May – a narrow escape in Venice

Sad news from Venice, where the historic Trabaccolo trading vessel I went to write about for Classic Boat a few years ago has been swamped and damaged by a bad leak. The vessel was saved by the pumps of firefighters who came alongside Il Nuovo Trionfo where she was berthed near the Salute, at the entrance to the Grand Canal. Apparently the boat’s own pumps had failed, though the reasons for the leak in the first place are not clear. The water flooded the engine, and videos show it swilling around at the level of the saloon table top, submerging much equipment.Firefighters alongside with pumps, St Marks Square in the distance

Il Nuovo Trionfo has now been pumped out and towed to a yard for repairs ashore, where she is now. Continue reading “May – a narrow escape in Venice”

Boat in a window

Thanks to Martin Walker for these pictures of the very last example of a large Lake Geneva trading barge, which must surely be much the same type as the one in the stained glass window in London (see this recent post). They have very similar hull shape, the two masts are both well forward, and they both carry lug sails. The one shown on the window at 2 Temple Place does not seem to have a bowsprit, but that’s a detail that can be easily modified.

Continue reading “Boat in a window”

Taking your dinghy through the Venice canals

After last year’s exploration of the Venice lagoon (see this post), we learnt recently about pilotage inside Venice’s own canal system, with a tour in a private motor boat. With care, you could do the same in a visiting yacht’s tender.

Shout as you approach a junction....
Shout as you approach a junction….

A new set of municipal rules took effect on 1 April, though apparently some of its key provisions, such as limits on the speed of water taxis, were dropped after protests from their vociferous spokesmen.

In a nutshell, drive on the right except for one canal near Piazzale Roma in the North West which for obscure reasons has a keep to the left rule. Continue reading “Taking your dinghy through the Venice canals”

Thames dangers

Last May I wrote that  actors Timothy West and Prunella Scales were banned from taking their hired narrowboat onto the tidal Thames at Limehouse in 2014 for a TV programme, even though we had managed the same trip with the same company shortly before. I was surprised and puzzled.

I now have to admit that I didn’t do enough research on the problem, having just discovered from the website of Black Prince , the hire company, that they have withdrawn their London fleet. One of the reasons is a ban on using the tidal Thames.

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Heading from Limehouse to Tower Bridge

A quick search located a lot of internet discussion of the repercussions of an accident in August 2014, when a hire boat found itself straddled across the bows of a moored houseboat in a strong tide and gusty winds just above Hammersmith Bridge. It was rescued by an RNLI lifeboat. The Port of London Authority’s reaction was to reclassify hired narrowboats as commercial, and effectively ban them from the tidal Thames. Continue reading “Thames dangers”

Pilotage in the Venice lagoon

Vaporetto
A Vaporetto at speed

Quite by accident while wandering around Venice with friends who live there, we crossed paths with a neighbour of theirs, who turned out to be one of only two women drivers of vaporetti on the lagoon.

When told we were on a hire boat she pretended to collapse in hysterical laughter, Continue reading “Pilotage in the Venice lagoon”

Round the Venice lagoon by barge

The beauty of Venice is so great that even the high-season overcrowding is still bearable. Now we’ve found a way of seeing the city in spring, summer and autumn without feeling oppressed by the sheer numbers around us. A week afloat on a barge is is the answer, because you see Venice in the context of its whole lagoon, and can slip easily away from the crowds.

Arriving, for example, at the island of Torcello in the evening, after the day-trip boats have left, is a blissfully peaceful experience. We found a mooring up a tree-lined creek on the far side of the island from the excursion landing stage, right behind the basilica. It was just an hour and a half slow cruising from Venice. In the city itself, we spent two nights in the peaceful surroundings of a yacht club marina at St Elena, in easy reach of the sights but away from the crowds.

Read the rest of the post by following this linkRound the Venice lagoon by barge.

The mooring on Torcello
The mooring at Torcello

Venice Biennale – all at sea

Gav's Bar
Gav’s Bar

We had hardly started on the Venetian lagoon when we came across this site-specific installation by Gavin Turk, the much-praised Young British Artist (now of course no longer so young). Here is some of the publicity material we found flying about in the wind from the Biennale*. Continue reading “Venice Biennale – all at sea”

Round Venice

A year ago we went round London by barge, and next week we’ll go round Venice, with the same seven-strong crew. We will start from a barge base at Chioggia, and plan to visit Venice itself and several other islands, including Torcello, and maybe up the River Brenta towards Padua or the Sile towards Treviso. Not sure whether the mobile internet reception is good enough to allow a daily blog, but we’ll load a picture log during the week.

PS on last year’s Round London

I have just watched a delightful programme in which actors Timothy West and Prunella Scales circumnavigated central London in a narrow boat from Black Prince, the same as the holiday we blogged on last year. It was, however, surprising when Timothy announced in Limehouse Basin that hired narrowboats are not allowed on the river: not so.

We went up the Thames from Limehouse at the same time as  several other Black Prince boats last May. The only condition was that someone on board had to have a VHF/DSC licence and a handheld radio hired from the company, which was fine, as three of us had licences. At least one of the other boats, a group of Norwegian holidaymakers, hired a pilot, and I assume that was negotiated with the company.

So don’t be put off: the exciting river passage was perfectly possible unless they drastically changed the rules between May and the summer when the episode of Channel 4’s Great Canal Journeys seems to have been filmed.

Timothy and Prunella met Andrew Sachs – Manuel from Fawlty Towers to Prunella’s Sybil – on a Regents’ Canal stop, an excuse for old clips from the show. From Limehouse, they did the Thames section of the circumnavigation in a fast river launch.

PS on the National Maritime Museum

Tip for nautical parents and grandparents: great new facility opened this week at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich – a new play area for children complete with pirate dressing up clothes and lots of games for two years old and upwards, plus a large buggy parking area. Makes a visit to the nautical collections fun for every age. Child approval rating in our test this week was 100 per cent.

Circumnavigation complete – back to base via the River Brent

This is the day we complete the circumnavigation of London by returning to base (though south Londoners might take exception to putting it that way). We cruised slowly up the canalised River Brent, which was green and leafy, the birdsong interrupted only by the roar of traffic as we approached the bridge carrying the M4 over the canal.

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Soon, we were into the locks, tackling 10 altogether, 6 of them in a single flight. We had lunch in a basin between two locks. Continue reading “Circumnavigation complete – back to base via the River Brent”

Limehouse to Brentford with the tide

We’ve booked the lock into the Thames for 1130, to catch the last couple of hours of the tide, which will sweep us up the river. (The boat goes so slowly that it would hardly move if it tried to fight the tide). Three other Black Prince boats head for the lock, with a shared professional pilot, but one turns back because of engine trouble. We head out into the Thames, giving our plan to Thames VTS (traffic control) on VHF channel 14, and head for Tower Bridge.

20140528-231451.jpg Continue reading “Limehouse to Brentford with the tide”