Friday, 28 August 2015


Last weekend Simon had a visit from Tony Lane (“Guiding Lights”), who visited the ship in 2000, long before Simon acquired it.  He had a good look around over two days and measured almost everything!  He also produced a large file with some very interesting photos in it. One showed the riding lantern which I featured back in January 2014, (Photo 1111).

    However, his photo, taken by him in 2000 has it in its rightful place at the top of the mizzen mast (Photo 1112). 

In fact there were two there at the time and I wonder where the other one went when the mizzen was ‘felled’!  They obviously were not hoisted up and down and they were electric.  Riding lanterns were not present in any photo up to 1908 and there is then a big gap in my photographic record up to the conversion in the Liffey Dockyard in 1943. They do appear on the blueprints for that conversion (Photo 1113) and subsequent photos, so I assume they date from then.

    Tony also produced a photo of two doors in the superstructure (Photo 1114). Through the glass you can make out the walkway, so this must be the port side and as there is a triangular fillet visible (wall to roof), this must be the living room – there are no fillets in the kitchen (no pun intended!). 

  However, there is only one door in that area; it is very different (Photo 1115) from the two in Tony’s photo; and there is no trace of a second door. 

    I suppose the answer should have been obvious.  They are not doors, they are rather elaborate windows!  Not at all suitable for a storm tossed ship unable to seek shelter from a force 9 gale! The windows (there are 4 in the port wall) are now plain rectangular double-glazed units, with no sign of those fancy shutters, which is a pity.

Friday, 21 August 2015


I went down to the lightship this week, delivering the rope and a couple of huge pieces of herringbone patterned coir carpet for Simon’s living room. I am told I should not call it a salon because that is defined as “A salon is a gathering of people under the roof of an inspiring host, held partly to amuse one another and partly to refine the taste and increase the knowledge of the participants through conversation”.  Well I am sure that is what it will be when Simon gets a bit further in the restoration.  A saloon is “A public room for ship’s passengers” – not quite appropriate – and the term wardroom is a little militaristic. So ‘living room’ will do for now.

    As an aside, the M6 is in a mess around Birmingham and it took 40 minutes to go three miles. It’s well worth paying the charge on the M6 toll road.  The M25 is awful – over an hour to do two miles – and the M1 has about 30 miles of 50mph restriction. What do we pay our road tax for?

    Back to the story.  The other reason I went down there was to deliver and try out my air compressor and de-scaler nail gun. It is hard, noisy work, but easier and quicker that the traditional chip, chip, chip with a hammer. The resulting surface is not bare metal (unless you really go at it hard and long), but all loose scale, paint and dirt is removed (Photo 1101).   

 Areas A and B and the ledge above B have been cleaned; C and D have not. Of course the debris has then to be removed, unless we want the bilges full of rust, paint and dust!

    Taking a break from the noise and dirt, I was pleased to see the above deck areas looking so good. The new wall-paper in the living room looks very smart and the decking also.  The starboard deck is a bit cluttered with useful bits and pieces, but the port side looks very ship-shape (Photo 1102).    

That ‘rubberoid’ playground matting is pleasant to walk on and protects the waterproofing underneath. At the stern Simon has finished his decking and he is not going to stain and varnish it because he likes the weather-beaten effect he got with just a sealant (Photo 1103)

    I took time out to relax on a recliner and admire the view across the estuary, now that the hangers-on have gone  (Photo 1104) and it is easy to see why Simon prefers living afloat to living in a London flat.  

 Last year he briefly sported a ‘full set’, which made him look very nautical and I did a portrait of him with a background of his upper deck and the estuary. If I say so myself, I think it turned out quite well  (Photo 1105).  

 He has been clean-shaven ever since, but that is another matter!


Friday, 14 August 2015


Well there is good news and not so good news to report.  The good news is that we have been given a length of rope for the ship.  Actually that is an understatement because the ‘rope’ is over 60 metres in length and about 120mm in diameter. I would imagine it has been used to secure something like the QEII to the dockside! (Photo 1091) 

The Lightship is already secure and would not need something as substantial as this. It is in good condition, although probably not good enough for the QEII, and we are going to use it as a rail (on top of the bulwarks - when they are back in place) right around the ship. Taking my doctored photo of the ship and adding this rail shows what it will look like (Photo 1092).

    The bad news is that Simon has been out in his canoe again taking photos, this time at very low tide. With the ship sitting on the mud, a lot more of the hull is visible. Much of the revealed surface looks fine, if somewhat barnacled/limpeted (Photo 1093),  Here and there are what look like oysters!

   However, there are one or two nasty looking holes at the bow (Photo 1094), 

which look much worse on closer inspection (Photo 1095).  

   Now the bilges are not filling at every tide, indeed the bilge pumps have very little to do, so this may not be as bad as it looks, but somehow we have to check.  Any ideas?  Is it the dreaded Gribble Worm?
  One thought has occurred to me – the bow seems to have a very thick extra piece attached, which incorporates the hawes pipes and the bow leads and stretches from gunwale to keel. I am told (thank you Bill) that this is called the Bow Doubler. Simon and I had not noticed this feature before now. If this is separate from the main hull, although attached to it, the holes may not matter. Or am I clutching at straws?

Saturday, 8 August 2015


Well I feel rather diffident about pontificating on nautical terms, me being a pongo, but with help from John and others I think I have got it now. Using a photo of Cormorant from 1991, I have labelled the various bits (no, sorry, John tells me that ‘bits’ are the ‘bollards’ on a ship and ‘bollards’ are big versions of ‘bits’, usually on shore), so I have labelled the various items (Photo 1081). 

The stern leads then were in much better condition than in my last post and in addition to these, Cormorant has gaps in the bulwark for mooring lines. However, as I said earlier, I cannot see leads or gaps on the early photos of Irish lightships.

    Getting back to historical research again, I have made a little progress on those Irish rebels who were ‘guests’ aboard Cormorant on 1 May 1916. I put a paragraph on a website called ‘Ships and Navies – Great War Forum’, hoping that the 1916 uprising might feature.  ‘Johnny’ supplied this nugget after much digging:-

    “Some prisoners taken in Galway were detained on board HMS Laburnum. The trawler Guillimot also gets a mention with Galway prisoners. Captain Aplin was in charge of the RN in Kingstown and had travelled up the Liffey early on in the Rising on the Helga.

    ‘The Sea Hound’ by Daire Brunicardi contains a reference to Capt Alpin and mentions Boadicea II being ordered to steam at full speed to Skerries. Threads in this forum suggest HMY Boudicea II was depot ship for Kingstown and Holyhead. There is also mention of a ship of the Commissioners of Irish Lights being requisitioned as a temporary prison whilst transport to British camps was organized. No names or details”.

    So, leaving no stone unturned, I have obtained a copy of ‘The Sea Hound’ and also a copy of ‘Danger Zone’ by E Keble Chatterton, which deals with RN activities in this period. The latter arrived first and I scoured its pages. Chatterton does mention the Easter Rising, but the only useful bit of information relating to my search for the identity of those Cormorant prisoners, was in his description of the number of suspected rebels rounded up by the Army and Navy – thousands! I would think officials were desperate to find ‘homes’ for the prisoners awaiting transportation to Dublin or mainland UK.  

     The book actually concentrates on the bitter struggle between the Royal Navy and the German U-boats in the Irish Sea and the Western Approaches. I am finding this book quite fascinating. I had no idea that the U-boat campaign in WWI was so successful and nearly turned the tide of war, as indeed it almost did again in WWII.

    ‘The Sea Hound’ does mention the requisition of Cormorant and as stated by Johnny, there were no details about the vessel or the prisoners:-

   “In Kingstown a vessel of the Commissioners of Irish Lights was requisitioned as a temporary prison while transport to the British camps was being organised.”

   So at the moment I conclude that the small group of guests, who spent the night of 1 May 1916 on Simon’s ship, were probably just a bunch of bolshie local residents!  However, I think it worthwhile to contact the author, Daire Brunicardi, to see whether he has any more information which he did not include.  He is apparently on Facebook, but I am not, so Simon will have to try.  It reminds me of the man who liked the idea of Facebook but did not have a computer. So he walked around the town chatting to strangers, showing them pictures of his kids and telling them all about his illnesses and what he did each day. He soon had four ‘followers’ – two policemen, a psychiatrist and a social worker!

PS:  I am told that 'bits' should be 'bitts' and 'bulwark' should be 'bulwarks'.