A visit to the Tower of London to see the Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red
16th September 2014
On 29th September 2014 I was sailing through the English Channel/Dover Straits on board OASIS OF THE SEAS, heading for the port of Rotterdam on the next day. The seas had been calm all through the Bay of Biscay, and it was delightful to be at sea in those conditions. It was slightly hazy by late afternoon but suddenly I could see what looked like a Lightvessel, raised my camera and discovered I was looking at a vessel whose name I knew - it was Sandettie!
This is a name I know from hearing it on the BBC’s Shipping Forecast, issued by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency, for waters around the coast of the British Isles. The vessel is named after her location on the Sandettie Bank, to the north of Calais in France.
Trinity House (www.trinityhouse.co.uk) website told me that she is in this position:
SANDETTIE LIGHT VESSEL (ALL Vol A 0994, ALRS 52300).
Latitude 51° 09.355’N., Longitude 001° 47.122’E
For the second time this year I have been fortunate enough to be able to see another of Trinity House’s Lightvessels, and this time one whose name is unforgettable - lucky me.
VARNE Lightvessel No. 21
On 16th May 2014 I was on board BLACK WATCH, sailing south west through the English Channel and heading for the port of Southampton on the following day. I was out on deck on the port side after sunset, watching a calm sea in the twilight.
Watching from here (21.03 British Summer Time)
I then went inside to check our position on a nearby screen.
I went out on deck again, and then I saw VARNE.
Trinity House (www.trinityhouse.co.uk) gave me the following information:
Lat 51° 01.286 N Long 001° 23.897 E (not for navigation purposes)
The Varne Lightvessel marks the dangerous Varne bank, a five and three quarter mile long sand bank in the Dover Strait, lying nine miles southwest of Dover in Kent. Lying almost in the middle of the international traffic separation scheme of the English Channel, the bank is a constant concern for shipping.
In addition, our Operations and Planning Centre (OPC) in Harwich can monitor / control the lights, fog signals, racons, AIS (when operational), engine (where applicable), position monitoring, collision / bilge indications and battery voltages.
All Lightvessels report into OPC every 12 hours or whenever there is a change of state at the station. OPC can also request an update from the station.
Range (NM) Character Fog Signal
15 Fl (R) 5s (1)30s
I also found out that she was commissioned in 1962 and built for Trinity House in 1963 by Philip & Son, of Dartmouth, England. She is of riveted steel and is 40.54 metres (133 feet) long.
I often hear on BBC Radio 4 the Shipping Forecast, broadcast on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, giving details of the weather and sea conditions for waters around the coasts of the British Isles, so it was good to see VARNE, which is in the Dover area, and a unique experience for me.
Wednesday 6th August 2014
I woke up to hear the gentle noise of LOUIS AURA’s engines going astern as we approached Marmaris in Turkey at 6.30 a.m. but ignored them and returned to sleep.
It was again incredibly hot out on deck and when we went ashore after breakfast we discovered the temperature was 35ºC, and that was at 9.30 a.m. We wandered into the cool terminal for the free wi-fi just outside, and then enjoyed the rest of the morning in the shade. A salad lunch was followed by a trip to the Bridge for departure from Marmaris at 2.40. The scenery of the surrounding mountains and narrow entrance in and out of the port was beautiful, with the blue sky and calm seas all around us.
We thanked the Captain for letting us be on the Bridge for departure, and he then invited us for drinks with him at 7.30 p.m. in his cabin – which he says is ‘special’.
At 7.15 p.m. we presented ourselves at Reception and were escorted up to Captain Gritzelis’s cabin, which was indeed a great surprise. It reminded me slightly of Nelson’s cabin on VICTORY, as it was probably designed to do. The Captain was happy with it, and told us the story of the first captain on the ship having the work done by his chippie (carpenter) on board. When the then owner of the ship came on board to see it, he was not a happy man and immediately dismissed the Captain for exceeding his duties in having the cabin changed. The cabin has not been altered since, and we subsequently discovered that LOUIS AURA’s sister ship LEISURE WORLD also has a similar cabin so the story may be apocryphal rather than accurate, but it made a wonderful tale!
We also talked about the company’s change of name, but that LOUIS AURA was not included in that, so then we speculated about the ship that might be acquired at approximately 25,000 tons with some balconies, for use in 2016. After a lively discussion, which I think gave Captain Gritzelis some food for thought, we had to thank and leave him and head for Greek Night dinner in the Restaurant.
This proved to be less disappointing than previous nights, but we did notice that a large party on two nearby tables was able to order non-menu food and one of the Chefs appeared from the kitchens and was warmly greeted by the passengers on those tables. I remembered Greek Night food from LOUIS AURA sailing out of Greece last year, but this was rather different.
Stargazing on a dark deck forward of Venus Bars provided a tranquil and lovely end to a fascinating day on board.
Ships seen: Harika, Louis Aura, King Saron, Aegean Cat, 12 small sailing excursion vessels, and 2 or 3 parasailers as we left Marmaris
I see my companions had added a new heading here in my notebook of
Ships not seen in Rhodes as we sailed nearby, so these are: Queen Elizabeth, Orient Queen II
Further notes added included reference to wine, biscuits and cappuccino but I shall ignore them.
Thursday 7th August 2014
I had to vacate my cabin on this last morning by 7 a.m. so breakfast was early today, as we sailed along towards Limassol on calm seas in the heat.
We went to the Bridge for 8.40 a.m. and were again welcomed by Captain Gritzelis. The view from there is so panoramic and enjoyable, especially as we could see the SALAMIS FILOXENIA in port ahead of us. I had always wondered what she looked like in reality and this was my chance.
All the luggage was taken off and then passengers were allowed ashore. I had a Priority label so we were soon off the ship; on the way out I was greeted by Michael the Hotel Manager, who hoped all was well. Our voyage questionnaires have been handed in so he will learn of our disappointment with the food, but the voyage and ship itself has been just as enjoyable as we all hoped. The ports were interesting and Captain Gritzelis made us feel so welcome on his Bridge.
Then it was time for goodbyes to the Staff Captain on the quayside, a short walk past LOUIS AURA and SALAMIS FILOXENIA
and then journeys to Paphos airport for me on my way home to the UK and to Larnaca for my friends and their flights.
Ships seen: Salamis Filoxenia, DP Gezina (the ex Simara Ace), various cargo ships and tugs, and Louis Aura.
I had loved being on LOUIS AURA again and hope she continues to sail for a long time to come.