Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Hydrogen !

The brick red sails of a Thames Sailing Barge have always captured my imagination of times gone by whenever I see them.

My Father-in-law Sid actually remembers seeing them at work on the River Thames,

So when my wife suggested a surprise trip for her father, sailing on the Thames Sailing Barge
 " Hydrogen" cruising upriver to the Tower of London and returning to Gravesend, it was an opportunity too good to miss.

And there was always the opportunity to see some wildlife from a different viewpoint.

We embarked on to the Thames Sailing Barge from the Town Pier in Gravesend town centre, my wife springing the surprise to her father at the last moment.




After a week of bad weather we were greeted with a relatively dry sunny day, the barge looked very authentic with its lines, rigging, and sailing paraphernalia in abundance.



How I would of loved to climb that rigging, probably not as easy as he made it look.
Here's a look at some of the Barges nautical equipment.


I think this may be called a 'Binnacle'   basically a compass


Authentic Ships wheel


Not sure exactly what this is called, but some sort of pulley system to raise the barges sails


Certainly some skilled craftsmanship in boat building used on these barges.


'Sid' making sure everything is 'Shipshape' I think that's the correct terminology


Knots and lines practice always useful.

The first real landmark seen as we moved upriver from Gravesend was the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge at the Dartford crossing, a truly graceful looking bridge, and reputed to be the busiest estuarine crossing in the country with up to 130,000 cars crossing each day.
When I first used this toll crossing the toll was a few shillings and your bike went free, transported through on a specially adapted bus, the toll now is several pounds, and the promise of a free crossing when the tunnels had paid for themselves long forgotten.

Queen Elizabeth II Bridge at Dartford Crossing
Dartford Creek Flood Barrier
A nostalgic view for me of a relatively uninteresting section of the river bank, this was the site of many happy childhood memories from my youth, the area was known as 'Long reach', the site of an old isolation hospital, kept as an emergency measure for Smallpox patients. if the need ever arose.

 There was at one time a gigantic concrete pill box structure where we would sit and watch the river traffic or play our war games, now long gone.

There now stands the Dartford Creek flood barrier built to protect Dartford from Tidal flooding.
You can just make out one of our few wildlife sightings there on the foreshore, a few Seals basking on the mud, too distant to identify which species. but they seem to favour this area at low tide.


Lots of these derelict cast iron piers along the river bank where past industries have faded away most taken over by roosting birds, some distant Cormorants can just be made out on the tops of the columns, and that about sums up the wildlife sightings.

So here's some scenic views of some of the London  landmarks we passed as we sailed up river towards Tower Bridge.

The Thames Barrier built back in 1982, still looks quite impressive as you sail through gate openings.

Thames Barrier


Rotating Gate on the Thames Barrier
On the North Bank of the River Thames, East London, a site I know well from my Fire Brigade days, Tate & Lyle Sugar refinery based at Silvertown. Although I never saw it from this angle


Passing through Woolwich towards Greenwich we passed the Woolwich Ferry, a free crossing for road traffic wishing to avoid the horrors of Blackwall tunnel, although very slow.
You can also see Canary Wharf in the background.


Woolwich Ferry
On the South side of the River we passed the site of the old Royal Navy College and the Cutty's Ark now fully restored to its former glory.

The site of the Old Royal Navy College
Cutty's Ark  Tea clipper
The glass dome structure in the foreground is one of the entrances to a foot tunnel which links Greenwich on the south bank to the Isle of Dogs on the North Bank.

Approaching the Millennium Dome, here is the 'Emirates air line' crossing from the millennium Dome across to the Excel centre and City Airport.

Emirates Air Line cable car.

Quantum Cloud
 This sculpture next to the Millennium Dome called 'Quantum Cloud' is supposed to be a contemporary art sculpture, if you look closely at certain angles you can make out the figure of a Millennium Man in the centre of the sculpture. It was designed by Antony Gormley.




Getting close now to familiar territory, Canary Wharf  is on my old Fire Stations Ground at Poplar,
the Blue Bridge you can see on the bank allows access into the centre of West India docks.


Lots of "James Bond Experience" speedboats zipping around us as we slowly proceeded up river past Canary Wharf.





So many interesting river craft all along the river, here are some that caught my eye. the Lady Daphne another old Thames River Barge.

Johan de Witt
HNLMS Johan De Witt an amphibious warfare ship of the Royal Netherlands Navy

I found some information about it on the internet with a library picture of the ship on manoeuvres. where it certainly looks a bit more meaningful than the clumsy look in my photograph.

Johan De witt courtesy of Wikipedia
[The ship is equipped with a large helicopter deck for helicopter operations and a dock for large landing craft. It can carry 6 NH 90 helicopters or 4 Chinook helicopters. It has a welldock for two landing craft utility and it carries 4 davit-launched LCVPs. The dock is wide enough to support two LCACs.

The vessel has an extra deck with rooms for command staffs to support a battalion size operation. The ship has a complete Class II hospital, including an operation theater and intensive care facilities. A surgical team can be stationed on board. The ship also has a desalination system enabling it to convert seawater into drinking water.]

LCVP ( Landing Craft Vehicles Personnel)
These Landing craft look very much like the ones in the library picture.


The "Dixie Queen" paddle steamer , now used as a party boat for corporate events.

Finally our destination appeared in the distance, the very iconic Tower Bridge.





A few london landmarks can be picked out in these photographs, the Shard with Guy's Hospital to the left of it, the glass domed building to the left of Tower Bridge is City Hall the haunt of Boris Johnston. just under the top span of Tower Bridge you can just make out the very old Post Office Tower, now called the BT Tower.
To the right of the Tower bridge you can see the dome of St Paul's Cathedral, and just to the right of St Paul's Dome is the monument to the Great Fire of London.



In this photograph you can see the "Walkie Talkie" , the "Cheesegrater" or the Leadenhall Building, and the Gherkin from left to right.




A Titanic moment as we turned around and headed for home.


Arriving back in Gravesend at the end of the day


And the end of  a very enjoyable day, and another tick on the
" To Do list "

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