A rumour told me to expect Vikings in our neck of the woods, just by the entrance to Deptford Creek.
The anticipation of a big ship arriving at dawn kept me awake, but fatigue took over and only upon awakening at the usual time did I realised that I missed Viking Star’s much-anticipated arrival at her Deptford mooring. She certainly was the biggest vessel to arrive for many a year and the PLA had prepared their mooring buoys well in time. Each cruise ship demands special facilities as they lie in the deep water moorings.
For years I have thrilled to a similar scene, be it in the Far East or on New York’s iconic piers – silly me, I went and missed it!! However, her departure was amazingly dramatic as tugs stood by to extract her from her three-day stay. Local boatmen from Barrie Pier released the network of cables from each of the large buoys in a predetermined order as the waiting pair of Maltese tugs took control. Gently she glided free again to take the remaining incoming tide in order to navigate the tortuous twist and turns around Greenwich Peninsula. Only a few of the 500 passengers were on deck to witness the elevated views of the architectural treasure house that is the Old Royal Naval College and, later, brave new view over Canary Wharf and the ever-changing scene clustered around the Dome as she was gingerly escorted around the tight turns, slipping under the still dormant Emirates cable car cabins and then squeezing through the Thames Barrier.
It would have been interesting how many sleeping flat owners of New Capital Wharf noticed her departure, likewise her arrival. Her height and density must have been a shock for them to suddenly view so many new neighbours en masse at once! Their daily comings and goings must have intrigued as they were ferried ashore or whisked up to London in the speedy clippers. The shocking attacks at London Bridge echoed the planned Viking raids on London Bridge so many centuries ago – also temporarily based on Deptford’s muddy shores.
As I write, the tidy up of buoys and pontoons are being adjusted for the next arrival – the ‘London Titan’ tender ship based down at Denton needed local help from a crane-mounted barge. The simplicity of a proposed quayside terminal is obvious and is now planned at Enderby Wharf, which should have been addressed years ago as conceived. Perhaps Deptford’s vast, prime, empty Convoys Wharf – once the Navy’s prime victualing yard – could be revitalised.
Rob, my Gravesend ‘look out’, reported that a Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship was passing by up stream. First sighting of a familiar Admiralty Police launch preceded ‘Argus’ (A135), a 28,000 tonne ship on her way to Greenwich Ship Tier – a battle-worn lady which has seen remarkable service backing up Royal Naval ships in diverse actions throughout the world. Twin tugs guided her into the buoyed moorings with well-practised ease. A multi-purpose ship used in global rescue actions, she is capable as a hospital ship as shown in Gulf dramas. Here in Greenwich to celebrate Forces Day couldn’t be more relevant as many of all our forces would have served on board over many years, including a family friend Tim Taylor – a ‘brown job’ – who defended her in the Gulf with his anti-aircraft expertise as a Colonel in the Royal Artillery. Tim was born and raised here in Greenwich as has served his country throughout the world – even with the United Nations in the Congo. Bravo!!