest joke of all, Wapping High Street, surely the maddest named thoroughfare in all the world. There are no shops in Wapping High Street, no residents, no houses, only cavernous wharves and bonded warehouses, many with “To Let” signs dangling from their railings. The dim light in a first floor window suggests that at least one man is ticking off his bills of lading. Otherwise there is no evidence that anyone has ventured up Wapping High Street this century. Rain falls on the pleasure gardens running down to the river’s edge. Today nobody seeks pleasure there. On the wall at Wapping New Stairs the notice tells you that bathing is dangerous. You are staggered that bathing should be allowed there at all, or that there is anyone anywhere who would want to indulge in it.

And there, at the end of those cul-de-sacs that promise you the river and then cheat you at the last minute, there is a rusting tin door. On it, painted in erratic red paint, is the banner, ” Millwall FC forever.” How impressive the pedantic correctitude of that ” FC “. The work of some exultant supporter, perhaps, who drifted too far afield after a victory one Saturday night and could think of no better way to express his sense of triumph? At the Millwall ground they are said to throw the occasional milk bottle. If environment is any true guide to conduct, it is a source of wonder to me that they did not long ago tear up the goalposts, start a bonfire and broil the referee.