Ooh, before I forget, I must tell you what I forgot to mention last time. On our trip up the Ouse we got a hello from the resident seal that swims up and down (mostly) between Hermitage and St Ives. I expect he/she has a name, but I don’t know it so I was only able to shout ‘hello, um, seal’ as he/she swam past the boat and stared at us. Anyway, there it is. Worth a mention.
Now then, that was Friday. On Thursday I went on a couple of other boats, the first being HMS Victory where because at this time of year they have no guided tours, I was able to make up all sorts of unlikely tales to tell Grace as we went round the ship. Actually I’ve been shown round so many times in the past that I can practically remember the script. Square wooden mess plates being the origin of the phrase “a square meal”, the men having to make their own cat o’ nine tails before being flogged, Captain Hardy having a hatch built in the upper deck outside his cabin so he could stand up without banging his head as he was so tall etc etc. Walking round the ship looking at all the cannons, rifles, pistols, and cutlasses that fill every spare corner, you realise she was built for one thing only –to fight like crazy. She’s currently undergoing a multi million pound restoration and I fear that by the time they have finished there might not be much of the original ship left. I think a lot of the decking is already not original and now they intend to replace the hull planking.
The modern Royal Navy has some interesting differences quite apart from the obvious advances in technology. We took one of the harbour tours that take you round the bits of the dockyard you wouldn’t otherwise see and our guide showered us with stats, (ooh I love stats), about the ships tied up there. Sadly the new carrier was away annoying the Spanish as it visited Gibraltar so we’ll have to save that for another day. There are a couple of type 45 destroyers there at the moment and it occurred to me that most of the money (our money!) spent on these ships has gone into defending themselves from attack. Maybe it would have been simpler and cheaper not to have the ship in the first place then nobody would attack it. You and I own six of these ships. Of course these days they get used for all sorts of stuff Lord Nelson might have scoffed at, providing humanitarian assistance after natural disasters and the like. He might have approved of the anti piracy role I suppose, but I think he might have been a bit peeved that we can no longer swan around ruling the waves and bashing the French and Spanish like we used to. So now the ships seemed designed primarily to defend themselves and the rest of the fleet.
Apparently the weird angles of the hull, the decks and the various turrets are all about confusing enemy radar such that they can’t make out the profile of the ship. Then they have this big ball on the top that they say can simultaneously track a thousand objects the size of a cricket ball travelling at three times the speed of sound and prioritise which are most likely to hit the ship and somehow shoot them down. Don’t ask me how. I wonder if they’ve ever proved it. Then on the bow they have this gun that can fire streams of big shells to hit targets so far away that they can’t see them, with pinpoint accuracy. To loud cheers from a number of the passengers on the tour boat our guide suggested that it could be used to knock out Southampton’s football stadium from it’s current mooring at Portsmouth. If Pompey residents love to hate anything, it’s Southampton.
Round the back of the harbour is where the cross channel ferries come in and the banana boats (‘Day O’ I hear you cry.). Here’s another good stat, some of these ships bring in 28 million bananas at a time. You’ve almost certainly eaten one of them. And I know you’ll be thrilled to know that the largest number of bananas ever carried on a ship at one time is 43,635,280. Not a lot of people know that.
Grace and I hopped off the tour boat at Gunwharf key so I could take her up the Spinnaker tower, which is a lot less scary than I imagined. Kath and Jacob, who were with us, chickened out. That was their loss as the views are spectacular. Grace has no fear of heights and happily strode onto the glass floor of the viewing deck oblivious to the 300 foot drop below her feet.
Here are a couple of views from the top. First looking North, up the harbour. There’s the destroyer in the middle with its pyramidal radar tower.
The looking west over Haslar / Gosport
and finally over my favourite bit of Portsmouth, Spice Island, Camber Dock and along towards Southsea. The modern white building in the middle is where Ben Ainsley and co built their Americas Cup racing boat. I can’t say I like it there in the middle of all that historic stuff.
Next time we’ll go back another day to Wednesday when I reveal a visit to Herbie and find a big job to do.