Life at the end of the road

October 30, 2012

The ‘Henry Frederick Swan’

Filed under: boats, daily doings, New hybrid ferry, South Shields — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 10:27 pm

Well it has been an interesting day today, for I now know what the front, back, sides, walls, ceilings, seats, left, right and middle of a ship are called Smile Fortunately our tutor realizes that all of us have already been at sea for years and makes the lessons as painless as possible with frequent tales of the Tyne and the tug boats he skippered. Having said that ‘you’re never too old to learn’ and I now know what a ‘manrope’ is


[man-rohp] Show IPA

noun Nautical .

a rope placed at the side of a gangway, ladder, or the like, to serve as a rail.

though even the tutor had to go and ask so I don’t feel so bad about that Smile

Considering the clock changing fiasco and the fact that I’ve been awake since 4:30, or is it 3:30 it’s a miracle I stayed awake but ‘Tug boat Tommy’ is quite entertaining Smile Especially when you consider he was pulled out of retirement at short notice when the regular teacher got hauled off from college in an ambulance last week Sad smile You really could not make this up Smile


However, as well as an understanding lecturer we have an awesome view of the river and it’s traffic, this being the ‘City of Rome’ a car carrier full of Nissans bound for Amsterdam and as I plonk away on here at 19:30 she’s just east of Hull.



Here’s one of the only three tugs on the Tyne, the ‘Svitzer Sun’ of at one time there were as many as twenty tugs working this great river.



Here she is a little later ‘standing by’ the huge car carrier ‘City of St Petersburg’ heading for Nissan from ‘who knows where’ because this ship does not seem to exist on or



which is kind of strange because it can carry 2000 cars!!!



Just as the ‘monster’ was steaming up the river ‘HMS Trumpeter’ was steaming down

these ‘Archer class’   patrol vessels have always been a bit of a mystery to me for they built 16 of them with twin Rolls Royce V12 engines of some 1590hp. All 49tons, all with the same HP, all with the same hull but each with top speeds varying from 14 to 30knots ????? on a hull that was designed for 45, very strange.

The ‘North East Maritime Trust’

Anyway, being seasoned seamen we got through the syllabus so quickly that our lecturer arranged a visit to just 100 yards up Wapping street from the college. The NEMT is a group of enthusiasts dedicated to saving wooden boats and the traditional skills associated with building and restoring them. Manned mainly by retired people with a love of wooden boats the trust seeks to repair and maintain old craft that could well be lost.

Coincidentally it’s situated right next door to the last wooden boat builder on the Tyne,


and he too had an old RNLI boat in his workshop.



The old Seaham lifeboat ‘RNLB George Elmy’ who’s gallant crew perished almost 50 years ago to the day.

  At 4:10 p.m. on Saturday the17th of November 1962,the Seaham lifeboat,George Elmy, was activated to search for the missing fishing coble, ( Economy ). Within minutes of receiving the alert, George Elmy and her crew of five, disappeared down the slipway into the darkness, never to return.  The lifeboat had put to sea in appalling weather conditions but at about 4:30 p.m. they pulled alongside the coble and miraculously rescued four men and a nine year old boy. The lifeboat and it’s courageous crew battled against mountainous seas in an attempt to get back to the safety of the port, but at 5:20 p.m., just yards from the harbour entrance, she was struck by a gigantic wave and capsized, with the loss of her entire crew and all but one of the people they had rescued from the coble. After the capsize, the lifeboat was washed up on the Chemical beach with one survivor who had been clinging to the upturned boat but there was no other signs of life.

Just a few yards along the street the NEMT are working on another significant RNLI vessel the ‘Henry Frederick Swan’ which for many years served as the Tynemouth lifeboat and is probably the longest serving lifeboat on record. Built in 1917 she was put into reserve in 1939 when a more modern craft arrived.


henry frederick swan

Here she is in her new station prior to WW2 with her bogie and £3000 electric winch, sadly, not that long after she left, Mr Hitler demolished the replacement,

the ‘John Pymont’ . Henry Frederick Swan returned to the Tyne and went on to serve until 1947 well worth reading that link Smile

Now, after a spell with

the sea cadets and some years of neglect in private ownership she’s in the capable hands of the NEMT



One thing about the RNLI, they ‘cut no corners’ this hundred year old design was ‘cutting edge’ at the time and cost just didn’t enter into it. Constructed from ‘double diagonal’ mahogany planks on oak and larch frames it was the ‘carbon fibre’ of it’s day, light, strong and very expensive. With inbuilt buoyancy and a 3ton iron keel the 40’ boat would ‘self right’ if she capsized.



Lovingly restored plank by plank with help from the original drawings

014 015 016

the old girl is perhaps some eighteen months away from completion.

The photographs just don’t do her justice but the attention to detail on this boat is incredible



from this picture it’s just impossible to visualize the work, craftsmanship and effort that has gone into siting the propeller within this wooden tunnel. It provides the maximum thrust with the minimum exposure to rope and rocks.


Not only that, but within the confines of the vessel is the provision of a watertight enclosure for removing anything that may become fouled around the prop. In the infancy of the ‘internal combustion engine’ it was also provided with sails and oars.



Just behind that reel in the picture you can see the slot for the ‘drop down keel’ that would have aided sailing, pure genius Smile

What you have in this boat is the marrying of cutting edge state of the art technology with ancient skills and craft, something that the RNLI has never been afraid of doing. Something that this dedicated bunch of ‘anoraks’ at want to keep alive, the world needs more ‘anoraks’ Smile



And I need my bed, it’s well after 22:00 which is really 23:00, so without doing the NEMT justice I’m going to call it a day, methinks I’ll be returning shortly to check up on progress Smile

Meanwhile in Gdansk

Though I couldn’t possibly leave you without the latest developments from the ‘Hallaig’


the FWD ramp of our new hybrid ferry arriving at Ferguson’s


I have a ‘soft spot’ for Gdansk, my first ever girl friend was Polish and my last from that very city Smile

October 29, 2012

Only 17:00 :-(

Filed under: boats, daily doings, New hybrid ferry, South Shields — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 9:43 pm

Well that’s it then, BST is over and I’m sat here in the old Thompson with a candle and vodka bottle Sad smile it’s pitch black outside, or as near as you get to it in a town and I’m depressed Sad smile Or at least I will be by the time I finish this bottle Smile

I seriously hate this ‘messing about with clocks’ and have a rant about it every year, what is the point??? all it does is confuse, am I the only person with an internal clock that goes ‘pear shaped’ every six months???? I know all my animals get confused and if it wasn’t for the fact that much of my life is governed by ferry sailings and shop openings I wouldn’t alter the friggin clocks.

In fact when I lived on the small island of Scalpay just south of Raasay we never altered them until January and that was because we’d had to leave the island for a few weeks to return to ‘the real world’. Most of the inhabitants would go and visit family at Christmas so had to get to grips with timetables and the like.

Anyway, I’m stuck with it and I’m back, not home but in my ‘cell’ in ‘the village’ just about halfway through my course Sad smile



I left Barrhead this morning around 8:45 and got a lift into Glasgow Queen street with the ‘in laws’



probably not a ‘big deal’ to most readers but this whole city thing and public transport has me a little confused to say the least.


Well so much for that effort, it never even made ‘the press’, probably on account of that vodka bottle and a lack of enthusiasm on my part. It’s hard getting enthused when your almost 400 miles away from home ‘sucking eggs’ but I’ll try and pick up the thread, the bottle is almost empty now Smile

I gotta say that I really enjoyed the train journey, well as far as Newcastle at least, the final leg being ruined by a bunch of rather loud, drunk and intimidating neds, but that’s the city for you I suppose Sad smile

Glasgow Queen street was a cinch, nice clean train already in twenty minutes prior to departure, with no seat reserved  I picked a nice window one with a table for my laptop Smile Sat down comfortably and on the phone to wifey, I terminated the call to help an old lady aboard with ‘wee dug’ and multiple baggage.


To be honest by the time I’d put my phone away the spritely pensioner had managed just fine and was asking me ‘are you OK with dogs’ as she and Tristram Shandy made them selves comfortable. After brief pleasantries during which I learned that she didn’t actually want a dog and had had the wee chap forced upon her, then how stuck for a name she’d named him after,_Gentleman because it was on the radio Smile or was it TV. Now where have you heard that ‘I’m not really a dog person’ before Smile Anyway as we neared Edinburgh I learned we were catching the same train, though she would be going all the way to Kings Cross and beyond. So upon arrival we stuck together, me with Tristram and my bags and her with her experience and her bags Smile With half an hour to wait we exchanged life stories before I helped her onto the packed train some three or four carriages away from my own. As our seats had been reserved I reluctantly left my new friends after a big hug and set next to a crabbit chap reading the Independent Sad smile

Still, if I’m ever in Suffolk I’m going to pop in and see them at  Smile

The journey south was quick and comfortable, and after Berwick upon Tweed it became obvious that other seats in the carriage were going to remain vacant so I moved to gaze at the east coast whizzing by. Had Newcastle been journeys end then all would have been rosy but a 45 minute wait for a Metro full of arseholes kind of spoiled the experience somewhat. I know, I know, I said I’m stopping swearing but the term describes the ‘no neck’ halfwit and his younger glue sniffing pals perfectly, luckily they got off at Jarrow, though not before frightening half of the train with their antics.

After picking up essentials in Morrison’s like vodka, food and washing liquid I finally entered a rather smelly Thompson Glenelg caravan around 15:30. Your truly having forgot to empty the bin and having left the heating on Sad smile At £25 a night I wasn’t going to turn it off on principle, this shower at the ‘Sandhaven caravan park’ had tried to screw me for £1625 the moment I arrived, no reduction for single occupancy or a long term deal Sad smile OK the place is clean, tidy, secure, central, and very pleasant if your into that kind of thing but for heavens sake it’s almost November.

After some vegetable pakoras and egg fried rice I had a go at ‘blogging’ but gave up in favour of the vodka bottle and an awesome movie not the Hollywood remake but the original Swedish version of the first

of Stieg Larsson’s ‘millennium trilogy’. The other two ‘ the girl who played with fire’ and ‘the girl who kicked the hornets nest’ being every bit as good



but I never brought them with me Sad smile

Minesweepers on the Tyne

‘Bright eyed and bushy tailed’ I headed in to the college today to start my last course down here, that extra hour in bed certainly helped today Smile

003  004

I can’t remember what these two buildings at North Shields are called but I’m sure they’re something to do with the two obelisks that I pass every day on my way to college in South Shields.



The next four weeks should hopefully be a little more enlightening


now that we have a ship in the class room



Not to mention a sea view,







this will be part of NATO’s Standing Mine Countermeasures Force Group 1 (SNMCMG1) that have been in Newcastle for the weekend. However I strongly recommend that you check out Steve Ellwood’s pictures on here for far better images and more info. One boat I didn’t catch was the Estonian navies Sakla,

which is in fact the ex RN HMS Inverness, a frequent visitor to the Inner Sound of Raasay in days gone by.

She is the fomer Royal Navy vessel HMS Inverness – M102 which was sold to the Estonians in 2008.
Class & type: Sandown class minehunter
Displacement: 450 tons full
Length: 52.6 m
Beam: 10.5 m
Draught: 2.4 m
Propulsion: 2 shafts Voith-Schneider propulsors
diesel-electric drives
Paxman Valenta 6RPA200M diesels,
2 Rolls Royce (Perkins) CV8-250G drives
Speed: 13 knots diesel, 6.5 knots electric
Complement: 7 officers, 27 sailors
Crew: 34
Sensors and processing systems: Type 1007 navigation radar Thales 2093 variable-depth mine hunting sonar
Armament: 3 × Browning 12.7 mm MG gun
Armour: fibreglass
Mine counter measures equipment: Atlas Elektronik Seafox MIDS

Image and info from

Progress on the Hallaig

Well the launch is on schedule and the tugs booked for the 17th December Smile

725 726 from window

Number 725 AKA known as the MV or is it HV Hallaig is beginning to look more like a ship and her two Siemens 375Kw electric motors have arrived at the yard


motors for new ship

Nice to see ‘Fenner’ couplings on the end of the motors and water cooling Smile

Anyway, that’s it, well after 21:00 now so almost 23:00 by my biological clock so I’m off to my heated blanket and bed Smile

Older Posts »

Blog at