Another Albert Blog

We spent a week in September cruising the Inside Passage from Vancouver to Alaska on  MV Volendam, a Holland America Line ship. It was a brilliant cruise and part of a trip of lifetime.  We stopped at Juneau, Skagway, Ketchican and had a cruise into Glacier Bay. With visits to glaciers, waterfalls, whale watching and a trip along the White Pass and Yukon Route railway into the Klondike it was full of memorable events. Later I will post about some of our experiences, but this post is essentially about the ship.

Volendam at Juneau

Volendam in Skagway

At around 60,000 tons, 780ft length and 105ft beam, Volendam is not a large cruise ship, by modern standards but she does carry around 1400 passengers and 650 crew. I was impressed how she was navigated into some of the tight channels in the Inside Passage and spun arround at the head of Glacier Bay. This led me to explore the Holland America web site for details about the ship and crew, particularly our captain who had the distinctive name of Captain Friso Kramer gezegd Freher.

It was then I discovered that their senior captain Albert Schoonderbeek, blogs under the tag Captain Albert's Blog about his colleagues, their backgrounds and his role in the company's safety procedures.

Image result for inside passage alaska map

What is particuarly fascinating, to me, is his description of navigating the Canadian part of the Inside Passage. Just how you take such a large vessel around some of the "tight bends" is impressive . When the Volendam went through this section, in not very good weather, I was as able to watch navigation from the "Crows Nest", an area directly above the bridge. On occasions I was mystified as to the direction the channel took and the "bank" appeared not that far away.

I can recommend a look at our namesake's blog. I aim to check it our regularly to see how their voyages progress.

Leaving Glacier Bay

The Ferries of Vancouver

Yes, it's a bit of a different post.

We have just spent two weeks on a very memorable holiday in Canada and Alaska. Some of the time we stayed In Vancouver where we discovered the delights of the ferries of False Creek. Vancouver is of course a major port and much of the city is centered around its seafronts. One of the jewels of Vancouver, so far as the tourist is concerned is Granville Island, which lies just south of the main city and under Granville Bridge.  It not actually an island but an isthmus and it lies on False Creek which, as the name suggests, is not really a creek but an inlet.

Granville Bridge

Entrance to Granville Island

The Island is home to Granville Street Market which is a delight for food lovers with stall after stall selling food for every taste and fresh fruit displayed like nowhere else. The large asian community in the city have loads of stalls in the market with many offering street food.

Chinese Tea Shop

Granville Island Market

The Island was originally the home to sawmills and factories but is now largely devoted to food. It is from there that a fleet of small city ferries operates taking travellers around the creek. Unlike most ferries these are small and are described by some as as mini-tugboat ferries, but to me they mostly resemble plastic bathtubs. They are operated by one person and are highly manouvreable. With little draft and being light they are also quite "bouncy".

A False Creek Ferry Boat

It was a joy to spend an afternoon exploring the south of the city using the ferries as a "hop on - hop off"
Checking the route

Ferry operator at the helm 

They don't appear to operate a conventional timetable but just circulate around the creek popping in to wharves  where passengers are waiting. A great service.

Warm Weekend to Remember

We are in a busy period at the moment but we just had to get onto Albert and go out boating for the warmest August Bank Holiday on record. We went north and pootled* around. On Saturday (24th) we left Yardley with our friends Jon & Judith Millidge after lunch. Jon steered Albert once we had left the marina and then they enjoyed (or so they said) operating the locks going up to the Long Pound. We managed to pair up with a boat from London when we got to the second lock and had a sociable journal uphill. They were on a extended version of the Thames Ring.

Our Lock Assistants

The Long Pound, Stoke Bruerne

We managed to squeeze into one of the last moorings and then went to The Boat Inn for dinner. 

The good weather continued and on Sunday morning we moved up two locks, winded below the tunnel and then moored up whilst the temperature rose. The couple on the boat "next door" started chatting and we ended up visiting each other's boats. Paula and Andrew turned out to come from the USA (although Paul was born in the UK). They were going South and like us they were not in hurry so we hung around and paired up going down the flight. Paula and Maggie steered and managed to pair-up going into the locks. The evidence is on their blog - they post on their travels including canal trips on their boat NB Wharram Percy.  

Trading Boats at Stoke Bruerne

We split up with NB WP at the bottom lock since they stopped and we moved on to Grafton Regis. We moored up at a spot we pass often but rarely use for mooring. We had a great evening watching the sun go down.

Passing a working pair

What is better on a warm evening?

As it got dark we watched a barn owl fly over the meadow - a ghostly white figure. Next morning we cruised back to Yardley Gobion. 

We must moor at Grafton Regis more often but the offside vegetation is atrocious. It would be really difficult if two boats passed each other by the moorings.

Bit of a squeeze!

*definition: to move somewhere slowly and with no real purpose

In Praise of Cornish Ferries

 We regularly visit Cornwall and usually take a ferry trip as part of the holiday. This year was no exception. We stayed near the Lizard and took the foot ferry across the Helford River to Helford Passage (Glendurgan) and later when we stayed near Mevagissey we took the ferry to Fowey.
I think this was the first time we crossed the Helford River but the Mevagissey - Fowey ferry is an old favourite. 

Helford Ferry

I notice from our blog that in 2013 we took the same journey and our eldest granddaughter Amelia, then just three, “took the controls” of the boat on the journey. The sea state for this year’s trip was not so calm and on the way back from Fowey the side screens on the NB Bessie James had to be raised with a strong offshore wind and choppy waves creating spray.

Leaving Mevagissey

We can recommend the Helford River Ferry trip because both the villages of Helford and Helford Passage are delightful (with good pubs at either end). We spent a wonderful afternoon at Trebah Gardens which has developed into a must-see location for gardeners. I managed to cross the Helford River four times during our visit because Maggie left her newly purchased walking stick at the pub and I volunteered to go back to get it.

So just how many public ferries are there in Cornwall and how many have we, over the years, used? Well the Cornwall Council web site very usefully provides a definitive list as part of its public transport service remit.

Foot Ferries

We have used all the foot ferries above with an asterisk. We have yet to visit the Isles of Scilly and haven’t had a vacation near Plymouth, so I suppose it’s safe to say that we have tried all those “local” to us - currently 8/12. I think my favourite is the Mevagissey to Fowey ferry, but the quaint and very short journey from St Mawes to Place is fun. It turns a 8 mile walk into a mile and a half boat ride (no contest unless you want the exercise).

Vehicle and Foot Passenger
Torpoint - Plymouth - Torpoint Ferry

Of the vehicle ferries, we have used the two in the west. Most notable is the wonderful, and popular, King Harry Ferry which takes you close to that jewel of a National Trust property, Trellisick.

When we visited Fowey this year we saw the Bodinnick car ferry operating and the Polruan Ferry foot ferry was very busy. The short trip across the river, the long journey around the estuary and the difficulty of parking in Fowey must help keep the foot ferry thriving.  

Bodnnick Car Ferry

Although going by boat in Cornwall is great fun, I don’t think I can leave this post without reporting on an incident that happened to us in the 1980s. We went for an afternoon trip to Falmouth from St Mawes with our family (four adults and two children). It was a warm summer Sunday. As we got near to Falmouth we casually asked the boat skipper when was his last journey of the day. “This is the last journey – I’m mooring up at Falmouth”. We had an expensive 30 mile round trip in taxi to get back to St Mawes and it was a squash getting us all in the car together. That’s probably why the Mevagissey to Fowey ferry take great care to tell you their running times and insist that if you book a particular time slot you stick to it. Pity the skipper in the 1980s didn’t do the same. Still, we learned a lesson about ferry travel.  

Another Source of the Thames

Travelling through Gloucestershire on our way to Cornwall we paused at Seven Springs. We have passed along this route a few times and never given it thought. This time we decided to have a coffee at a well-equipped van in a lay-by just off the A436. Like many lay-bys it used to be part of the original road before it was straightened. As we wandered around the picturesque site under the shade of beech trees we noticed a set of steps down to a small stream running under the road and to decided to investigate.

Coffee by the springs (7)

The stream was crystal clear with water bubling from a series of springs (and yes there were seven). We had stumbled on the reason for the name of the hamlet but it turned out we had also come across something a bit more intersting.

Investigating Seven Springs

Where the stream passes under the main road we found a stone embeded in the bridge proclaiming in Latin "Haic Tuus O Tamesine Pater Septemgeminus Fons". Obviously something Thames related - I never learnt Latin.

Latin Inscription

It all became clearer when we discovered a grubby notice in the lay-by from the local parish council who stated the sites claim to be the "the ultimate source of the Thames". It was Coberley Parish Council who arranged to the engraved stone to be set into the bridge. The waters from the seven springs form the River Chum and this flows into the Thames at Cricklade. On the basis that the waters at Thames Head sometimes run dry, and the waters from Seven Springs do not, they consider their claim to be the true source is convincing.

The Parish Council also point out on the notice that regarding this as the Source of the Thames adds an extra 14 miles to its length making it 9 miles longer than the River Severn and the longest river flow in the UK. So perhaps the answer to the quiz question "What is the UK's longest river?" could be the Thames, or perhaps more accurately the Chum/Thames.

Either way, I still can't get out of my head the Michael Bentine (It's a Square World) sketch where they search for the Source of the Thames. They find it to be a dripping tap in a field, they turn it off and this drains the whole river.

Over and Under the Hill - Potterspury History Group

For some years I have been helping lead some of the Over and Under the Hill events at Stoke Bruerne where participants explore Blisworth Tunnel by boat and walk back over the top with guides. Last Saturday we held a special version for our village history group. With the warm and dry spell of weather we managed to fill trip boat Charlie. The tunnel element of the event never fails to impress. Despite travelling through the tunnel on Albert you get a new perspective sitting in Charlie near the water line when you can concentrate on looking at the side passages and the wonderful colours of the mineral deposits on the walls.

Familiar view

Checking the route

Boat Horses in the quarry field

We carried out a reconnaissance on the Thursday before the trip and some our pictures are from that walk.
A group of happy walkers ready for the tunnel

In the tunnel and looking at interpretation material

Leaving Charlie at Blisworth

Finishing with a meal for over twenty at the Navigation Inn it was a memorable event.  The next event like this is at the end of August which is being organised by Trip Boat Charlie.

Kelmscott Manor

Almost 12 years ago we had a trip up the Upper Thames and moored up at Kelmscott overnight. This was following the summer 2007 floods that devastated the Cotswolds and caused havoc across central England. We had planned to visit the former summer home of William Morris, Kelmscote Manor but, although the floods had subsided, the damage to the house was so bad it was closed to the public. We particularly remembered that even the Plough Inn was out of beer because of the flooding and an unfortunate couple who had travelled from Norfolk in their camper van to visit the manor and had slept overnight outside only to discover it was closed for the rest of the year.

Since then we have not been back along this stretch by boat, so when we found ourselves travelling through the Cotswolds a week ago we decided it was about time that as William Morris enthusiasts we visited Kelmscott. We were not disappointed.   

Kelmscott village does lie a little off the beaten track but it is delightful. A visit to the manor can effectively become a visit to the whole village since there are connections throughout to Morris family (William, Jane and May) and their fellow Pre-RaphaeliteDante Gabriel Rossetti who had a complex relationship with the Morris family . Just look at the map supplied by the manor.

We arrived late morning on a glorious summer's day and parked in the village car park (a field) designated for manor visitors. After "the pub with no beer" episode twelve years ago we visited The Plough and had a great lunch. The inn has several rooms so would make a good centre for walkers since it's not far from the Thames Path. It was busy and one of their outside rooms was set up for a party. I discussed the floods with the staff - it appears that the wooden floor of the pub was destroyed by the floods so they now have one in stone.

A pub with beer - this time

On the gentle walk to the manor we passed the cottage that has a wonderful stone carving of William Morris and I was also taken with some unusual nearby stone fencing.

William Morris contemplating life
Memorial Cottages 1902 - carved by George Jack
 Quite a different field boundary
The manor is not a large property if you are familiar with visiting stately homes, and you will soon become aware that it had a long history before Morris lived there. Visiting this building is all about William Morris and his work, but there are other little gems, notably by his daughter May who lived there for many years following his death.

William Morris's Bed  

Jane Morris's Bed decorated in Willow Boughs 

It is a widely held view that Willow Boughs (which we have decorating Albert) was inspired by the backwater of the Thames that passes through Kelmscott.


Split-stepped staircase installed by the Society of Antiquaries in 1962

Attic bedspread

Jane and William Morris

Cartoon of Morris fishing on the Thames

The gardens and outbuildings shouldn't be forgotten. Maggie and I were particularly taken by the massive mulberry tree in the back garden. It was too early in the season for ripe fruit but maybe in late August?

Kelmscott Manor's magnificent mulberry

A Three-seat Privy

The Manor owned by the Society of Antiquaries of London and is only open Wednesdays and Saturdays in the summer. Also this year it will close for an extended works, mostly associated with the outbuildings and infrastructure so next year they may have quite a short season. I did ask the guides about the damage done in 2007. It appears that none of the artifacts were damaged but they had to have a new floor at the rear of the building.

Morris's Topcoat

The mooring at Kelmscott is a very short walk to the manor and is a delightful setting. Although we moored up there in 2007 and have now visited the manor, we still aspire to do both things at the same time. I suppose that is icing on the cake? - talking of which the manor does cream teas!

Kelmscott moorings