musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Tag: RMS St Helena

Post-Mortem: RMS St Helena model

Continuing from where we last left off

Weeks in the making, my 1/1250ish RMS St Helena is almost finished. Large scale construction has ceased and I am left with a model that is more or less completed. The end result looks like the ship, as long as you stand very far away ūüė• There are numerous mistakes and skew lines and poor paintwork on her, but that can partly be blamed on my constant chopping and changing of the ship as I experimented.

The image above was actually done deliberately as I wanted to convey the long voyages that the ship makes on her trips between South Africa and St Helena.  Think of it as paying homage to a small ship on a big ocean.  Unfortunately my model does not do the ship justice, and one day I will probably start a new one.  This week I found out that Rhenania made the RMS St Helena model that I had seen before and they do not re-issue models once the initial run is completed. 

Snags and booboo’s that I have made in the construction of the ship:

Hull:

The wood I used worked well, it sanded cleanly and was ¬†workable with the tools I had. However the hull was seriously flawed. The well deck is too long and there shouldn’t be a step between the forepeak and the area behind it. If anything the real ship does not have much of a sheer, the sheer is created by the bulwarks surrounding the forepeak. The knuckle that exists is not easy to fabricate, I would really need to create a hull that has the fine shape and then create the deck above it that has a slightly fatter shape and mate them together. Getting a bow right is always a pain. It makes sense to start the ship by creating the bow and then work backwards instead of the other way around. I may just create a fake hull and try recreate the bow to see how it comes together.¬†

The area at the deck level aft of the large hatch really needed to be reworked to the point where the gangway area is cutaway before mounting A and B decks.  

The aft mooring deck on my model is too small, I suspect It worked that way because I originally had the stern wrong. The stern is different to what I thought it looked like, but then it has been many years since I sailed on her.

The superstructure that I fabricated was reasonably close to what it should be, but its edges are skew and the individual decks turned out slightly wrong.  The bridge area became messy as I could not settle for the bridge that I wanted. It turned out to be slightly too big and as a result of that I was not able to add on the bridge roof that shaded the area by the wheelhouse doors and bridge wing. 

The pool area… I cannot remember what that looked like, and they seem to have altered it slightly since I was last on the ship.

Fittings and fiddly bits:

Davits… bugbear number 1000000. I made the mistake of trying to create conventional davits the way they look on ships, it did not work. I ended up creating a őď shape, drilling into the superstructure to support the one end and adding the lifeboat on the flat area. Then I mounted the uprights with their curved shape next to the platform and utilised the superstructure wall as a gluing point. That made them reasonably workable, but they do not look great. The least said about the lifeboats the better. There are 2 different style boats on the ship and you need to make both. They are small, the size of a grain of rice, getting them anywhere near what they look like is difficult.¬†

My mast ended up odd, I may relook what I have because it really does not work well for me. The problem is that the 2 legs are sloped backwards and I made them the wrong way around. There are also two platforms that house the radar gear. I have not added them or any of the associated monkey island equipment. 

The pair of cranes turned out reasonably well, I eventually changed the cable to a thin wire painted black and was reasonably happy with the outcome. However, because of the long well deck I ended up with having to make one boom longer than the other.¬†The twin derricks were similarly strung with wire, but they did not come out well and ended up hampering my work on the front of the superstructure. I shouldn’t have mounted them when I did and left them for almost last. ¬†My aft crane is somewhat of a mess. As far as I recall it was stowed facing forward. There was not enough space on that pool deck area for it to face forward.¬†

Did anything go right?

No, it turned out to be somewhat of a disaster. However, having completed my ship I am happy to say that she does bear a resemblance to the RMS, and I probably won’t attack her with a saw again. She certainly will not end up at the breakers, but will be a good example of how not to build something on this scale. It would be very much easier to build a larger scale model, but my ship collection is comprised of 1/1200 and 1/1250 models so I would like to fit her in with that.¬†

Closeup? 

I have retouched some of the paintwork on the computer and the portholes have to be redone because they are terrible. But to do that I need to get 2 coats on the superstructure.  I really need a break from building her though, and will see how it goes from then.

And that is where we stand today. The big question is:¬†“Is she finished?”

The reply is: “yes and no. Ask again next week”.

Postscript:

Since writing this post I took the ship and removed the “portholes and windows”, made a change to the stern deck, repainted the hull and superstructure, added exhausts to the funnel, an antenna on the bridge, a flag staff aft and lost a lifeboat. I then had to make a new lifeboat and mix paint to create orange, mounted the new boat and painted all 4 boats because getting a perfect colour match is impossible. It never really ends does it? tonight when I get home I will be relooking those “portholes and windows” and touching up paint. I have since rebuilt the mast and am currently relooking the pool area. This is what it looked like way back when I sailed on her.

© DRW 2017. Created 26/05/2017

Updated: 29/06/2017 — 06:48

Still building the RMS

Buried a few posts back is my progress on building a 1/1250-ish model of the RMS St Helena. If you don’t know what I am talking about I suggest you start from the back.

Where am I now?

*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 meed 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.¬†‚ąö ¬†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. Created 04/06/2017. Updated 18/06/2017

Updated: 18/06/2017 — 19:29

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 a 1/1250 waterline model does 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.

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 glamourous 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.

That also means that she is an interesting project to tackle. Theoretically she is straight forward, there are not too many curves and odd lines that could make my life difficult.

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. 

Continued ¬†thataway ——————–>forwardbut

© DRW 2017. Created 15/05/2017. Updated 20/05/2017.

Updated: 11/06/2017 — 14:57

Connections: Woodbine Willie

Many years ago there was a programme on local TV called¬†“Connections” and it dealt with how things connect to form a link between one action and a result. It was fascinating watching it and I have often tried to link things like that in my own life. Yesterday I found a perfect example. The connection between a ship and an Anglican priest and poet.

It starts off like this:

In March 1986 I went to see the QE2 in Durban for the first time.

I did not see her again until 1991. At that time there was a small ship called Avalon in Durban harbour. Formerly the RMS St Helena, she was now seeking a new career doing cruises to the Indian Ocean Islands.

We managed to wangle a short trip across Durban Harbour on board her as she vacated the berth where QE2 would be the next day.  

Both QE2 and the former St Helena were Falklands veterans. In 1992 I sailed on the Canberra, also a Falklands veteran, and when we arrived in Cape Town the new RMS St Helena was alongside and I photographed her from the Canberra.

I mentally set a goal to see whether it was possible to get a trip on board the St Helena, and I wrote away for a brochure. As luck would have it there was a voyage to Tristan da Cunha coming up in 1993 and I was fortunate enough to book a cruise on this mini mailship. 

Many years passed, and the RMS St Helena ploughed her lonely furrow between Cape Town and St Helena while they constructed an airport on the island. Once it was completed the announcement was made of the St Helena’s last voyage in June 2016. Of interest to me was her visit to the Pool of London, where she would berth alongside HMS Belfast. I decided to head down to London and watch her arrive and say my goodbye to her.

Upon arrival in London I went to see the RMS arrive on the 7th of June, and it was quite an emotional moment for me. 

On the 8th I revisited Kensal Green Cemetery, and afterwards headed into London once again to see the ship. I first visited St Pauls Cathedral, before heading towards the Thames. In the maze of streets I somehow ended up in Lombard Street, and saw one of the many churches in London, it was now the home of the London Spirituality Centre, or, as it was formerly known: St Edmund, King and Martyr.

During my visit the person manning the front desk showed me a number of wall memorials in the church, and she was very proud of a memorial to somebody called “Woodbine Willie”.

 

I had to admit that I had never heard of him before, but the nickname stuck in my mind because Geoffrey Anketell Studdert Kennedy was way too much for me to remember at once. Apparently he was the Rector of this particular church at one time. He got his nickname for his habit of handing out cigarettes to troops (Woodbines being a favoured brand).

I continued my walk down to the Thames to say my goodbyes to the RMS and the next day I returned to Tewkesbury to post my blog and recover from my short but exhausting London jaunt. 

Yesterday, I visited Worcester Cathedral, and after seeing the cathedral walked through Worcester, and while I was walking I discovered a number of small bronze statues in the area. I did not pay too much attention to them, just read the names and took the pic. At the one statue I did a double take because the one statue was of Woodbine Willie! 

I was even more amazed to discover that there is a memorial to him in Worcester Cathedral, 

as well as an engraved pane on the Window of the Millennium.

“Woodbine Willie takes the light of Christ to the Troops”

On the 13th of March I returned to Worcester¬†to close the chapter a bit more, walking to St John’s Cemetery where I photographed his grave.

As strange as it seems, this sequence really revolves around how things connected to each other, from the QE2 in 1986 to a forgotten and reluctant war hero in 2017. The key to it is really the RMS St Helena, without seeing Avalon the chances are I would not have recognised the name on the statue. Had I taken a different route in London I would not have seen the church, had I not stopped to look at a statute I would not have read that it was Woodbine Willie. Come to think of it, it is all really the fault of the QE2.

 

There is a stained glass window dedicated to him in St Paul’s Church in Worcester, that will be the last step of this journey.¬†

Connections, they are all around us if we know how to tie them together.

© DRW 2017. Created 21/02/2017, updated 13/03/2017 

Updated: 06/04/2017 — 06:23

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.

© DRW 2016-2017. Created 09/06/2016

Updated: 15/12/2016 — 07:21

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 2016-2017. Created 06/06/2016.

Updated: 15/12/2016 — 07:21

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. 

——————————————————¬†

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 2016-2017. Created 14/06/2016. Updated 09/06/2016

Updated: 15/12/2016 — 07:26
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