I got an interest in the maritime from my Dad. I first encountered the Hornblower series around eight grade, and it’s become my favorite novel series; I’ve re-read it a dozen times. After seeing the prototypical touristy things during the last London trip, I decided I really wanted to see HMS Victory, Lord Nelson’s flagship during the Battle of Trafalgar, which is now in drydock in Portsmouth. So I looked up the train schedules, found it was doable, and headed down there this past Saturday.

It turns out there is much more than Victory there. Portsmouth is still an active naval base, and there are a number of historical attractions to see down there. You can buy combined tickets to see a number of them, and given my time constraints, I saw three.

The first thing I saw when I left the train station was HMS Warrior. Warrior was built in the 1860s in reaction to France’s construction of an ironclad battleship. Warrior herself saw no action, and quickly became obsolete during the rapid evolution of iron battleships in the late 1800s, but she’s well preserved — or more accurately, well restored, She has both a full ship square rig, and engines, and compared to both Victory and USS Constitution, is very long.

HMS Warrior
HMS Warrior

After getting some pictures of the harbor, I passed on Warrior for the moment, and walked down the lane to Victory.

Aside: along the way, I passed a booth where a woman was selling souvenirs, and was amused to see that she had Harry and Meghan Union Jack flags, originally £3, marked down to £2.

I was a little surprised by Victory. She is undergoing renovations, so only her lower masts are in place, so at first, she looks surprisingly small. She is roughly the same length as Constitution, but much bulkier, both taller — Victory has three gun decks to Constitution’s one — and wider.

HMS Victory
HMS Victory

She’s been recently repainted in colors that the conservators believe is more in line with her actual colors at the time of Trafalgar; her gun stripes seem an orangey tan to me. You really get a sense of her bulk looking at her stern; she has three decks of stern galleries and carvings.

Unlike Constitution, Victory is in drydock, and likely permanently so; you leave the ship from a hole cut in her hold, where you can see the drydock supports, and I think this is too bad. Constitution is clearly a museum ship, but a lot of the artifacts have been offloaded to the USS Constitution Museum, and she can still be taken out around the harbor, and even sailed, and they still do so occasionally. Victory is clearly a conserved object.

Still it’s a fascinating one to visit, and I had a great time doing so. This is the first time I’ve been able to do a lot of existing light photography with the new D7500, and I was very pleased with it. I got a lot of hand-held shots that would have been simply impossible with any of my previous cameras.

After finishing up with Victory, I headed over to the Mary Rose museum. The HMS Mary Rose was a Tudor period warship that sank during battle. One theory is that the addition of more guns made her top-heavy, another is that she heeled over in a gust, putting her gunports, which were open, under water. She capsized, taking all but 35 of her crew of 500 with her. She landed on her starboard side; over time, she silted in, and her exposed port side disintegrated. She was rediscovered in the late 1970s and excavated around 1982. Her remaining timbers were preserved, as were a number of artifacts. The skeletons of a number of her crew were found, and the museum has a couple of representations of what a couple of them might have looked like.

Wreck of the Mary Rose
Wreck of the Mary Rose

After the Mary Rose, I took a quick look at a museum about Victory, then headed back to HMS Warrior, and did a quick tour.

While I was onboard Warrior, I noticed a large tower close by, that looked like it had an observation deck.

Emirates Spinnaker Tower
Emirates Spinnaker Tower

This turned out to be the Emirates Spinnaker Tower, and a quick check of my phone showed that it was open for another half hour. So I scurried over, and went up. The views were grand.

After leaving the tower, I stopped for a quick bite to eat, and headed back to the train. The ride was quite scenic; we passed a lot of farms on the way back to London. It was a really nice end to a fun day.

Again, London

I’m visiting London for work again this week and the next. I left Boston Sunday night at 10 and arrived here Monday morning about 9:30. The flight was uneventful and uncrowded; the person sitting next to me shifted seats, giving us both more room. I am still unable to really sleep while flying; I found myself starting to drift off, then I would awake again with a jerk. This time, my luggage arrived with me, and I was able to get to the office without too much trouble.

I was pretty tired by the end of the day on Monday, as I hadn’t really slept since Sunday morning. I got to the apartment just before 5, talked to the rental agent, then went out in search of food and groceries. I explored the area a little, noted the Tube station close by, and St. Pauls in the distance, then picked up some breakfast food and some stuff for dinner.

The rental apartment is quite nice. It has a sitting room, small kitchen, bathroom and bedroom. The home owner is clearly interested in art; there are framed posters on all the walls, including the hallway. It does front on a busy street, though, so it is a little noisy.

Compared to home, sunset is very late here, because London is that much further north. I noticed last week sunset was still well before 8 at home; here, it’s around 8:45. (I imagine the days are shorter here in the winter). Since it was still light after supper, I went out for a little walk. I found I was just one block from where I stayed last fall, so the restaurants I found then are still handy. Finally, my tired legs could take no more, and I headed back to the apartment and into bed.

Last night, I decided to take a look at Trafalgar Square and Westminster after work. When I’d visited after work last fall, it was after nightfall; last night it was late afternoon. So I took the Tube to Embankment, walked up to Trafalgar Square, then up to Westminster, where you could barely see Big Ben due to all the scaffolding, over the Thames, and walked along the South Bank taking pictures, and ended up having a hamburger there. Afterwards, I came back here and edited the pictures.

Today’s been an uneventful day – I forgot to reset the alarm, so I was late getting up, and barely made a 9 AM video conference with one of the developers in Porto. I kept getting distracted from what I was supposed to be working on, but did scope out a major piece of work that we’ll be doing later, and helped out some. After having a nice BBQ chicken, I came back here, did some cleaning up, did some code review, and worked on this post. Hopefully, it will be done soon, and I can get to bed.

Rock Harbor from the Air

I went down the Cape last Saturday to help my Uncle Tom reshingle the woodshed here. It was built by my uncles probably around 50 years ago, and the roof shingles looked their age. So we spent the day stripping the shingles off the back side, got the back side entirely reshingled, and got the first two courses of the front side done. We stopped around 3:45, as Tom needed to get to church.

I had the drone with me, and shot some video of Nauset Marsh, starting from Hemenway Landing, then headed over to Rock Harbor to get some pictures of the harbor.

Rock Harbor is a situated at the mouth of a tidal marsh; the tidal creek wends its way quite a distance from the bay, almost to Route 6. There are jetties at the ends of the entrance, and the Community of Jesus campus is just to the west of the Orleans parking lot. I drove over to the Eastham side, and sent the drone up.

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Nor’easter on the Cape

Massachusetts has been battered for the past few days by a massive nor’easter; as I was working Friday, the rain was coming down nearly horizontally, and slashing against the windows. The wind has been fierce, and because of the nearly full moon, the tides have been especially high.

When my dentist appointment was cancelled yesterday — they had no power — I decided to head for the Cape to see how it was faring.

Our first stop was Fort Hill in Eastham, overlooking Nauset Marsh. On the road up to the outlook, we passed a massive fallen tree:

Fallen tree near Fort Hill
Fallen tree near Fort Hill

Once we arrived at the parking lot, I could barely open the car door, the wind was so strong. Normally, the view from Fort Hill is of the grassy marsh, with the dunes of Nauset Spit in the distance. Not today. The whole marsh was flooded, and looking across, I could see foamy waves crashing right over the spit.

View From Fort Hill
View From Fort Hill

From Fort Hill, we decided to head for Coast Guard Beach, but the road was blocked. There must have been downed trees or downed wires laying across the road, so we headed for Nauset Light Beach instead.

The wind and waves at Nauset were unreal. It was hard opening the car doors, and my clothes were quickly covered with a fine layer of blown sand. From the edge of the parking lot, we could see the waves battering the shore.

Waves at Nauset
Waves at Nauset
A Seagull soaring over the waves
A seagull soaring over the waves

After spending some time at Nauset, we decided to make another try for Coast Guard. The connecting road between the two beaches was open, so we headed over that way.

From Coast Guard, it was easier to get to the water’s edge. I walked down to the edge of the water, where the waves had already eroded the end of the path, and took some more pictures:

Edge of the water at Coast Guard Beach
Edge of the water at Coast Guard Beach

I then decided to head to the back of the spit, to take a picture of the bike path bridge over the flooded marsh. Unfortunately, the marsh was flooding right over the top of the path, so I wasn’t able to get the shot I wanted:

Flooded Bike Path
Flooded Bike Path

From there we decided to head over to the bay side, but ran into a problem: many of the roads were blocked, due to downed trees or wires. It was hard to get away from the ocean side, and when we finally did, the roads to First Encounter and Cole Road Beaches were blocked. I wish I’d thought to bring the bicycle with me to get around the road blocks, but it hadn’t occurred to me. We finally found out way to the end of Kingsbury Beach Road on the Bay Side.

Here, the waves weren’t nearly as violent, but the water level was high; right up to the end of the road. There was no beach to be seen. Waves were crashing up against the sea wall of the house by the end of the road, the storm fencing, and the stairs down to the beach:

Snow fencing along the bay
Snow fencing along the bay
Waves against the stairs
Waves against the stairs. The beach is totally flooded.

Our final stop was my Uncle Tom’s place – we had a leftover Christmas present that needed to be dropped off, so we headed back down along Herringbrook Road towards his place. Along the way, I stopped by the side of the road – what was normally a large expanse of grassy marsh, even at high tide, was now a lagoon.

Flooded Marsh
Flooded Marsh

When we got to Tom’s house, he was cutting up a fallen tree; a number of trees had fallen on the property. He’d also lost power, and a skylight. As bad as the wind was at the moment, it had been worse the day before; while covering over the skylight, he’d had to hold the ladder in place with his tractor.

We’ve been personally, pretty lucky with this storm — just some downed branches in the back yard, and the lights flickered a little on Friday, and apparently the power went down for a little time while we went out yesterday, but that’s been it. We’ve been pretty lucky compared to our neighbors in Quincy, and Scituate, and the Cape.


Bonaire 2018 Pictures: Friday

Friday was the last day of diving. You need to allow a day for your body to get rid of the excess nitrogen you absorb, so we had to be out of the water by three. We did a pair of boat dives in the morning, to Country Garden at the northern end of the island, then Sampler, off of Klein Bonaire. Continue reading

Bonaire 2018 Pictures: Sunday

We had our first dives of the trip on Sunday, after a brief re-orientation from Augusto, the head of Dive Operations at the resort. I did one dive in the morning, then took care of business, including renewing my driver’s license online, picking up some groceries, and renting a truck, and two in the afternoon: one early, with my roommate Mike, and one later with Ralph and Joe Quinnan as well. Continue reading

Fifty Years

Today marks fifty years since the day my grandfather died of a heart attack.

He was my mother’s father, and we called him “Bumper”, because one of my older cousins had trouble pronouncing the word “Grandpa”. I have some fragmentary memories of him, blurred by time. I suspect my Aunt Sandy’s sons remember him slightly better than I do; I’m not sure if my sister Nancy does; the rest of my siblings and my Uncle Kip’s family were all too young to know him.

I remember he had a very slow, deliberate, way of speaking. Probably my strongest memory of him was the time I got a good report card; I called him up (or my mother did), and I told him about the report card, and him saying, in that deliberate way of his, “You deserve a buck.” Sure enough, the next time he came over, he gave me one.

I remember the foreign cars, first, the big Mercedes, with the big grille on the front, and then the tiny, funny looking Citroën.

I’d like to say I remember seeing him at Christmas, always Christmas Night, but my memories could simply be the result of seeing the pictures of them.

I remember seeing him in his Cape house in Sunset Village, working in his garden, and visiting him once or twice in the duplex in Milton he shared with his second wife.

I’d just turned 8 when he died. I don’t remember them, but my mother likes to tell a couple of stories about my reaction. I went to Catholic school, and the school was next to the church where his funeral Mass was held. Apparently, my third grade teacher, Mrs. Carolan, told my mother that when the bells began to toll, I went over the windows to look out at the church, and told her that the bells were for my grandfather. My mother also says she found a note I’d written afterwards, saying something like “Bumper’s dead, boo hoo”.

I don’t remember those things myself. What I do remember is the night of the funeral, Dad was putting away the flag that had been draped over the coffin — Bumper had been an officer in the Army Corps of Engineers, and worked his way up to Colonel — and he made a point of telling me how much he had liked and respected his father-in-law.

I don’t remember the exact words, but I remember the tone. I think he made the point that a lot of guys don’t get along with their fathers-in-law, but that Bumper was special, and that he really respected him and enjoyed being around him. I’m not sure what his motivation was; he may have been responding to my upset; it may have simply been something he needed to say to me, but he felt lucky Bumper has been his father-in-law, and hoped that I would be as lucky has he had been.