Category: Ships

And now: The Shipping Forecast

Many years ago I read a book called “And Now the Shipping Forecast” By Peter Jefferson and it was kinda of strange because it was really about the weather at sea in areas around the British Isles. It made for somewhat odd reading because there was no relevance to me or where I lived at the time, although I was interested in the shipping part of it. I put the book out of my mind until I was reminded of it while reading another book and decided that I must relook the Shipping Forecast. 

The British Isles are surrounded by seas and ocean so the weather on land is affected by what happens over water and the adjacent continents, and being a maritime nation it is important that the weather forecast is correct (or as close as one can get with the weather). The first warning services for shipping were “broadcast” in February 1861 via telegraph communications.  In 1911, the Met Office began issuing marine weather forecasts which included gale and storm warnings via radio transmission for areas around Great Britain and it has been going ever since. It is produced by the Met Office and broadcast by BBC Radio 4 on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. 

The seas around Britain are divided into 31 areas, and are named in a roughly clockwise direction starting with Viking and ending with Southern Iceland. The coastal weather stations named in the Shipping Forecast are numbered on the map below.

Image license:  Emoscopes, UK shipping forecast zones, CC BY-SA 3.0  Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shipping_Forecast. Image has been cropped and resized. 

By some strange quirk the service gained a regular following both on land and at sea and regular listeners are convinced that the report helps them get to sleep, and realistically it is not the sort of broadcast that would make you sit up and reach for your shotgun under the bed. However, the weather forecast is very important if you are sailing a small boat or navigating a container ship, although modern vessels have much better sources of weather information available to them. 

What does it sound like? 

Announcer:

And now, here is the shipping forecast.

There are warnings of gales in Viking, North Utsire, South Utsire, Forties, Cromarty, German Bight and Humber.

The general synopsis: Low, Rockall, 9 7 3 moving northwards, losing its identity by same time. New low expected Malin by that time. Low, Hebrides 9 9 4, moving rapidly South-East, and losing its identity by midday tomorrow.

The area forecasts for the next 24 hours: Viking, North Utsire, South Utsire – Gale warning issued Oh, nine four two. South-Easterly gale force 8 increasing severe gale force 9 later; wind South-Easterly 6 to 8, occasionally severe gale 9; sea state rough or very rough, becoming very rough or high; rain later; visibility moderate or good

Forties, Cromarty—Gale warning issued Oh, nine four two. Severe gale force 9 veering North-Westerly and decreasing gale force 8–imminent. Wind South-East 5 to 7, occasionally gale 8; sea state moderate or rough; rain later and squally showers; visibility moderate or good, occasionally poor later.

Forth, Tyne, Dogger, Fisher —Variable, becoming cyclonic, 3 or 4; but Easterly or South-Easterly 5 or 6 in North and East.Rain then showers. Moderate or good.

German Bight and Humber —Gale warning. South-Easterly severe gale force 9 decreasing gale force 8, imminent; wind South-East 6 to gale 8, occasionally severe gale 9 veering South-West 6 later; sea state moderate or rough; rain or thundery showers; visibility moderate or good, occasion-ally poor.

Thames, Dover, Portland and Plymouth—variable 4 or 5; but Northerly or North-Easterly 6 or 7, occasional gale in South backing North-Westerly later. Intermittent wintery showers. Visibility moderate or good becoming poor later.

Fitzroy and Sole—severe gale force 9 veering Westerly and decreasing force 7 later. Sea state rough. Thundery showers, visibility moderate or good. Lundy, Fastnet, Irish Sea,Shannon, Rockall, Malin, Hebrides, Bailey—West or North-West, 4 or 5, increasing 6 at times in Irish Sea. Showers. Moderate or good.

Fair Isle, Faeroes—West or North West backing South or South-West, 5 or 6, decreasing 3 at times. Rain or drizzle later. Moderate or good.

And, South-East Iceland—Northerly or North-Easterly 4 or 5 increasing 6 to gale 8 for a time. Wintery showers, good, occasionally poor.

And that completes the shipping forecast.

(Retrieved from https://studylib.net/doc/7879599/script-for-shipping-forecast-by-adrian-plass) by Adrian Plass © 2012

You may also want to listen to 5 hours of the Shipping Forecast on youtube

Having heard the forecast on youtube I am now almost ready to hear it live seeing as I have a problem sleeping, although it would not be complete gobbledegook to me as I do have an interest in shipping and know where some of those areas are. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) I do not live next to the seaside although the Severn Estuary would come under Lundy.  (02/05/2020: Wind: Variable 3 or 4, becoming cyclonic 3 to 5. Sea states: Slight or moderate. Weather: Occasional rain and fog patches developing. Visiblity: Moderate or good, occasionally very poor. ).

According to Wikipedia there are normally four broadcasts per day at the following (UK local) times:

  • 0048 – transmitted on FM and LW. Includes weather reports from an extended list of coastal stations at 0052 and an inshore waters forecast at 0055 and concludes with a brief UK weather outlook for the coming day. The broadcast finishes at approximately 0058.
  • 0520 – transmitted on FM and LW. Includes weather reports from coastal stations at 0525, and an inshore waters forecast at 0527.
  • 1201 – normally transmitted on LW only.
  • 1754 – transmitted only on LW on weekdays, as an opt-out from the PM programme, but at weekends transmitted on both FM and LW.

On 30th March 2020, as a result of emergency rescheduling due to the Covid-19 outbreak, the number of bulletins a day was reduced to three as follows:

  • 0048 – transmitted on FM and LW
  • 0533 – transmitted on FM and LW
  • 1203 (weekdays only) – transmitted on FM and LW
  • 1754 (weekends only) – transmitted on FM and LW

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) sea state code largely adopts the ‘wind sea’ definition of the Douglas Sea Scale.

Many links were used in this article, and they provide much more information than I can. I do recommend the following as well as the links in the above article:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sea_state

https://99percentinvisible.org/episode/the-shipping-forecast/

http://www.openculture.com/2014/06/stephen-fry-reads-the-legendary-british-shipping-forecast.html

https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/weather/specialist-forecasts/coast-and-sea/shipping-forecast

DRW © 2020. Created 02/05/2020

Updated: 03/05/2020 — 16:54

Remembering the Dorita

Many years ago the Transvaal Branch of the World Ship Society went on one of its periodic trips down to Durban. For some reason I was not with them but when they came back they told me about a small private yacht that they had had a visit to. The ship had supposedly been owned by Elvis and the Richard Burton/Elizabeth Taylor pairing at some point. The next time I went down to Durban I spotted the vessel and took pics of her, but did not really pay too much attention. If only I knew what a historic ship she was back then.

I recently posted her pic on one of my shipping groups and drew a blank so I decided to go see what was available in the outside world. The biggest problem I had was her name. For some odd reason I had labelled the image “Doreeta” but her name was really “Dorita”. Incidentally, the image above shows the former pilot boat R.A. Leigh in the background with the blue and orange funnel.

I discovered that the Dorita was now called “Grey Mist” and looked a bit different to what she looked like back then when we saw her. Her current specs are:  38.71m with a top speed of 13 knots from a pair of 425.0 hp engines. She has accommodation date up to 14 people with a crew of 5. She was designed by Charles E. Nicholson and built by Camper & Nicholsons in Gosport with delivery in 1920 with the name Grey Mist for H.N. Anderson. In 1926 she was purchased by Sir John Archer K.B.E but resold to Harry Vincent in 1934. In 1939 she was bought by Lady Maud Burton and her husband Ronald Rothbury Burton. When war broke out she was requisitioned by the Royal Navy and participated in the Dunkirk Evacuation which makes her one of the few survivors from that episode in history. She later served as a “signal ship” throughout the war. She was returned to her owners after the war.  

She was then bought by Walter Mears in 1951 who restored and operated her as a charter yacht around the Greek Islands. She was resold to Albert Bachelor who took her out of the British Registry, and later re-named her Marina II in 1966. She then drops out of sight until she was discovered rotting away in Durban in 1993 under the name Dorita. She was purchased by Fort Worth businessman Holt Hickman and crossed the Atlantic to America in 1998.   (https://www.berwickcameraclub.co.uk/news/tuesday-24th-september)

She was berthed at Galveston in 1998 and her new owner began a complete refit of the yacht in 2003, which was completed in 2011. (https://www.coastmonthly.com/2015/01/grey-mist/)

I could not find any reference to Elvis or Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton although part of her history is missing. At some point she must have been re-engined although it appears as if she was originally diesel powered which was quite rare in period when she was built. Fortunately she still retains her counter stern. 

There is a complete description of her at (https://www.superyachttimes.com/yachts/grey-mist) as well as an image.  There are two images of her at Shipspotting.com. Use the thumbnails to access the pages. 

ShipSpotting.com
© dirk septer
ShipSpotting.com
© stuurmann

The Dorita is remembered but it is such a pity that she has become so divorced from her history and her past but she has existed for a century and is a unique glimpse into the lifestyle of the rich and famous. 

DRW 2020. Created 27/04/2020. Special thanks to the owners of the weblinks that I have used in this bit of history.  

Updated: 27/04/2020 — 11:34

OTD: The Sinking of the Titanic

On this day in 1912 the world experienced a shipping disaster that would reverberate though history and leave us with a legacy that continues over 100 years after it occurred.  The sinking of the Titanic is not just about a ship sinking on it’s maiden voyage, but also about the arrogance of man, the structures of class and influence of money, the unwritten rules governing trans-Atlantic travel, the heroism of those who stayed at their posts and the folly of man. Strangely enough at this point in our history some of those structures are still visible as we face a global pandemic. 

The story of the disaster is well known and I won’t repeat it, suffice to say there is a lot written about the sinking, and a lot of hot air written about it too. The concept of fake news has been with us a long time, and a quick glimpse of those early newspaper headlines will quickly reveal that sucking a story out of your thumb is one way to get your foot in the door and get yourself published. 

Unfortunately the sinking did not only affect those on board but also their families. The families of the luckless crew being particularly hard hit, the many graves in Southampton are testament to how the sinking affected the city and it’s people. 

Since the Titanic went down in 1912 mankind has become an expert at killing members of its race, 1500 people lost in one disaster may have seemed like a lot, but it was just a portent to what would happen in 1914 – 1918, and while there were lessons to be learnt about that conflict we promptly did it again in 1939 – 1945. Whenever I gave a talk about the Titanic I would count how many people were present at the function and use that to illustrate how many were in a lifeboat on the Atlantic in the morning of 15 April. 1500 seems like a lot, but in reality it is only a lot when you are amongst those who have lost a family member or a father/mother/son/daughter. 

The Titanic is not only about a ship, it is about people and how they reacted under those unique circumstances, we can look at them and agree that so many met their deaths with courage and fortitude. “Women and children first” may no longer apply in our modern world; we would probably be afraid to even think about something like that because we may offend the PC mob. Yet when the water is lapping at your feet we are theoretically all equal.

The Titanic is a crumbling heap of rust in the darkness of the North Atlantic, let us leave her in peace and let us remember the ship and it’s people on this day. 

DRW © 2020 Created 15/04/2020

Updated: 14/04/2020 — 05:25
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