Saturday 28 December 2013

Between the Rain

While the news media continues their almost obsessive coverage of the storms, the sun came out on Boxing Day, like I guess so many, we took the opportunity to blow away the cobwebs after the Christmas over indulgence.

A fine and bright winter day, the Solent down by Hill Head was flat with a gentle breeze blowing, it doesn't get much better, but alas it was a short but welcome window and respite from the recent and prolonged storms.

Tuesday 24 December 2013

Merry Christmas

Now that last night's gales have settled down to a steady 30 knots things seem to be getting back to normal.

Daughter Katy is travelling back from Falmouth where her ship is docked, the rail chaos means that she's currently on a bus between Exeter and Taunton hoping to get a train via Reading.

Her big brother Duncan is going out in Hamble for Christmas eve, lets hope she gets here before the pubs shut.

Erica and I are taking Joseph to the Christingle service at St Leonards with friends, that is if I get back from collecting Katy on time.

Whatever happens it will be great to have a house full of family and friends for Christmas.

Here's wishing everyone a great Christmas.

As the words of the carol go "all is calm, all is bright."

Monday 23 December 2013

Who parked that battleship in my pub?

The Still and West is a historic pub on the Portsmouth Harbour entrance with a speciality for serving good beer and fish and chips. But it was a recent post by fellow blogger Captain JP of some old movie footage of the Thames which sparked off a line of though that lead me back to old Portsmouth.

My office in London is on the south bank of the Thames next to the National Theatre and I guess pretty much where the old shot tower was. It was great to see the river as it was back in the 1950's and especially to see so much still recognisable. Youtube kindly provides related video which led me to a whole series of "Look at Life" films made by the Rank Organisation on the 50's and 60's. This is really great stuff, history in action and much will be familiar to anyone of my age.

The the film that really caught my attention was "The Last Battleship" about HMS Vanguard a ship that was laid down in 1941 but didn't enter service until the war was over, by which time submarines and aircraft carriers were they mainstay of naval supremacy.

In the early 1960's Vanguard was being towed from Portmouth to the ship scrapyards of the Clyde, just as she was making way through the narrow entrance to Portsmouth harbour she lost control and ran aground. Watch from the 2 minute mark, the film makes it sound trivial, but there was a real fear that if she stuck this vital harbour could have been closed for years. You can see the huge bows towering above the pub.

I haven't been for a couple of years but at the back of the pub there was a huge ariel photograph of the incident. The bows of the ship literally coming through the Still and West's windows and the stern swinging towards Gosport on the far side of the entrance.

The other really great Look at Life film was The Ton UP Boys - enjoy.

Saturday 21 December 2013

Frostbite Sailing

Frost bite sailing on a fair and cold winter's day, the moorings are empty, no traffic on the river, the western Solent is almost deserted.

A few hardy sailors from Lymington Town Sailing Club were making the best of it.

I'm definitely going to try and get out on the water over the Christmas holiday.

Friday 20 December 2013

Bursledon Wordle

Sometimes it take a bit of time for the high tech to reach these parts of the river, or more often the truth is they sometime slip past unnoticed on the flood tide. Whatever the reason I was recently forced into using Wordle at work and though I'd have a play at BB.

For those who may be equally unfamiliar, Wordle is described as "a toy for generating “word clouds” from text. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently ".

So here's the Bursledon Blog Wordle. whether it scans the whole blog or just current postings isn't clear, but it's quick and easy to use

I was curious why Greg featured so prominently, but a quick search through the posts revealed multiple references to local boat builder Greg and his very fast gaffer the Flugal and another Greg from the east coast, owner of the sloop Black Diamond  .

And just to prove that my lack of trust in technology is perhaps justified, the" google blog search gadget" has stopped working - if anyone knows how to fix it please let me know.

Wednesday 18 December 2013


It's probably not a good idea to write a blog when you've been drinking, but.

I was in London having a few a few pre Christmas beers with work colleagues, it was a chilly but pleasant enough evening, an hour and twenty minutes later I stepped off the train into the teeth of a howling gale.

Gusts topped 60 knots a couple of times.

Saturday 14 December 2013

Bosham Car Wash

You don't need the highest tidal surge for 50 years, global warming or rising sea levels to get into trouble.

If you're Christmas shopping be careful where you leave the car, there are things much worse than a parking ticket..

With thanks to Dave the Ice Cream

Wednesday 11 December 2013

Swanwick Hard

There's a public dinghy park down at Swanwick Hard, unusually the local authority haven't got around to charging for dinghy storage, perhaps there is a local precedent which prevents them trying to charge us for what is after all a public facility  the hard is recorded back in pre Saxon history. That said most of the dinghies are left chained and unattended and as consequence aren't in the best condition.

Of course with anything uncontrolled and reliant on good will it's sadly inevitable that someone will take advantage as below. There is a requirement to periodically remove all dinghies so that the area can be spruced up, lets hope it's soon.

In an effort to improve security this substantial anchor was installed a few years ago to enable dinghies to be securely chained so they don't float away on the high spring tides.

Sunday 8 December 2013

Autumn Row

I managed to get out for a row at the weekend, it was glassy calm and I had the river pretty much to myself. The day was warm but overcast, the low grey sky reflected almost perfectly on the still water. The photograph doesn't do it justice, from the boat there was an impression of looking uphill to the boats.

Along the banks the trees were ablaze with autumnal colours, I keep thinking that things are happening very late this year.

Down at Salterns these folks appeared to be trying to move a barge/houseboat using a rib as a tug, I watched for a while as they kicked up a huge wash from the stern of the rib but didn't appear to be making much headway with the barge. Maybe that wasn't the point. I lost interest after a while and headed down to the cafe for breakfast.

Friday 6 December 2013

Christmas Countdown

Daughter Katy sent me a copy of the Navy Advent calender.

Seasons greetings Enjoy.

Tuesday 3 December 2013

Birdham Pool Turntable

The marina down at Birdham Pool on Chichester harbour has an interesting marine railway systems complete with turntable. The turntable allows boats to be moved to various "sidings" in the yard which radiate outwards or there are tracks which allow travel into the boat sheds.

At the other end the railway connects to the slipway for launch and recovery. Given the investment in concrete and steel the systems must date back to times when the cranes and travel lifts with which we are so familiar were not available. It's a lovely piece of industrial heritage.

Saturday 30 November 2013

Wireless What?

I was amused at the packaging on a bra Erica had bought the other day.

Who would have thought it, then again in these connected days of always on, always available maybe it's no surprise at all.

The only question is it 4G or 34D.

There is a PS to this, apparently there really is a tweeting bra - sends out a tweet every time it's taken off

Wednesday 27 November 2013

Red Foxed

The Red Fox is a quirky but no less interesting boat which has two asymmetrical lee boards or perhaps they could be described as dagger boards since they are raised vertically through slots in the deck.

Apparently the performance is very good using a NACRA or similar foil shape, the other advantage is minimal intrusion  into the cabin compared to a more conventional centre boat, although raising and lowering the boats through a tack might become something of a chore.

Shallow draft, great interior space, there's even a separate head compartment which is incredible for a 20 footer.

It's one of those boats that makes such good sense but somehow it's never been the right time or the right boat at the time. There's been a few things like that in life, the house you'd love but the time wasn't right to move. When they first came out I really wanted an Alpha Romero GTV, but when I was in a position to buy one there were better cars around. In similar way the red fox has passed me by.

Saturday 23 November 2013

Chichester Canal

The Chichester Canal runs some  four and a half miles from the centre of the town down to this delightful stretch at Birdham where the still functioning lock gives access to the harbour and the sea.

The sea lock is still working, although sadly road bridges further inland prevent navigation along the full length of the canal.

Built as a ship canal in the 1820's as part of the Portsmouth and Arundel canal, which in turn was to be part of a planned and much greater waterway linking London to Portsmouth and the south coast via the river Wey. As with so many projects the scheme had a military basis the idea was to allow vessels to move between London and Portsmouth without the need to venture into the English Channel. But with the end of the war with France the Admiralty decided the link was not necessary and the system was not viable commercially.

The lower reach has a number of houseboats moored along the banks many of which appear to be weekend homes, delightfully situated adjacent the yacht marina.

Wednesday 20 November 2013

Maggie May

It was one of those trivial but odd co incidents, while cycling around Chichester harbour we'd spotted an unusual gaff yawl. On the way home we stopped off at the marina cafe and saw an add for a second hand anchor and rang the seller. between his holiday and other things it was a few of weeks before I went over to the marina to pick up the anchor, and what should be on the next pontoon but that same yawl.

Seen in close up her name is Maggie May, so a bit of google research reveals she's owned by Yachting World's retired editor Andrew Bray. Designed by Steve Dalzell and built by Farrow and Chambers. She is a 26 foot centreboard gaff yawl, with wooden hull and spars and very nice she is too, with a slight American classic look to her.

I guess if I read the yachting magazines I would have known about her, but I gave them up years ago, features like "the top ten boat hooks on test" have a limited appeal for me.

Friday 15 November 2013

After the Rain

Seems like it's been raining for weeks now, so no surprise that Saturday was a wash out, except that just around lunch time there was a brief lull.

The sky was moody with prospect of more rain coming through with fast moving low clouds. Down on the hard in Emsworth some of the dinghies were doing their best to stay afloat.

The thing about boats is they are very good at keeping water out or in, looks like there might be more time spend bailing than fishing the next time the owner comes down for this one.

 For about half an hour everything was still, the water showing hardly a ripple, the boats lay serene on their moorings, of at least the ones with covers or self draining cockpits.

About 20 minutes later it was raining cats and dogs, we beat a hasty retreat to the Greenhouse Cafe which is well worth a visit, the lunch special was bubble & squeak, topped with ham, eggs and hollandaise sauce. To be recommended.

Tuesday 12 November 2013

Needles Eye Cafe

On recommendation of fellow blogger Port'Na'Storm we dropped into the Needles Eye Cafe on a wet and windy day during half term. We hadn't been before and are always on the lookout for new breakfast locations.

As advertised the view is spectacular straight out to the needles on the western tip of the Isle of Wight. On the mainland the winds which later that weekend were gusting over 90knots, were piling up some surf on the shingle beaches.

Even in the cold and rain the cafe was busy, the food was good and therein lies the problem, on a nice day in the summer I expect it's going to be mobbed, the victim of it's own success, but for a nice winter's day or early morning it's definitely on our breakfast list.

Sunday 10 November 2013

Time and tide

Bit of a high tide recently with the combination of springs, a couple of weeks of gales from the south  and low pressure. Down on the scrubbing piles there might be a bit of a wait.

On the quay in Lymington a few folks were risking wet feet, in the event the water only just came over the top of the quay at the very end, the flood protection gates at the end of the slipway were closed but a nice big  puddle had formed on the land ward side.

Wednesday 6 November 2013


Just outside the Diving Museum in Stokes Bay a collection of VW's had assembled for a Sunday gathering.

There was a complete mix of around  40 or 50 Volkswagen cars and vans including the black, minimalist  hot rod above.

This cow patch Combi van was cute, the horn played a loud "moooo" much to the delight of a certain small child.

My favourite was the beach buggy, every now and then I threaten to buy one as part of my ongoing middle age crisis, but I always manage to resist, there being far too few sand dunes and sunny days in the UK, nice though.

Sunday 3 November 2013

Diving Museum at Gosport

We went over to Stokes Bay for a walk and lunch and discovered the Diving Museum which is located in the adjacent Number 2 Battery, a Victorian coastal defence gun battery that looks south over the Solent and the Isle of Wight.

Outside there's a collection of diving equipment including decompression chambers from the nearby naval establishments. This suit is remarkable it was German, captured at the end of WW2 and brought back to Gosport for use by the then relatively young branch of the navy.

Inside the exhibitions are split into commercial diving, sports diving and research, with a special section to commemorate Busta Crabb the decorated British Royal Navy frogman and MI6 diver who vanished, mysteriously during a reconnaissance mission around a Soviet cruiser berthed at Portsmouth Dockyard in 1956.

All the staff are volunteers who have long careers as navy or commercial divers are very knowledgeable and friendly.  There's lots to do for children in addition to hunting the 10 miniature divers hidden among the displays, there's a chance to have your photo taken as William Walker, a deep-sea diver, who worked under water every day for six years placing bags of concrete in the flooded foundations of Winchester cathedral to prevent it's collapse.

Or even try out first hand what  the old hard hat diving would have been like, fortunately it is only a fibre glass replica but heavy enough.

The Diving Museum is run by the volunteers from the Historical Diving Society, and is really well worth a visit.

Saturday 2 November 2013

Low water Lymington

The tide had well and truly gone out at Lymington salt water baths the other day, closed and drained at the end of the season.

During the summer there was an active canoeing school using the pool for training, but I guess the staffing costs of keeping it open for the winter out weight the revenue brought in from such activities.

One price of good news is the little cafe which normally closes for the winter is going to remain open, not only that, they's improved their menu with breakfasts, bacon rolls etc.  Perched right on the river path it's a great place to stop for a snack and watch the boats in the river, the seating area has been protected against the prevailing westerly with the installation of glass (probably polycarbonate) screens so it should be quite a comfortable spot.

Thursday 31 October 2013

Itchenor gaffers

After riding the Saltern's Way down from Dell Quay we had a picnic lunch down on the foreshore at Itchenor watching the comings and goings. It was a fine day with more breeze than the various weather forecasts had predicted and a few traditionally rigged boats had taken the opportunity to get out on the water.

Judging by the sail and the curved tiller the above looks like a Post Boat by Character Boats which is a modern GRP version of a Scottish type of sail and oar boat which delivered post around the sea lochs around Ullapool in the Scottish Highlands.

Probably the most popular modern gaffer in the UK if not the world is the Cornish Shrimper, there's quite a fleet in Chichester harbour and some of the sailing clubs have active racing. Effortlessly sailing up through the moorings it's easy to see the appeal of this good looking craft.

No information about this yawl, she looks to be modern.

Chichester harbour is a great place for day sailing as demonstrated by this Norfolk Oyster, another GRP version of a traditional boat a long way from original homeat  Morston on the north Norfolk coast

Sunday 27 October 2013

The Big Blow

A lull between the rain was forecast for this morning so with the benefit of the clocks going back I took the opportunity for an early row down to Matilda Emilie with some extra fenders, warps and make sure everything was secure for the 80 knot winds which are coming through overnight. The worst of which is currently timed to coincide with high water on Monday morning.

I set four massive fenders which were big when we used them on our 16 ton cutter Angelina, while they look a bit overkill on a 21 footer, there's now more fender than boat visible, hopefully they will keep Matila safely away from our neighbour, another First 210.

Of course the lull in the showers didn't materialise so I got soaked and had the opportunity to test Gato Nego in some more nasty conditions. Going up wind she was really very comfortable, her flared sides throwing the spray aside. Coming back the wind was blowing straight up the river with the outgoing tide kicking up nasty standing waves, Gato coped really well, the only challenge was keeping her speed down to prevent risk of a broach.

The picture doesn't really do justice but you can see the white caps in the open reach at the top right.

Wet and wild, but it was good to get out in the elements and blow away the cobwebs.

Friday 25 October 2013

Ancient places St James Birdham

I've written previously about my fascination with the Yew tree, most often found in ancient church yards and in many cases pre-dating the Christian worship and marking the site as a place of pagan meeting. St James in Birdham by the shore of Chichester Harbour is no exception; there are no less than three yew trees around the church entrance including this magnificent specimen.

St James church is no less interesting and equally ancient, the Nave is 14th century but the site dates back to 635BC, that’s getting on for 1400 years old, and well before the time that King Canute, one of our early Anglo Saxon kings was trying to hold back the tide at nearby Bosham.

Not all of the church is quite so old, the stained glass was installed in 1978 and not without some humour, take a close look at the top right which features a modern centre cockpit ketch.

Quite a lot has happened over those 1400 years, this embroidery inside depicts various saintly acts, my favourite is St Dunstan who in the 10th Century famously pinched the devils nose with a red hot pair of blacksmith's tongs.

 We’re fortunate to have so many ancient churches locally which give a real and vivid connection back into our history. If you are interested I recommend fellow blogger Chris Partridge who when he’s not rowing visits and writes about Sussex churches.