Other PicoMicroYacht

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Why the red flag with the Union Jack on it?

The Red Ensign flag is used by British registered craft to declare their nationality. There is etiquette about how to fly it. According to the British  Royal Yachting Association the flag etiquette 'is a combination of the law (what you must do) and maritime tradition (expectations of behaviour within the sea faring community).' In terms of a law, a British registered merchant or private vessel should fly the ensign, but there is no requirement for a vessel to be registered in order to do so. PicoMicroYacht is registered (I did this to be 'legal' for the cross-channel row). There is no limit to the smallest size of craft that can fly the ensign. In terms of expectations of behaviour, it should be flown near the stern of a craft, and the size should be proportional to the craft (rule of thumb: one inch per foot of boat). Mine is far too large on this basis, but breaking etiquette means it fulfils the double purpose of being a safety feature, even though it might appear rather eccentric. I flew the Red Ensign through London so as to be seen. 

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Reflections on rowing a small boat through London

I had thought about this particular journey for weeks. I kept thinking, how come you never see small self propelled boats out on the Thames in central London? There must be reasons (stylistic understatement here...).

I read all the guidelines and rules and found nothing about needing permission or a license for this part of the river. I was encouraged by reading about kayaking trips down through London and took the view that PicoMicoYacht is safer than a sea kayak - less likely to capsize, more easily rightable and easier to spot.

I figured out the risks were as follows: being run down by a boat and being swept under one of the piers. For small boats, there is the added risk of overfalls below the main bridges when the tide is ebbing. These can get quite substantial and I have often observed breaking water that could overwhelm an inexperienced small boat.

Studying the Thames from the shore I realised the biggest danger to me would be the large craft that provide the river bus services. Imagine your average local frenetic bus who is trying to keep up to schedule and having to drive aggressively. Imagine a few of those on the river charging up and down, not just keeping to their side of the river but darting across to quickly reach their 'bus stop' pier. Imagine  if the ship captain wasn't keeping a good look out, got  momentarily distracted and didn't see the little boat ......

So my strategy was to go at a near neap tide, keep to my side of the river, stay clear of the river buses, go slowly and keep a good lookout. In the event, the river police, who had been monitoring my progress, complimented me on my seamanship and told me that I looked like I knew what I was doing.

Would I do it again? This was my best city touristic experience, but I would only recommend it as a 'one off' event, because of the possible risks.

Monday, 9 June 2014

PicoMicroYacht as a London tourist

7th June 2014

I left behind a busy Saturday morning at Putney, with the different clubs launching their boats, and headed off down river with my Red Ensign to make me more visible.

I was soon through the beautiful Albert Bridge, incidentally, painted in an unusual colour scheme in 1992 to make it more visible and avoid damage from ships.

Less beautiful but no less iconic was the Battersea power station although perhaps you have to know London to love this landmark

I was now passing the Secret Intelligence Services building - no sign of life there and I did wonder whether anyone in there was looking out at me.

The Houses of Parliament came into view and the water started to get more disturbed as the river traffic increased. I read that craft should not approach within 70 yards of the buildings.

A police launch had passed me further up and now it was coming down stream, eventually coming between me and the Parliament building, taking a good look at me. I smiled and waved and they turned back upstream. I wish I could have taken a photograph of them more closely but thought better of it.

I passed under the Hungerford bridge and then shortly afterwards the police launch came up again. This time they asked me what were my 'intentions.' They were pleasant and helpful, giving me some advice about avoiding the river buses and  then told me that I looked like I knew what I was doing, complimenting me on my seamanship. I felt relieved because I had been worried that they might object to me being there.

One hazard about there were large mooring buoys, which could catch you out quite easily. 

I passed St Paul's Cathedral, with the 'bendy' bridge that joins it to the Tate Modern, the river flowing rapidly. Then I had an interesting view of HMS Belfast.

And then on to Tower Bridge

Finally, having passed Canary Wharf I reached the O2 and Greenwich Yacht Club, my finishing point. 

The club kindly let PicoMicroYacht stay on their pontoon whilst I took the tube back to Putney to get the car and trailer. My next trip to the O2 is on the 17th June to see the Eagles.

Take it to the limit one more time - The Eagles

'You know I've always been a dreamer 
(spent my life running 'round) 
And it's so hard to change 
(Can't seem to settle down) 
But the dreams I've seen lately 
Keep on turning out and burning out 
And turning out the same 
So put me on a highway 
And show me a sign 
And take it to the limit one more time' 

(it's just a song!)

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Richmond to Putney and rowing the Oxford Cambridge boat race course (well backwards)

1st June 2014

It was an evening row and I was in a rush to get the boat in the water before the Richmond barrage went up and I would have to go through the adjacent lock. The barrage is removed towards high tide to let water flow up stream but comes into play after high tide to stop it all flowing out.

The barrage down on another day

Due to inattention and navigational blunder I managed to go under the bridge and not realise I had just passed the barrage in the up position - above my head.

The tide was taking me downstream at quite a pace and soon I was at the boat race course. Of course I was facing backwards, so had the view that the TV cameras give you going forwards (if that is not too confusing). 

I passed under Barnes bridge, lining the boat up in reverse in the trajectories that I thought were used by the coxes.

In fact I went over the exact spot that Cambridge sank in 1978 and as I rowed down stream I could image the path it took as it got more and more swamped. Cue the commentary:

‘It could be a sinking … yes it is … they’ve gone into the dolphin effect …and now it’s panic … unbelievable how they could go down so quickly … they’re all still alive … what a tragic finish …’ 

(editor: how the commentator came up with the 'dophin effect,' I don't know, but it was mightily impressive - never heard it since). 

By the way, PicoMicroYacht has the advantage that it won't swamp and so sink - water just runs out the stern end.

The various riverside pubs you see on the boat race day appeared, including the Blue Anchor. But I was covering the course quickly as the tide pushed me on.

Soon I was under Hammersmith Bridge and with the river clear was able to take full advantage of the stream, passing Fulham Football club on the Middlesex shore.

Finally, I was at Putney, my finish. It was getting darker and the twilight look with reflections reminded me of the nocturne river paintings by the English/ American artist James Whistler.

PicoMicroYacht Photograph

James Abbott McNeill Whistler

Nocturne: Blue and Gold  circa 1872-5
Oil on canvas