More boats - and Ships

Once I get going on a large painting I find it very hard to put down. Sometimes I even take it to bed with me to stare at and decide on the next step, or to correct any errors I might have made. Such is the case with my current painting of the Queen’s Garden Party by the river at Henley recently. It’s taken nearly 200 hours so far and to date I’ve painted eleven of the intended fifteen boats I plan to include. The Queen is already painted but as she’s only about a quarter of an inch high don’t expect a likeness! Even the Royal Bargemaster and the Waterman are barely an inch high – resplendent as they are proudly standing to attention by a garlanded platform at the water’s edge. But the boats are big – especially my favourites, which include the fabulously blue and gold painted shallop – The Royal Thamesis, and of course the Gloriana and Molly (redesigned as a Viking ship), and my favourite of the Dunkirk Little Ships – L’Orage. Spending nearly nine hours every day, I’m having a day off today to write this and later go to sculpture class before going on the annual ‘Backwater Bash’ dinner at Phyllis Court this evening.

However I did escape Henley over the weekend (most of the roads were closed for over 18 hours due to the Annual Triathlon being held here) by going to the Southampton Boat Show and to pay a visit to Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard.

The Boat Show was vast with such a lot of climbing up and over bridges that it became really tiring. Especially as the day was one of the hottest of the year. There were some spectacular boats on display. This ‘Windy’ is the latest version of my own 20 year-old Windy, but at a price of over £100,000, stratospherically above my means.

I didn’t buy a boat – but I did buy a length of rope for my dinghy! All I have to do now is to learn how to splice it to make a secure loop at one end. Later in the afternoon we left the crowds to visit a much more tranquil place – Bucklers Hard – the 18th Century village where warships for Nelson’s navy were built.

No, this isn’t one of them, but can you guess what it is? In fact it’s the boat James Bond drove in the film ‘Quantum of Solace’. If you remember Daniel Craig landed a motorcycle on it in an attempt to rescue Bond girl Camille. It lies by the Beaulieu River. Bucklers Hard was once a thriving shipbuilding village and amongst others built Nelson’s favourite ship ‘Agamemnon’ there. Here are the timbered remains of one of the launchways.

Sections of the Mulberry Harbour were made there and hundreds of craft sailed from the Beaulieu River during the D-Day Landings. We took a cruise down the river on a little passenger boat, with the captain giving a very informative description of the many historical views we saw on the way. Here’s one of the boats we passed on our voyage.

It really was a seafaring weekend. I’d never been to Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard before, so was really looking forward to seeing Nelson’s Victory and The Mary Rose Exhibition. The top spars of HMS Victory have been removed temporarily but the ship is still a magnificent sight. Launched in May 1765 it was built at Chatham Dockyard in Kent and had a crew of 850.

We went on board, ducking our heads everywhere we went.

Either sailors in those days were very short, or they travelled round the lower decks at a crouch! I banged my head on one of the timbers – and saw stars for a while!

Everything was so well preserved in the ship. I decided the best way to progress from deck to deck (four of them) was to climb down the steep ladders backwards.

This famous painting of the death of Nelson was prominently displayed there too.

After a really fascinating tour of the ship we walked over to the Mary Rose Exhibition. However because the new and complete new exhibition scheduled to be open in 2013 there were not too many real retrieved articles from the Mary Rose on exhibition. However I did find a man who demonstrated how to splice a rope so hope to put his instructions to good use when I attempt to splice my new dinghy rope. We left The Mary Rose exhibition under the stare of the ship’s original owner – Henry VIII.

And on to HMS Warrior. This 19th Century Warship, when built, was the largest, fastest and most powerful warship in the world.

Warrior’s sails covered an area almost the size of a football pitch and on long voyages sheep were kept in pens on the deck for fresh meat, with chickens and ducks kept in the boats. To give you an idea of the size and weight of this ship, if one of its anchors were to be raised (they weigh 5.6 tons) it would take 4 to 5 hours and could involve 176 men on the capstan. Powered both by sail and steam HMS Warrior is 418 feet long. Here are couple of views on the upper deck. (I was too weary after climbing endless ladders in Victory to climb any more that day!).

To end the visit to the dockyard we took a 45 minute trip around the harbour, passing by many of the latest Royal Navy ships anchored there.

At journeys end we went under Portsmouth’s latest effigy – The Spinnaker.
The boating season has just about ended so I doubt whether boats will feature in my blogs for a while. Now I’d better get ready to fashion my hunk of clay, under the guidance of my very talented teacher – Shirley Collen. (Incidentally if anyone living in the Henley/Oxford area fancies making a sculpture head, why not join her class. You’ll be amazed at what you can do.).