Thursday, 20 September 2012

A Mariner’s Dream at the Classic Boat Festival

Black Rose
Black Rose

With all the hustle and bustle of a modern city, it is sometimes easy to forget London’s proud naval and maritime history.  The invading Romans strategically established Londinium on the banks of the River Thames and by the 19th century the Port of London was the biggest port in the world. In its heyday, the Port of London was the seat of the world’s industry, trade and commerce.

Of course, with boats and shipping came not only a love for the high seas that seems to run in our veins but piracy, adventure, treasure and the discovery of the New World.

The Classic Boat Festival saw 34 of the finest vessels basking in the sunshine at St Katharine Docks as part of festivities of the Mayor's Thames Festival.


The Havengore is an ex survey vessel that was commissioned by the Port of London Authority in 1954.  She was the first vessel on the Thames to carry a computer, a General Automation SPC-16, installed in 1972. 

Creag Dubh
Creag Dubh

Creag Dubh (meaning ‘Black Rock’ in Gaelic) was named after a mountain in the Scottish Highlands.  Her home port is in Gillingham, Kent which is really close to where I live but she has sailed as far as The Isles of Scilly.

SB May
S/B May

May is a Thames sailing barge and is the Olympian of the group.  She has transported to Canda for the 1976 Olympics and has participated in the east coast Sailing Barge races, winning the Thames Chamion pennant five times between 1995 and 2007.


The Roskilde was one of my favourite of these grand old vessels, simply because she has been used for such great good.  Roskilde was used as a teaching vessel on the Thames to teaching sailing to children in care.  Apparently the original owner, Rozelle Raynes wrote a book about this called Tuesday Boys but sadly, I couldn’t find an Amazon link for the book.


Tasia appealed to me because she had great crimson sails in her photograph on the information board.  If anything captures the imagination more, it was this fancy Bermudian Sloop who began as a gentleman’s cruising yacht in 1937.  I have to admit, the idea of embarking on a voyage on the wide open seas with a handful of books and some sun cream is especially attractive right now.  I wonder if I could convince Stephen of this?

Doris Leigh

Doris was my favourite of all of the boats we saw at St Katharine Docks.  Not only was she the prettiest, but she had such a lovely history.  She was built in 1909 and named after one of the owner’s daughters.  Later in 1999, the original owner’s grandson stepped aboard the Thames Bawley for the first time, thus completing the circle.  I love that type of thing.

St Katharine Dock Classic Boat Festival
Sunshine at the St Katharine Dock Classic Boat Festival 2012

Naturally, not a single summer post can go by without me remarking how wonderful the weather was.  I’m hoping to store all of these wonderful images to use in the depth of winter when I’m no longer feeling as optimistic.  Having said that, I absolutely intend to avoid the winter blues this year in keeping with the tradition that I began a coupe of years ago.


The final boat is the appropriately named Sunbeam.  Originally built in 1881, Sunbeam was one of the few boats fishing out of Brightlingsea, Essex during World War I.  Can you imagine the things that these majestic old vessels have seen?  Sunbeam fell into rot (I love the naval version of ‘disrepair’) after the war but was thankfully fully restored in the 70s and sailing again by 1983.

St Katharine Dock
St Katharine Dock

It seems that I am forever falling in love with a different area of London but St Katharine Docks has to be my discovery of 2012.  I am really keen on going one evening to photograph the area at night.  Until then, I will dream of the wind in my sails and the soft rush of water as I breathe in the salt air.


Ola 20 September 2012 at 11:42  

it's a beatiful opportunity like to return in the old good times!

Wendy Hollands 20 September 2012 at 14:52  

St Katharine Docks is one of my favourite places in London. I was lucky to discover it early on, and had my first birthday celebrations away from Australia at the Dickens Inn. Now, a friend lives right around the corner and staying with her was brilliant - felt like a real Londoner for a week! The boats docked then weren't half as interesting as the ones you've captured (rot or not).

Emm in London 20 September 2012 at 20:14  

@ Ola: It was beautiful!

@ Wendy: you are lucky! I can't believe I was here 5 years before I discovered it. I really want to try out the Dickens Inn one day, it looked like fun.

Mo 20 September 2012 at 22:15  

We must catch up soon

Leovi 20 September 2012 at 22:29  

Very good, these boats are a delight, I love.

AVCr8teur 21 September 2012 at 05:22  

I bet you can make some beautiful pictures here around sunset. I don't know about sailing around the world in a sailboat. Seems such a lonely journey, but lots of time to think.

This is Belgium 21 September 2012 at 09:36  

If you took 5 years to discover, I do not need an excuse not knowing ..

This is Belgium 21 September 2012 at 09:36  

If you took 5 years to discover, I do not need an excuse not knowing ..

Jill @ MyCamperTrailer 21 September 2012 at 17:57  

Wow! Nice place indeed. Thanks a lot for the share. I really find the place interesting. Cool blog!

ZielonaMila 21 September 2012 at 21:33  

Wonderful photographs, wonderful place. I am greeting

Vagabonde 22 September 2012 at 02:43  

I really like your photos of Wenlock and Mandeville in all their outfits – and there are some creative ones. I did not know about St Katherine’s Docks – it looks like a great place to take pictures – being on one of the ships would be even better though.

bon bon 22 September 2012 at 04:21  

each one, beautiful! i like the colorful ribbons on all the masts.

Happy Homemaker UK 22 September 2012 at 16:38  

Wonderful photos and such a beautiful day! I've popped my head into this hidden area before, but had no idea the history of all the boats. Thank you!

Sorry you will not be able to make Bloggers Tea - you'll be missed :)

Ivanhoe 23 September 2012 at 02:07  

I love anything water related :) Hope the beautiful weather lasts for a while!
Hugs from Ohio,

Melissa 24 September 2012 at 20:51  

Lovely pictures! So sad I missed this, but there is always next year. I love this area of London and only really 'discovered' it this year. I have to agree with AVCr8teur though, I think your pictures at sunset would be really pretty.

Ratty 25 September 2012 at 00:15  

I always like seeing boats. I'm never too easy about being on one though.

Mo 25 September 2012 at 10:52  

I love the costal feel to London.

Minerva Black the shoppe keeping cat 25 September 2012 at 12:42  

Wonderful post! I miss St Katherine's Docks and seem to only get there now if we attend a play at The Globe. Love living in the country - but for sure I left my heart in London too. x

Victoria 25 September 2012 at 22:01  

Ooh...these are all fabulous shots Emm..gorgeous! Wonderful post!!

Betty Manousos 26 September 2012 at 17:19  

hi emm,

gorgeous photos of the boats...taken at nice angles, too. that place is beautiful indeed.

and what a brilliant narrative my friend!
i always enjoy your interesting and informative posts!

i hope your day is going well
betty xx

Post a Comment

Lovely friends, family, fellow bloggers and readers both new and old: I love and welcome comments so please don't feel shy. You may also find it easier to leave a comment on the Emm in London Facebook fan page.

Comment moderation has been activated to deter spammers.

Spammers: don't even bother. No, really, they won't even show up for a second.

Please try the alternative comment form if you're having trouble commenting.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Copyright © 2008- Mandy Southgate / Emm in London