Ships that pass…
The arrival of a tug at this state of the tide prepares one for the surprise. The bejewelled paddle steamer Waverley returns to the Pool of London after a day’s excursion along the East Coast and up the Thames Estuary to a 20:00 arrival under the elevated Tower Bridge, docking alongside Tower Pier in all its flood-lit magnificence.
Remembering with piles of nostalgia, our passages on board bring back the smell of steam and pungent oil – the magic of the engine room excites both young and old. In yesteryears we have travelled wih good fellow friends full of morning anticipation for a day’s cruise on this twin-funnelled gem, which still tours the UK coast designed to link ports and resorts – thanks to generous grants and contributions.
Memories of a cruise on the Clyde up to see the Tall Ships gathered at Greenock, then over to the pier at Dunoon where a welcoming crowd reminded one of how things used to be. How fortunate indeed that we can still enjoy the thrill of civilised travel on coastal waterways.
Nearer to home, arrivals at Southend with its mile-long pier, and then over to view the Maunsell Forts which kept Luftwaffe and the German Navy at bay in WW2. The climb at the end of the day to Tower Hills Merchant Navy war memorials tugs the heart as one recalls the number of similar craft and their sturdy crews that were lost at sea in those desperate day.
Another surprise was to see ‘Shtandart’ from St. Petersburg – the replica of Peter the Great’s first man of war – return to London again, her proud double eagled ensign flying from her top mast, heralding her significance. The Kents enjoyed going on board at Butler’s Wharf on her maiden voyage to be surprised by her diminutive size and simplicity of wooden structure, together with a welcoming crew kitted out in period costume who proffered a swift vodka. Good to see her return after her recent visit in the Tall Ships Regatta.
Another regular visitor was the South American training ship ‘Brasilia’ which no doubt moored alongside HMS Belfast. HMS Westminster returned to her home port at West India Docks from her deployment patrolling the so-called Hash Highway in the Gulf, Pakistan and Africa. ‘The Wharf’, a Canary Wharf weekly, comes up to scratch reporting this significant visitor amongst the Financial quarter which relies on Nato navies to keep the sea avenues open to trade. This tabloid also keeps me abreast of skyscraper attacks on my cross-river view.