Breakfast Sailings


Just about breakfast time on a beautiful summer’s morning, ‘Europa’ slipped her moorings at Greenwich Ship Tier under the watchful eye of just one tug.  As she sauntered into the tideway, her passingers – some clad in luxurious white dressing gowns – waved from thier private baconies as the grand vista of Wren’s masterpiece unfurled.  The more sporty were pounding thier circular jog around the decks, while others watched the amazing redevelopments of Canary Wharf,  the O2 perched on Blackwall Point and, of course, the Emirates high wire act for cross river passengers.  What a thrill for them as this great, white cruise ship glided under them.


With the aid of my binoculars I realised how dramatic are the changes on both sides of the tideway as the passing ship’s bulk spelt out the height and size of the new builds.  I wonder how many passengers noticed London’s only lighthouse at Trinity Buoy Wharf, which once marked the departures of the East Indiamen which once thronged this reach.  The East India Dock complex kept the vast enterprise supplied with fine Blackwall frigates built and serviced just here !


As ‘Europa’ navigated around the O2 one became aware of her size and elegance.  Operated by Hapag-Lloyd, she is rated highly by the select cruise ship clientelle who admire the very best of Germanic design and detail. In complete contrast, a lone canoeist slipped through the neighbouring power station pier, making the most of the slack water and avoiding the wake of the catamaran ferry heading up to Blackfriars to start her schedule service to and from Putney.


By chance, I had spent the day before on a small traditional Thames pleasure ‘steamer’ which runs upstream from Westminster towards Kew Gardens, then on to Richmond and Hampton Court Palace.  I had this time promised to take Judy on my second trip this year.  After a half hour stop, we returned on ‘Henley’ and were again amazed by the beauty of the countryside and the historic riverside communities, but also shocked by the high rise and mass of new waterside blocks of flats which have ruined – to my mind – the very essence of riverside living, and which, I fear, is fast encompassing the Kent and Essex openlands as industry retreats.  The Greenwich Peninsula demonstrates clearly what we are in for, as Berkeley Homes and Barratt and the like gobble up the once prime sites.


Enderby House is the sole remaining structure of the once HQ of massive Standard Telephone and Cables group, with its revolutionary contribution to global communications.  The  building was, indeed, the hub of worldwide enterprise including the now demised whaling industry.  It surely must be preserved to tell its historic contribution to enterprise which has now passed us by !


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As I draw to a close, ‘Arc Axe’ berths alongside Victoria Deepwater Wharf to offload a cargo of sea-dredged aggregate to satisfy the ever-hungry wharf which supplies the building industry with every type of material to construct high rise buildings to new roads – all so much in demand at this moment of high property prices – I wonder how long it will last !

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 click on image to enlarge

Another naval visit to the Pool of London – a French offshore patrol vessel, which came with its own small tug, the ‘Bostonian’ from Hull, and moored just off Greenwich Pier.  I couldn’t catch her name alas.  Early this Monday morning, the ‘Deutchland’ returned to her regular mooring at Greenwich Tier.  “It’s got small windows”  Judy pronounced.  She’s right, but it’s 5-star rated.


When looking at shipping photos of old, I spotted another pre-war German regular to Greenwich and noted the lighters swinging aimlessly as it was low tide.




click on image to enlarge

By coincidence, Deutchland arrived at half tide !

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About RiverWatch returns

Peter Kent shares his Thames riverside studio viewpoint

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