musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Category: Cruiseships

Loving Liverpool (6) Ferry Across the Mersey

Continuing where we left off…

Naturally visiting any sort of harbour presents possible opportunities to get on a boat or a ship, or at least to see one (or two).

MV Snowdrop

Liverpool did not disappoint because there is a ferry that crosses the Mersey and I had her in my sights as soon as I spotted her (which says a lot for her dazzle camouflage).

At the time “Snowdrop” was working “River Explorer” cruises between Pier Head Ferry Terminal to Seacombe Ferry Terminal, and then to Woodside Ferry Terminal where the U-Boat Story was and then back to the pier head. When I first hit the ferry terminal my first consideration was queues. These were very long to get on board so I decided against it at the time, although did try a bit later in the afternoon but by then it was her last round trip so I gave it a miss. It would have been better to have taken that late sailing because the light was so much better that afternoon compared to the next morning.

The next day was a different story (as detailed in Loving Liverpool (5)) but by 10 am I was on board and ready to sail! Let go for’ard!

The vessel was built in 1959 for the Birkenhead Corporation as “Woodchurch” by Philip and Son, Dartmouth and was yard number 1305

Builders Plate

She was launched on 28 October 1959 and made her maiden voyage from Dartmouth to the River Mersey in 1960.   She is of 617 GRT, with a length of 46.32 m (152 ft 0 in), beam:  12.2 m (40 ft 0 in) and draught of 2.46 m (8 ft 1 in), as built she had a capacity of  1,200 passengers. 

Fortunately she was not too crowded so I was able to wander around taking pics of her decks and seating areas and just taking in the scenery. I was hoping to get close to the Stena Mersey but almost half way across the river I saw that she was getting underway so managed to get some pics of that happening.

(1500 x 476) heading back towards Seacombe.

I rode the vessel only as far as Woodside where I jumped ship and went to look at the U-534 exhibit.

I reboarded Snowdrop at 11H30. 

We puttered along towards the bend in the river and I was able to see the Royal Fleet Auxiliaries berthed at Cammell Laird of Birkenhead.

The vessel above is RFA Wave Knight (A389), while the vessel on the slipway is a Royal Research Ship being built at an estimated cost of £200 million, with the name RRS Sir David Attenborough and she is expected to be in service in 2019. The vessel below is  RFA Fort Victoria (A387)

RFA Fort Victoria (A387)

I was not sure how far you could get if you walked along the promenade towards those ships at Birkenhead, although I had been tempted to try that in the morning. Actually with hindsight Birkenhead may have to go to the top of my bucket list if ever I get back to Liverpool.

And then we were alongside once again and the queue to board was already looking long. I was happy because I had had my “cruise”. It was not much but was better than nothing. At least for that hour I was on the deck looking towards land and not vice versa.

The second trip.

On my last day in Liverpool I discovered that the cruise ship Saga Sapphire was in port so I decided to grab a short hop across the river to Seacombe and see about getting pics of her from the ferry,

Unfortunately the sun was really in the wrong place so the pics came out pretty badly.

Commuter services run between Seacombe departing at 7.20 am with a ten minute trip across to the pier head terminal and back until the last arrival at the pier head at 9.50 am.  However, this morning fleetmate Royal Iris was berthed at Seacombe so I was able to grab closeups of her, but it also meant that there was either a vessel swap going to happen or she was going to do a cruise too.

I stayed on board Snowdrop and rode her back to the pier head.

From there I strolled to the passenger terminal and took a closer look at Saga Sapphire before plonking myself on a handy bench to see what happened with Royal Iris; who had shifted from where I saw her earlier. 

Voila, she unberthed and started to head towards me and Snowdrop started to come into the shot too from behind Saga Sapphire…. this could be interesting, because I was hoping to get them both together and was rewarded for my patience. Royal Iris was already packed so I suspect she was doing a cruise, possibly down the Manchester Ship Canal?

Why the dazzle camo?

Dazzle camouflage was really the brainchild of famous artist Norman Wilkinson and the zoologist John Graham Kerr, and it consisted of complex patterns of geometric shapes in contrasting colours, interrupting and intersecting each other. the intention of it was to make it difficult to estimate a target’s range, speed, and heading.

How effective was it? It is certainly very strange to see and just maybe a few lives were saved as a result of it. However I have heard about the case of a WW1 destroyer sent to escort a large vessel that was dazzle camouflaged and her captain  admitted that he had to sail around the ship before he could work out which direction she was going in. The confusion of somebody trying to view a ship through a periscope could gain a potential target a few more seconds to evade a torpedo attack, and that was very important in the war at sea. False bow waves were also painted on ships too and I have seen images of a destroyer painted on the side of a passenger liner. 

The current mania for dazzle camo ships in Liverpool was really to draw attention to the war at sea and if it succeeded then that is a good thing. 

In January 2015 Snowdrop was given her unique new livery inspired by dazzle camouflage. Designed by Sir Peter Blake and entitled Everybody Razzle Dazzle.  She was one of three vessels commissioned to carry a dazzle livery, the others being Induction Chromatique à Double Fréquence pour l’Edmund Gardner Ship / Liverpool. Paris, 2014 by Carlos Cruz-Diez on the museum ship Edmund Gardner also berthed in Liverpool.

Tobias Rehberger’s Dazzle Ship London was created on HMS President in the River Thames. Unfortunately she was not in London in 2016 when I was there as she had been shifted to Chatham to make way for sewerage works. Her future was looking very bleak and it is unknown whether she will survive her cash crisis or not. She does need dry docking and funding is needed to get her through to her new berth in 2018. Images of her in dazzle camo are on her website

I do not know what Snowdrop looked like before she became so hard to see, but Royal Iris certainly looked much better in her normal livery.

As for Royal Daffodil, I was hoping to see her too, but she was nowhere that I was familiar with, at one point she started to sink at her mooring and I suspect she had been moved since then. I have since heard that she is laid up at the east float next to the Duke Street Bridge in Birkenhead and no real firm plans had been made about her future.

And that was my fun with ferries.

When next we return I will be dealing with Western Approaches Command and three large memorials that I found in the same area. Space permitting I will also visit the church on the waterfront

forwardbut

DRW © 2018. Created 05/06/2018

Updated: 27/06/2018 — 19:10

Hopping Across to Hythe

While doing my Southampton retrospective I realised  that I never did a post about Hythe, although did do a short page on the Hythe Pier Train at aas. Realistically there is not much to say about it, although like everything it does have odd quirks that are worth highlighting.  How do you get there? you hop a ferry at Town Quay of course. Please note that things may be slightly different now and this post is about how I experienced it way back in 2013. 

When I was in Southampton there were two ferry boats that operated to Hythe, the main one being “Great Expectations”

and the standby boat “Hotspur IV”. Sadly she is no longer available as she is “on the stocks” and in a poor condition. 

Technically the ferry runs every 30 minutes from point to point and the first time I went to Hythe was to see the Oriana on the 14th of April 2013. You get nice images of ships berthed at QEII terminal from the ferry, and of course you get nice images of everything coming and going into the harbour. 

This was the first time I had seen Oriana since 1997, and it was like seeing an old friend once again.  Also in port was Azura at Ocean Terminal, Arcadia at Mayflower and Saga Sapphire at City Terminal. 

Arcadia and Saga Sapphire

Hythe pierhead

Our ferry ride over I strolled down the pier, more interested in seeing the sights than rattling down that short stretch onboard the pier train. 

The pier opened on the 1st January 1881, and at the time was the 7th longest pier in the country.  The pier train came into operation in 1922; it had been built in World War 1 and was originally used at the Avonmouth Mustard Gas Factory. It is the world’s oldest continuous operating pier train. 

(1500×640)

My pier promenade over I was finally in Hythe and there was not a lot to see.

   

Don’t blink now, you have just seen Hythe. Actually there is much more to it, but I did not explore too far from the ferry terminal.  I did however find a War Memorial to the Royal Navy (Beach Head) Commandos that embarked from Hythe en route to the beaches of Normandie on 06 June 1944

Parish church of St John, Hythe

Hythe also has a small boat marina, and it was a favourite spot for ship viewing because of the view of the harbour. 

At this point we will leave Hythe and return again on the 26th of April 2013 when I went to photograph the Queen Mary 2 that was sailing from Ocean Terminal. 

Return to Hythe

My next expedition to Hythe was to see that Queen Mary 2 sailing, I had watched her arrive from her world cruise in the morning but wanted to see her sail from here.

As much as Town Quay is a useful viewing platform for ships in Ocean Terminal you still end up battling sun, mist and clouds. At least at Hythe the sun is behind you so things are easier. The problem was that on this particular day the weather was iffy and there were dark ominous clouds in the sky. I headed across to Hythe and walked up to the marina and a suitable photography spot. Occasionally drops of rain splattered against me and I was really in  bad position if a storm broke out because there was no shelter nearby. 

The lifeboat below does not seem to be in operation, as it was high and dry in the marina. She is named R.N.L.B Ruby and Arthur Reed, she was built in 1966 at the yard of William Osborne at Littlehampton, West Sussex and is an Oakley class self-righting design which combined great stability with the ability to self-right in the event of the lifeboat capsizing

She is a really famous old lady and lives out her retirement safe from the battering of the sea. It is sad to see a vessel like this because ideally she should be afloat.

By 19H00 there was movement at Ocean Terminal and they started to back the QM2 out of the terminal. It was quite strange that she had berthed bow inland, usually they back the ships into the berth, but then I have seen many odd things while ship watching and without local knowledge of why and wherefore it is just conjecture as to why she was berthed like that.  

I have not reproduced the complete sequence of movements but the image above is her best angle as far as I am concerned. I just wish they would raise her funnel. 

Photography completed it was time to head for home. I had already started walking towards the terminal because at some point the ferry stops running and I did not want to be stuck on the wrong side of Southampton Water.

While I waited I poked around and investigated the rolling stock of the railway. It is really self contained and is an attraction all on its own, albeit with a very short track and only 3 coaches.

The late afternoon sunset was beautiful though and I captured quite a few stunning images on my walk. Fortunately I managed to make it in time to get back to Town Quay.

I made one final trip to Hythe to see Black Watch sail past, again it was late afternoon and once again I was blessed with beautiful sunsets.

And that was Hythe in a nutshell.  I always regret not having a good look around, but was always really tied to the ferry schedule. I really needed a reason to visit a place like it, and sailaways are always great, and there is the added bonus of a wonderful sunset. I should have really gone to Hythe for the maiden arrival of Britannia but never considered it at the time, and of course once again I was on the clock.  Who knows, maybe one day I will return. 

Random images

 
 
   

DRW  © 2013-2018. Retrospectively created 09/04/2018

Updated: 13/04/2018 — 08:38

A last farewell

This post is one that I have dreaded for quite some time, and the time has finally come to make it. However, there is much more to it than a mere farewell, because it is really the culmination of many parts. It really starts way back in the in 1992 when I first saw the newly built RMS St Helena in Cape Town from the Canberra. Both of these vessels are legends, but at the moment we are more interested in the RMS. and this was the first photograph that I took of her. 

Because her prices were in £ she was very expensive to sail on, and a short cruise was not easy to get because she ploughed a long furrow between Cape Town, St Helena, Ascension Island and finally the UK. She was amongst the last passenger ships doing a dedicated line voyage and was also amongst the few ships left that flew the Royal Mail pennant. 

RMS at St Helena. Image courtesy of Sabrina Harper

By some weird piece of luck I heard about spaces being available on board her for the voyage to Tristan da Cunha  that was happening in  1993, and I took a chance and booked passage. It was not cheap by any means and I am thankful for my travel agent who helped me with my booking and the associated flights to and from Cape Town.

Naturally sailing day was a long drag away. I was stuck in a dead end job with a company I loathed, and was only too glad to get away from them for awhile. Around about the same time I picked up issues with my health and ended up having to lug a stash of pills on board with me. There was no way in hell I would be stopped by aches and pains. The report of my voyage exists on allatsea so I am not going to repeat it, suffice to say I enjoyed it thoroughly; Tristan was a fascinating destination, but the ship was so much better. She is really a hybrid passenger and cargo ship and of course does not have the glitz and glamour of the modern cruise ships, if anything she really came from a much nicer era of travel. Her crew were composed of a mixture of “Saints” and ex Union-Castle staff and of course that meant that I was experiencing just a tiny piece of the legacy of the glorious  Union-Castle mail ships. 

I was very fortunate to get that opportunity of a voyage and I kept an eye on her as much as was possible in the intervening years. At some point she stopped calling in the UK, and she was managed by Andrew Weir Shipping as opposed to Curnow Shipping. Work was started on an airport at St Helena and that was really the death knell of my favourite ship, although it was still a number of years away. 

A number of years have passed, the airport was ready to open and it was announced that the RMS would make one final voyage to the UK, arriving in June 2016. At first I thought “Who do I know that can get me pics?” And then I decided I would get them myself and set out for London  on the 7th of June to see the RMS for the last time.   I have told that story before and you can read about it on the blogpost.

The airport was not without its problems though and the RMS was granted a reprieve for another year and a half. 

A year and a half has passed, and sadly the RMS has sailed from Cape Town on her last voyage. The moment that all of her many fans dreaded has finally arrived. 

What of her future? she is came into service in 1990 so is already over 27 years old and is already in the zone where a replacement should have been on the table. She has always had engine issues, and recently had to return to drydock for repairs in Simonstown. The odds of her finding a reputable buyer is really very small, and the odds of her becoming a static hotel in St Helena is even smaller. Unless a buyer can be found she will make one last voyage to the beach, and that will be incredibly sad. However, rather she gets broken up than stuck in some backwater and left to rot.  I am a realist, and preserving ships in a very costly business, even one as small as her. 

I remember many years ago a print advert for Union-Castle that showed the inside of a jet aircraft and a view from the window. It more or less said: “From (date unknown) this is the view you will see when you go to England (or South Africa).” That is now also true of those who wish to visit St Helena Island. 

She will be sadly missed, there will never be another like her. 

The end of the era has come.

Glenn Kasner took photo’s of that last sailing and these images are copyright to him. I am using them with permission.

Sadly she had somewhat of a poor send off, but thanks to the tug for showing some respect.  And while Cape Town hardly budged from their torpor the same could not be said about her send off at St Helena. These images were kindly sent to me by Sabrina Harper and are used with permission.

**Update 2018**

10/02/2018. The RMS sailed from St Helena for the last time. The ship, which has supplied the island since coming into service so long ago was expected to reach Cape Town on the 15th of February (Since revised to 17 Feb) where they will disembark the last passengers who sailed on the ship. Thereafter she will go into lay up or alternatively head off to her next destination, whether it is the beaches of Alang or a new career. The Master was unable to reveal what the final destination of the vessel will be as he would only find out while en route for Cape Town. Once I know more I will post it here too. 

Farewell RMS, fair weather for your final journeys. Thank you for the experience of real sea travel the way it used to be.

**Update 17/04/2018**

It was announced that the RMS has been sold to Tahiti Shipping, a subsidiary of MNG Maritime, bought the ship for an undisclosed amount. Under the name MNG Tahiti she is to be based in the Gulf of Oman, and used as a floating armoury, packed with automatic weapons, bullet-proof jackets and night vision goggles, all stored for maritime security operatives who keep vessels secure from piracy attacks. At this point there has been no announcement as to when she will sail from Cape Town for the last time. 

DRW © 2018. Created 25/01/2018. Cape Town sailing images are by Glen Kasner © 2018 and last 3 by Sabrina Harper and are used with permission, updated 15/02/2018, additional images added  18/04/2018

Updated: 18/04/2018 — 18:44

Building the RMS

*Click here for the 20/05/2017 update*

I have always wanted a model of the RMS St Helena, but they always evaded me because there are not too many available in the first place.  The easiest way to get one is realistically to scratch build one and see what that turns out like. There are however, a few problems with that scenario. The first being: where do I get plans from?

A line drawing of the ship is easy to find, I have quite a few on my computer as it is.

I have been lugging around lots of images of the ship since she first entered service, and amongst my stuff is the A&P Appledore publicity handout above. That will serve as the basis of my project. 

Problem number 2 is that while I do have accommodation plans of her, I do not have a top view of her, so there things are going to be somewhat icky.

Interestingly enough 2 1/1250 waterline models do exist, and I have been “in the market” as they say. However, they are very scarce and probably way out of my budget range. My usual supplier, Tim at Convoy Models managed to lay his hands on one, and this is what it looks like. It was created by Oceanic and I have a sneaky suspicion that this was a concept that never reached fruition, probably because the RMS is not one of those well known glamorous Cunarders that everybody swoons over (or should I say used to swoon over?). She is a working ship and is really a hybrid between cargo ship and cruise ship.

**Update 12/2017**

I have since managed to acquire one of those models myself and it is a very poor casting with the port side superstructure needing a lot of attention. I have since commenced work on the ship and have managed to fill some of the holes in the superstructure and hull and it looks as if I will be be completing this model, at least to a point where it is recognisable as being the RMS. 

Continuing with the original post…

The RMS in London in June 2016 on what was supposed to be her final trip.

The ship is 105 metres long, and according to my handy scale converting tool, a 1/1250 model should be about 84 mm long, with a beam of 19,2 mm (15 metres). The problem is… how do I scale the drawing down to that size? I first printed out the image and then tried a few things but kept on hitting a brick wall. Eventually I decided to shrink the image down to the size I needed on a scanner. Some rough calculating and trial and error led me to reduce the size of the drawing by 34% which left me with a image roughly 86 mm long.   

Now, what will I use to build it with? I have some balsa wood hanging around from when I modified my display cases and I managed to create a block of balsa longer than 85mm and 15mm wide. Theoretically, if I then attach my reduced scale image to the block, then mark the specific sizes onto the top of the block I will have something that theoretically should look like the RMS! I used the term “theoretically” because there is no guarantee that it will work, or that I will ever finish the project. 

The really irritating thing is that back in South Africa I have a proper plan of the ship which I got from one of the officers on board her in 1993 when I sailed on her. It never occurred to me to bring the plans back with me in April, but then I had too many other things on my mind at the time.  

So, where do I sit now? I am cutting out the image and affixing it to my balsa block and will then see how viable it is to build the superstructure as a separate entity and affix it to the hull once I have created the hull. It is early days yet, and I only really work on this sort of thing over a weekend. 

So, this is part one of my ongoing project to build an RMS. I have not scratch built anything in ages, so may just give up at any juncture, it really depends on what I can do with the limited tools that I do have at my disposal. Ideally I would have preferred a harder wood for the hull, but Balsa should work, at least for the MKI. 

After finishing this post I worked a bit more on the ship and after basic the results look something like this:

At this point I am convinced that shedding the accommodation block may be a good idea. It may be better to build it separately than to try hack what is there already. The Balsa wood is easy to work with but it splinters easily and it is going to be difficult to smooth out the vertical sides. I may try get some Jelutong or Basswood and start from the bottom again. But, I will see, it is early days yet. I do however need to get wood filler, some plasticard and a sealant/varnish so that I can seal the Balsa. I will think about it.

A few days later…

Today is the 20th and between when I first posted and now a number of things happened.

Firstly I sent the balsa model to the breakers. It was just not working out. I did some homework and was not able to source Jelutong or what is known as “basswood”, if it was available the sizes were way out of what I was looking for. However, the remnants from my display cases did provide me with a length of wood which is a millimetre thinner than what I needed. However, I will not tell if you won’t. I marked up the sizes and used my handy saw to cut out a rough shape. This morning I was sanding like crazy and the end result is as follows…

However, when creating the bow I hit a snag that I will have to work around. The ship has a decided “knuckle” as well as a very raked bow. I was not able to recreate that effect so may end up having to revert to some judicious use of a filler and I will have to sleep on that problem. The one option I do have is to to slice off the deck and create a new piece and glue it in place. You can see the knuckle in the image below.

 

Her accommodation looks like this    ——————-> 

The red area on “B” Deck is a recessed area on her superstructure that is the entrance to her insides, and where the weather deck access is and the gangway is stowed. I am not quite sure how to deal with that yet.

“C” Deck does not have to be created as it is below the weather deck level. and apart from the recess I do not have to do much work on it either.

“A” deck is more or less where my superstructure is at now, however, I may need to add a section to increase the height of A deck. The biggest problem that I do have is the height of each deck. I suspect they are roughly 2,5 metres high, allowing for about 7 foot ceilings with the remaining void being used for pipes and cables. 

The Prom deck and upwards are the major bits of accommodation that I have to build. Above the prom deck is where I am having to refer to memory. There are two deck levels above it, and the first level is slightly shorter than the prom deck but is the same width as it (after looking at pics I am not quite so sure of that anymore). This is the level where the lifeboats are, and their davits terminate at prom deck level. The pool is also on the prom deck and there is a recessed cargo hatch on that deck. 

Above that deck is the navigating bridge and chartroom and I think the radio room is there too. The funnel is partly on top of that deck, and it houses the mast too. 

Navigating bridge

Funnel and mast

The ship has had a few structural modifications to her accommodation, but I am really going for the look of the ship as she was when I sailed on her. Incidentally, her hull colour is “Oxford blue”. I have not really considered the weather deck, I need to fabricate 2 cranes as well as hatches and deck machinery, and that will not be easy.

On Sunday I did some exploration work with balsa and technically this is what it may look like.

What have I discovered?

The deck above the Prom is possibly a bit too short, but given that there is a pool there and cargo hatch it may be right. I need to bear in mind that aft mooring deck is not properly done yet either. That will cut down on available deck space.  The deck around the  bridge area can be walked around, so it needs to be smaller than the deck below it. The funnel shape needs careful consideration because it is kind of distinctive. Then there are bridge wings to add, and of course the angled side to the superstructure ends. There is a ladder in that area so I may have to experiment more in that area. Balsa ain’t gonna work!  Davits! I need davits!

Yesterday I was looking at my Leda Model which is 1/1250 as well, and she does present me with interesting comparison and references for cranes, lifeboats and superstructure. 

Leda was 133 metres long which is a bit longer than the RMS so it isn’t too hard to make a comparison. However, against the Leda my RMS is out of scale. 

So this is where we are now. If you hear any woodworking noises you at least will know that they come from me.

27/05/2017.

Where are we now? I managed to get some 2mm plastic and have been reworking the superstructure block. The plastic works quite easily and can hold a sharp edge and doesn’t splinter. However, I still have to find an adhesive that will attach it to the wood hull.

The funnel started out as a rough shape and may not be the final shape I want so it may be redone. However, I still need to make changes to the superstructure decks. I have deliberately created the block wider than it should be so that I can file everything square once it is mounted because the RMS does not have a lot of curves. I have also cut away the gangway points in the hull. With hindsight though I really need to file that open deck area down by at least 2 mm more and raise bulwarks on that deck to maintain the deck height and sheer line. Naturally I have no idea what I can use to do this (it always happens). Scrap plastic anybody? 

27/05/2017 much later that afternoon.

I attacked my ship with a file and dropped the well deck level considerably, certainly lower than it was and after much work was rewarded with this…

I also measured her up against my 34% image and she is very close to the image in proportions. I am seeing progress at last, but tomorrow is another day.

It is now tomorrow. I added in some bulwarks and redid the 2nd layer off the superstructure block after getting an image from somebody that cleared up the area for me. The one mistake I cannot rectify is the bow shape and after adding in the bulwarks it made the bow even steeper. The only real way to solve the bow problem is to reshape it from scratch and that will impact on the length of the ship. I have decided to stick with what I have and to complete the ship anyway. I have come far enough with it and do not feel like building another hull. Once day I will create another, but not this week/month. I added in a sheet of plastic under the bridge and trimmed it to support bridge wings that I have made out of small pieces of wood. I may change that to proper bridge wings if I can figure out how. Thin brass would be nice. 

I also painted the hull in a rough coat of blue and white and assembled the ship as it is. The funnel is still the temporary one.

And here she is. I think she is starting to look like the RMS! I need to add the screens around the pool area which will extend the accommodation block and fill that empty deck area, and consider how I will create hatches for the well deck and foredeck. And at some point I need to glue the superstructure blocks together and file them smooth. But that will not happen in this blogpost. Anything done after today will end up in next months posts. 

 

*Click here for the 18/06/2017 update*

When last we left the ship she was in a state of…

At that point I had changed the superstructure and was contemplating the well deck bulwarks. In the back of my mind was the feeling that I needed to change them so I ended up ripping them out and replacing them with aluminium ones cut from a beer tin. If only I had thought of that originally I would have saved myself considerable work (and £2.99 for a sheet of brass). The superstructure has been rough painted and filed more or less level with the hull section. I scrapped the original bridge wing scheme too because I was going to make them out of brass, but that idea has also changed and I may see whether it is easy to make them out of aluminium so that I can have a proper bridge wing effect. There is also a section of steel that merges the slope of the superstructure with the bridge wing. I need to see how that comes together too. 

 As at 19.21 today she looks something like this…

I have made the crane mounting post and added in the well deck hatch and started to see what arrangement I could make for her two cranes. This is not how the new cranes will look. I have made proper ones now but they still have glue drying so haven’t been mounted yet. I am also on the lookout for paint for her decks. They use a light blue on her steel decking so I am either going to have to mix or buy a tinlet. At any rate I am not going anywhere until I have the bulwarks fixed. The bend angle that I used created a empty space between the bulwark and the deck so that needs to be fixed too.  I still have not created her funnel either, probably because I hate working with wood. 

What have I learnt so far?

The well deck may be too high or the deck between it and the fo’c’stle may be too low. I am unable to achieve the slight upward slope of the bulwarks because there is this size issue between the gangway area and the well deck. I do not know how to solve this yet. Actually looking at some of my pics, she has two housings on either side of the deck where the cranes are mounted. I may be able to use that to create my sloping bulwarks. I must investigate that. 

My wooden crane sucked. I do have a length of styrene and it has worked well enough that I have a set of cranes that may work well. 

The aft deck screen around the pool needs to be put in motion, as must the davits. I have the perfect material for the davits and should be able to churn out 4 sets without too much of a headache. But, I have to make lifeboats which means the headache is back. The length of styrene may work for the boats. I must experiment a bit.

I need to start straightening my sheer lines once have the bulwarks sorted and I need to experiment with bridge wings, ah what fun! 

In the meantime, some more views of the real ship. I see on my pics her fo’c’stle was Oxford blue too, that should make my work easier. 

So. That is where we are now. During the week I hope to do more work on her and then will post progress when I am done next weekend. 

10/06/2017. 

When last you we saw the RMS she was looking more RMS-like all the time. However…

This afternoon I attacked her with a saw.

After ripping off her superstructure I cut away a third of the deck and filed it flat. The deck used to end where the patch of blue now is. I then headed off to Cheltenham and came back with basswood and a few more interesting goodies and rebuilt that deck.  Because of the size of the wood I ended up having to use two pieces instead of one. The result looks something like this….

I then refabricated bulwarks and added them in, masked the hull and painted the white area in. (No pics as the paint is wet). On Friday I made the funnel that you can see above, it needs to be flatter at the top though, not sloping backwards. I also added my new crane unit just for show. The issue there is that the one boom stretches from the crane and rests on a cradle affixed to the superstructure front. My one boom is consequently longer than the other.  

I have made one major decision though. This model is far from anywhere near perfect, in fact it is a hodge podge of wood and plastic and really quite poor. However, I have learnt a lot by building it, and I will complete it so that it looks much better than it does now, and then I will consider building another with the knowledge I have gained building this service pack 1. When I started I did not have the one image I have now (which I cannot show because it belongs to somebody else), That image showed me a lot of detail that I could not get off my existing images. Ideally I need the plans but it looks like my brother is trying hard not to be seen. I did ask him to go look for them but I guess he never found them or never looked. Anyway, building will stop this week as I have the landlord popping in to check that I haven’t wrecked the place so my ship and associated goodies are being hidden away till next week. 

11/06/2017.

I have made a lot of progress this afternoon. One thing about the weather, it makes you stay indoors and work on your ships! The aft pool area is more or less completely built although it may change, I have done some preliminary work on painting decks and am experimenting with davits. The issue with them is glue. The super glue is useless and the other all purpose glue is also useless. I may need to add a notch in the decks for the davit to rest on. Thinking about it still. Funnel is glued down and two hatches have been added although crane assy is still not stuck down. She is looking much better, not perfect, but better.

Still to do:

Build 4 lifeboats and 8 davits, mount them. 

Bridge wings. Still need those.

Crane on starboard deck aft

Repaint

Think about gangway

Black topping to funnel and logo… I have no idea how to do that logo on such a small scale. Print it out and shrink it down I guess. √  Sorted! Shrunk a logo to 9% printed, cut out and mounted it. Voila!

Bridge front needs to be done. It does not sit flush with the accommodation but protrudes slightly. 

Mast and associated satnav gear.

Two derricks on well deck 

Two housings on foredeck and associated machinery

Till then…

It is the 18th of June and the RMS is almost done… although “done” has not quite been explained. 

I have added the aft crane, 4 lifeboats, a “mast”, forespike, foredeck housings and am really at a point where I need to touch up paint and finish this puppy off finally.

Those lifeboats were a major pain. The conventional davits that I made proved almost impossible to mount. There was just nothing apart from 2 points where they were glued to keep them in place., never mind to mount a lifeboat on. The davits are a mess. How the heck they make them in this scale (and smaller) is beyond me. That was a major stumbling block as far as I am concerned. The bow shape is wrong, the bulwarks are just exacerbating the problem. Talking of bulwarks… did I mention that I managed to get them on? the small square hole in the hull is where the gangway sits, currently the hole is too short, but trying to enlarge it may be dangerous. The mast is OK, but not quite what I was trying to achieve. The derricks in the well deck are OK, although their booms are pieces of wire and proved to be hell to get to sit in the correct position. The aft crane looks more like a 6 inch gun. I need to change that. I also should have stayed with the yellow I had on the funnel. The yellow I have now is icky. 

Paintwork is an abomination. Because I made so many changes the paint ended up lumpy and short of sanding it all off will always look lumpy. I jumped the gun when it came to painting her and am now saddled with what I have. There isn’t much I can do at this point, although having completed the ship I am tempted to try sand her hull and accommodation down to bare wood and then repaint. I have not decided. I am very tempted to try change the bow shape though, but having almost finished the ship I am now loathe to break it again. 

Portholes and windows? I am thinking about them. 2 Options: either make them out of trimline or create a stencil and paint them in. The former works but the trimline tends to come off. Painting is a pain. I need to experiment. I tried using the trimline option on the bridge front but it ended up skew and the white parts disassociated themselves with the experiment. 

Now that I look at her, she actually looks kind of like the RMS after all.

A new iteration?

Things have changed a lot since I started this project. I have better images and I have a set of deckplans (thanks Glynn), I also have better wood, tools and know more about how the ship comes together so a new version should be an improvement (almost anything would be an improvement). However, my eyesight and sausage fingers are just not allowing me to work to such small scale (old age they call it), and I need to sort out the glue issue, this stuff I am using now is a major source of irritation. And of course the thought of those damn lifeboats and davits leaves me frazzled. I would build a scaled up version but the problem with that is… railings. I rest my case.

This post is the last of the construction posts. Next time you see it I will be completing the ship

Thanks for watching this space, soon there will be a new space to watch.

© DRW 2017-2018. Created 04/06/2017. Updated 18/06/2017. Posts combined 30/01/2018

Updated: 16/02/2018 — 19:40

Fleet Manoeuvres

Regular readers of this blog may have seen posts about my slowly expanding fleet of Triang Minic Ships. The fleet occupies 2 display cases and a smaller plastic box and has become somewhat too large for the few harbour parts that I do have. This weekend I hauled the ships out and set them up on my kitchen table and took some pics.

The ships alongside here are mostly Triang Minic in 1/1200 scale, although I did sneak in one or 2 1/1250 scale ships that fit in with the others. Only the smaller warships are in this layout.

The dominant ship in this image is the RMS Queen Elizabeth; she is one of my original vessels and I really want to buy one in a better condition. Also in view is the Ivernia, Flandre, 2nd Mauretania, United States and QE2, with the Pendennis Castle underway. The piers are lengths of stripwood while the cranes are all Triang issues.

The dominant ship here is the Caronia while the Nieuw Amsterdam is in front of the venerable Aquitania.

And while the Pendennis was sailing the Pretoria Caste was arriving

The two Union-Castle ships are part of my Union-Castle collection that was also in port on this reasonably sunny day. 

Unfortunately, only while I was packing away did I realise that the Reina Del Mar was not in this image and was probably away cruising somewhere. I did rectify the matter in a later pic.

I also gathered the Cunard fleet together for a photo session.

I lined up the battle wagons for a rare airing too, fortunately they did not open fire on each other or there would have been bits and pieces all over the place. 

My newest addition is the SS Australis, but she is in limbo at the moment as she is not scaled according to what she should be.

She may be returning back to her supplier, although I may keep her and finish her off anyway because I really did like the original ship. 

The fleet is now back in its display, and the table has been restored to its former state. That was a lot of work, and I am not likely to do it again for a  long time. I do have a smaller project on the go that may end up here, although sometimes my ideas are a bit better than the actual end result. Watch this space as they say in the classics.

© DRW 2016-2018. Created 26/11/2016

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 16:30

More small ships

Following my recent posts about Modelling the Union-Castle Line (2), I have added a few more additions to the collection. My major supplier so far has been Convoy Models and I have had excellent service from them them.

My newest acquisitions are the RMS Mauretania (aka the 2nd Mauretania) and one of the Ellerman Lines “City” boats.

The Mauretania does connect to my past as my father sailed “up north” on her in September 1941 when she was a troopship. The model is available as a troopship or as a regular passenger liner. or she can be painted in her cruising livery of various shades of green.   I am amazed at how detailed these resin cast models can be, especially the “Len Jordan” 1/1200 range. 

unfinished model

unfinished model (funnels unmounted)

I have been slowly working on her, and have gotten quite far already.

I still need to fix that wobbly sheer line, unfortunately when I was taping it I did not quite follow the curve of the sheer so really need to drop it slightly and correct it. Funnels have their first coat and have to be completed and I have to give the decks a second coat and touch up some of the superstructure.

My “City” boat is one of four sisters (Port Elizabeth, City of Exeter, City of York, City of Durban) that were operated by Ellerman lines and they were regular callers in South Africa. 

Unfinished model (funnel is separate)

Unfinished model (funnel is separate)

I am working on her at the same time as the Mauretania

I have painted her funnel in white and will do the divisions on it tomorrow and that will add some colour to her. I think I will call her City of Durban.  

Progress: 15/10/2014.

My other interesting acquisition I made some time ago, she is the Marco Polo. I was fortunate enough to visit her many years ago and she is still in service today, albeit under different ownership to when I saw her. 

She is a resin cast model in 1/1250 scale.

I have also been keeping an eye open for old battleships from the Atlas Editions series and found HMS Warspite to add to my collection.

HMS Warspite

HMS Warspite

I already have HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Hood in the series. although if they are all the same scale then against the other two ships Warspite is very small. 

HMS Prince of Wales. 1/1250 scale (Atlas Editions)

HMS Prince of Wales. 1/1250 scale (Atlas Editions)

HMS Hood. 1/1250 scale. (Atlas Editions)

HMS Hood. 1/1250 scale. (Atlas Editions)

Finally, I bought this on a whim.

R.N.L.B. Garside

R.N.L.B. Garside

The RNLB Garside is the St Davids station all weather lifeboat, and she was donated to the RNLI by Thomas Harold Garside and his sister Dorothy from Yorkshire.

I should be finished with the Maurie and City of Durban soon, and will update this page accordingly.

Till then.. 

© DRW 2016-2018. Created 13/10/2016

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 16:35

That last voyage across the harbour

In March 1990 a group of us went down to Durban to see the arrival of the Cunard cruise ship Vistafjord arrive. By way of explanation, I was a member of what was then the Transvaal Branch of the World Ship Society. We would occasionally go down to Durban over a weekend to see ships. Many times it was to see a specific vessel with a visit organised, and it would usually incorporate a trip out on the pilot boat or one of the tugs. Most of the vessels we visited are listed on my ship visit book page at allatsea. These were the days of film so we were limited by how many pics we could take which depended on how much film we had or could afford to process. It was an expensive exercise, and I shot mostly slide film back then and conversions to digital media is not always successful. 

The subject of this post is about a short voyage we made across the harbour on board the dedger Ribbok. She was in her last days, and was laid up at the Ocean Terminal awaiting disposal. The berth she was in had to be vacated for Vistafjord, and we were “in the area” when the pilot arrived. He was an amiable Dutch guy and usually tolerated our puppy dog eyed pleading and would allow us on board.

On sea trials. (Image by Pete Bower)

On sea trials. (Image by Pete Bower)

Ribbok was a diesel electric suction dredger, built by Alexander Stephen & Sons Glasgow as Yard No 698, she was launched on 11 November 1961 and registered in Durban.  She was of 4594 grt, 1726 net, 5120 dwt. and just over 110 metres long with a beam of 18 metres and draught of just over 5,4 metres. (Clydesite.co.uk)

She was a regular sight in Durban and I would have loved to have spent a day on her, but dredgers are working vessels and really would have not been an ideal way to spend a day. 

Entering the harbour after a days work

Entering the harbour after a days work

Ribbok alongside

We boarded Ribbok and took up position, I no longer recall where, but we always kept out of the way of the crew or pilots during their work on a ship. The lines were singled and we were soon on our way, dead ship, with a tug at the bow and possibly the stern. The pilot remarked that the poor old girl was in a poor condition and that was obvious from the many rusted areas and plated over decking.

A last voyage

The vessel literally on top of the tug is the Estrella Do Mar, a small ferry that used to run up towards Zanzibar and Mozambique, she ended up in Durban in later years and we always hoped she would do coastals but that never happened. 

Then we were tied up alongside and we disembarked. We all felt saddened to see this stalwart like this, but unfortunately like so many ships before her there comes a time when she has to sail away forever. Ribbok had very little time left, she was broken up in July 1990 at Alang.

The replacement for Ribbok was the RE Jones, and amongst my images is an image of her alongside Ribbok. 

Bibbok inboard, RE Jones outboard

Bibbok inboard, RE Jones outboard

Unfortunately the scanner chopped off the bows of the pair but in the background you can see the Achille Lauro in her short lived StarLauro livery which puts this image at December 1989. I don’t think Ribbok ever wore the new corporate livery and had her SAR&H funnel livery till the end.

RE Jones underway in Durban

RE Jones underway in Durban

And what about Vistafjord? I have to admit I did find her somewhat of a disappointment, and I only really appreciated her when I saw her as Saga Ruby in Southampton in 2013.

Vistafjord arriving in Durban. march 1990

 

Saga Ruby sailing from Southampton 2013

And so our short voyage slipped away into memory, to resurface during a discussion at our tug group. Good memories, but a sad one too.

© DRW 2016-2018. Created 15/09/2016

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 16:37

Going to see the RMS

When  it was announced that the RMS St Helena would be calling in London and berthing alongside HMS Belfast my first thought was: “Who do I know in London who could get me some pics?” and my second was: “I need a break, why don’t I go to London and get the pics myself!” So I sat down and did a feasibility study. I live about 2,5 hours by rail to London but cannot travel there directly, and have to do it via Cheltenham. The other problem was accommodation; it is not cheap to stay in a hotel there, they are pricey and do not really cater for singles. Yet, I managed to organise it all, got the leave and on the morning of the 7th of June I was on my way to see my ship. Arrival time had been given at 16H45, but that could change, considering how far she had come from. 

Paddington Station is quite an experience, I had never been there before so it was all new to me. It was also the station that the Great Western Railway established as the end point for their trains into London. 

It was also where a famous Bear from Peru arrived one fine day…. 

Paddington Bear

Paddington Bear

I had a rough and ready schedule that I had made, and it included Kensal Green and St Mary’s Cemetery, The Imperial War Museum,  The Victoria and Albert Museum, Tower Hill Merchant Navy Memorial and possibly Bunhill Fields Cemetery. The only fixed part of my schedule was the RMS arrival. That was cast in stone.  

After finding my hotel and dropping off my luggage I hit the tube, I had at least 5 hours to kill before  I had to be at Tower Bridge and decided that Bunhill Fields was *on the way”, and I bailed out at Moorgate Station and proceeded to get lost…. 

Winding forward to roughly 13H30. It was getting cloudier and things were looking decidedly poor weatherwise. I was now at Tower Bridge and had confirmation that the bridge would be opened at 16H45 for the ship so she was not too far away, probably still at Tilbury.

I had some time to kill and headed off to the Imperial War Museum where I got caught in the rain. I killed time there and then headed back to the bridge and grabbed a quick bite to eat. The rain had reduced itself to a drizzle and there was a chance it would even clear. Time was approaching and I still had not decided where to wait the ship out. The problem was, once the bridge was raised I was stranded on that bank of the Thames.

I ended up on the Tower of London side and stayed there, chatting to a fellow ship buff who had come to see her. Bridge raising time arrived and passed, but the ship buff confirmed she was on her way and had cleared the Thames Barrier. And then…..

That first glimpse of the RMS after so many years was a very emotional moment. I had sailed on her in 1993,  and since then I had changed jobs, moved house many times, gone through all manner of odd things and she had carried on ploughing her furrow to the Island of St Helena. I had seen her when she was almost brand new, it was now 25 year later and she was on her last voyages. 

She was escorted by two tugs, the ZP Bear and SD Seal, which may have come from Tilbury.  As she started to come closer the sirens started and the bridge we were standing on started to open to allow her through. I will be honest I did not notice too much of what was happening behind me at this point.

And then she was starting to pass under the raised roadway and I had to change position

I headed back across to the other side of the bridge which is not as easy as it sounds as there are railings (and traffic) quite far back along the bridge. By the time I got to the other side she was already through.

I threaded my way down to street level and towards the area opposite HMS Belfast, but you can only see the ship up to a point before it gets hidden by the river cruise boat piers; I really had to get past those to get a better look. But alas quite a few people had the same idea as I had.

A lot of people standing here were all past passengers on board her, the one person had been on her 6 times! 

HMS Belfast is more than a match for her sizewise and interestingly enough both of these ships were built in Britain!  

It was time for me to return to my hotel. As much as I wanted to stay I still had to check in, and I was tired and hungry and we were into peak hour on the tube.  I said my goodbyes, but knew I would be back on the next day. There was still one image I wanted.

The next day.

I returned to the Thames after my mammoth Kensall Green excursion, and via St Paul’s Cathedral and a rain storm.  I wanted a pic  from bow on of these two ships.

 

And then it was time to say my goodbyes to her. It was sad to see her knowing that she is in her last days. She is unique and can never be replaced. She will however live on in the memories of those who sailed on her and the people of St Helena.  This small ship literally kept an island alive, she is being replaced like so many others by a jet aircraft and things will never be the same again.

I am glad I sailed on her, I am sad I never sailed on her twice, or 6 times. But oddly enough she was the ship that appeared in my dreams the most.

Fair weather for your voyage home RMS St Helena, and for the final voyage that you will make. You will be missed.

**Update 17/04/2018**

It was announced that the RMS has been sold to Tahiti Shipping, a subsidiary of MNG Maritime, bought the ship for an undisclosed amount. Under the name MNG Tahiti, she is to be based in the Gulf of Oman, and used as a floating armoury, packed with automatic weapons, bullet-proof jackets and night vision goggles, all stored for maritime security operatives who keep vessels secure from piracy attacks.

© DRW 2016-2018. Created 09/06/2016

Updated: 17/04/2018 — 18:45

RMS Update

It is now the 6th of June, and tomorrow morning I am heading off to London to see the RMS St Helena when she berths alongside HMS Belfast. (To view the images of the arrival visit the blogpost about it)

 

There have however been some interesting developments around about the new airport at St Helena and the following update has been made to the St Helena Line Website  Hopefully this will not affect her arrival in London tomorrow. 

The  RMS St. Helena was to have finished with engines serving the South Atlantic island on 15 July upon arrival at Cape Town but has now scheduled three more return voyages into September 2016. The newly completely airport has not been certified due to wind sheer problems. One problem is reputed to be winds and another is the short runway. As a result the service of the RMS has been extended as an interim measure and for a limited period until air services begin. This service will be for passengers and freight. The schedule may be viewed at: http://rms-st-helena.com/schedules-fares/ and bookings will be accepted from Monday 6 June 2016. 

© DRW 2016-2018. Created 06/06/2016.

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 16:15

Farewell to the RMS

*Update: 08/06/2016*

I have said my goodbyes to the RMS St Helena. 

*Update: 06/06/2016*

The  RMS St. Helena was to have finished with engines serving the South Atlantic island on 15 July upon arrival at Cape Town but has now scheduled three more return voyages into September 2016. The newly completely airport has not been certified due to wind sheer problems. One problem is reputed to be winds and another is the short runway. As a result the service of the RMS has been extended as an interim measure and for a limited period until air services begin. This service will be for passengers and freight. The schedule may be viewed at: http://rms-st-helena.com/schedules-fares/ and bookings will be accepted from Monday 6 June 2016. However it appears as if she will be withdrawn in Feb 2018. 

—————————————————— 

Round about this time of year I normally post about the RMS Titanic, this post is not about her; it is about another RMS, one of the last still afloat and soon to sail into history and memory.

My story really starts with the former Northland Prince, which is what the original RMS St Helena was called. I really took a shine to her because she was unique; a real ship with a regular route that was doing sea travel the way it it should have been. Unfortunately she was out of my reach, because by the time I cottoned onto the possibility of sailing on her she had limited time left.

The former RMS St Helena

The former RMS St Helena

A replacement had been ordered for her and after an almost disasterous build the new RMS St Helena was launched. Her builders, AP Appledore, were barely able to complete the ship, and she would suffer from engine trouble almost immediately.

The old St Helena was briefly rebranded as St Helena Island, and once the new RMS came into service rebranded yet again as “Avalon”, She was not a success.  

It was as Avalon that I first got my chance to sail on this little beauty in March 1991, from one end of the Ocean Terminal in Durban to another berth across from Ocean Terminal.  We watched QE2 arrive and sail from her decks,  But I knew then that this ship was unwanted, she was the wrong size, she was old and tired, and she never went very far after that, being laid up in Durban until finally sold for further trading as Indianoceanique. She was broken up not to long afterwards.

But what of the new RMS?

She entered service in 1990, trading along the same route, from the UK down to South Africa via St Helena and Ascension Island, she did occasional voyages to Tristan da Cunha, and was designed as a combi cargo/passenger ship. Her schedule was a demanding one, probably amongst the longest non cruise voyages that you could get. She was also very fully booked, and quite expensive to travel on in South African Rands. 

I got my first glimpse of her from the decks of the Canberra in Cape Town in 1992, and I was determined to try to get a voyage on her.

At that time she was operated by Curnow Shipping as had the previous vessel. I wrote them a nice letter requesting some info on her as I was doing some research, and I received a reply stating that she was doing her maiden call to Tristan Da Cunha in 1993, and there were limited spaces available in her “budget accommodation” The story of my subsequent cruise is on allatsea. It was one of the best voyages that I ever had, and it was on a real ship, not some floating gin palace.

 

It is now 2016, and the RMS is 26 years old, and now on her last voyages. She stopped calling in the UK a number of years ago, and is now managed by Andrew Weir Shipping. In fact she now is now more or less based in Cape Town from where she ploughs her lonely furrow to St Helena and Ascencion. Like the much missed Union-Castle Line, she too will be put out of business by the long distance jet aircraft as a new airport opens on St Helena in May 2016.

Where to from here?

She is scheduled to “return home” to the UK, arriving in London in early June, and will berth alongside HMS Belfast for a few days before making her last southbound voyage. Her future is not secure, and while there are those who are calling for her to be preserved as a floating hotel realistically that will not happen, and unless a buyer can be found she will end up on a beach somewhere being cut up.

She is a unique icon amongst ships, she is a real ship.

I was fortunate enough to see her in London when she arrived and said my goodbyes to her. I have dreamt about her many times, and even though I was never able to sail on her again, I always kept an eye out for her because she was such as special ship.

There will never be another RMS St Helena.   

 She is the last of her line.

© DRW 2016-2018. Created 14/06/2016. Updated 09/06/2016

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 15:58
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