A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that


Monday, 26 June 2017

Hooptedoodle #266 - Our Very Own Private Aircraft Carrier

"Queen Elizabeth" in Rosyth dockyard
Today the new British aircraft carrier, Queen Elizabeth, sets to sea for 6 months trials. She is starting off from the shipyard at Rosyth early this morning. Things will be a bit tight getting her out - there are literally inches to spare either side at the dock entrance, and the clearance under her keel is officially estimated at 20cm. I hope and trust that this estimate is better than forecasts for budget or completion date have been.

Things are not straightforward after she leaves the yard - it will be necessary to wait for low tide to enable her to scrape under the Forth Bridges. [A government spokesman stated that if it turns out that she does not, in fact, fit under the bridges then we can at least be confident that Britain will have unchallenged strategic control of the stretch of the River Forth between Grangemouth and Queensferry.]

Thereafter the carrier, with escorts, will sail along the Firth of Forth, past our house, and out to the North Sea. I am all set to get the tripod up for a historic photo, but there is word that it may be late this evening (i.e. dark) when she passes here. I meant to check when low tide will be - I should know this, in fact, because we have a tide clock in our porch, but unfortunately the battery is flat. You wait decades for a new aircraft carrier - biggest, most expensive warship ever built in the UK, three times as big as Ark Royal - and then you're let down by a flat battery. Never mind, I'm sure someone online will know.

The main deck has room for three full-size football pitches - maybe it could be
used to host the 2022 World Cup?
When she sails past here (and we are right at the end of the Firth - the North Sea officially begins at a monument on our beach, or so we claim) we'll see her against the backdrop of the Fife coast and the Isle of May, a long, flat island in the Firth of Forth, legendary as the scene of the tragic, so-called Battle of May Island in 1918, which is such a bizarre story that, if you do not know it, you would not believe me, so I'll simply put a link to the Wikipedia entry, here.

The Isle of May - a lot closer than I've ever seen it
This business about having difficulty spotting things around here is a bit of a recurrent theme - maybe there's something odd about the area. Our beach is famous for spectacular views of the aurora borealis, but, despite a good many attempts, we've never had even a glimpse. On occasions we have arrived at the beach with binoculars and cameras, taken one look at the torrential rain and 100% cloud cover, given up and gone home, and then, the following morning, been able to see all the wondrous photos on Facebook that hardier (or luckier) punters have managed to capture.

The unseen aurora, from our beach
Another celebrated apparent local illusion was when my neighbour of the time, who was a fisherman, went one morning to reset his lobster pots off Canty Bay, about 2 miles away. His special trick of the trade was to keep his creels in shallower water than most of his competitors, which he reckoned got him a better yield, but he had to put a lot more effort into repairing and shifting them, since bad weather caused more damage in shallower water. This particular morning (which I see from The Scotsman archives was in 2003) he returned home to be greeted by his wife, who said that they'd been watching to see if he appeared on TV. Reidy was mystified - what TV? what was she talking about?

Canty Bay, without fog or whale (or Reidy)
Well, the night before a whale had washed up on the rocks at Canty Bay, and there were crowds of onlookers and a BBC crew to film the excitement as they attempted to float it off. Reidy never saw a thing - it was a bit foggy, but he was completely unaware of all the carry-on - he reset his creels and got about his business. Never saw anything unusual.

For years he had to live with his wife's mockery - no wonder he didn't earn much as a fisherman if he couldn't see a whale within a hundred yards. This is, after all, a coastline of mists and shadows, and unexplained lights - the setting for RL Stevenson's tales of wreckers - but maybe it's easier to see things we expect to see?

****** Late Edit 12:45pm ******

I found the Queen Elizabeth's Facebook page - it seems she is expected to leave the dockyard round about 5pm, and should sail under the bridges shortly before midnight. Let's see - she is not going to be going flat out, I imagine, and it's about 25 miles from Queensferry to here, so I reckon she should be here sometime around 1am, which doesn't sound promising for a photo. Never mind, I can get an early night...

Here's a rather more recent photo of the vessel in Rosyth, with a few more bits added from my first picture.


I note that the Daily Telegraph makes due mention of the fact that the dirty Russians will be waiting to have a good look at our new strategic weapon when it gets out into the sea. Boo. We should jolly well go and pull their furry hats down over their eyes. 

Press photo of the QE just about managing to pass under the Forth Rail Bridge





24 comments:

  1. I'm just thinking that the first bridge she will encounter will be the new one (almost completed) - it would be a shame if it got demolished before it was even opened!

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    1. It certainly would. What a stooshie - imagine the claim form - "describe the accident in your own words"...

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    2. Followed by "do you have a location for that sir?"

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    3. No problem - "M90, northbound carriageway"!

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  2. You can watch the progress on this
    http://www.cruisin.me/cruise-port-tracker/europe/edinburgh-(rosyth)-scotland.php

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    1. HEY! - what a brilliant toy! - thanks for this Benjamin - excellent!

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  3. Lovely. And one day they might even have some planes to put on it. You never know.

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    1. This is really going to keep the old Russians guessing, eh?

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    2. Maybe we could set up a GoFundMe initiative to raise some money for aeoplanes?

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  4. So what happens if she goes under the bridge at low tide then runs aground? I suppose they check these sorts of things in advance.


    You'd be amazed at the things I don't see. Doesn't need t be as big as a whale to escape me.

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  5. Hmm, having looked up May Island it reminds me of a story we were told during navigation training about the USN Honda Point disaster. The moral was that we should maintain formation but not blindly and should also continue navigating and thinking for ourselves.

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  6. Well, I'm playing with Benjamin's ship-spotting toy - very good - it's 5:15pm, the carrier has left the dockyard, and is currently moving west - that's the wrong direction, away from the bridge - presumably she'll drop anchor to wait for low tide. Lots of tugs around her. This is great fun. I had a look at the IDs of all the tankers anchored in Dunbar Bay, waiting for the stupid price of oil to move enough to justify landing the stuff at Grangemouth. The power of market forces...

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  7. Here's hoping they don't scratch the paintwork before the Ruskies photograph it; they obviously don't do Facebook in Moscow. Too decadent!

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    1. I guess so - judging by Benjamin's ship-watching application, there are a lot of small boats standing by - not tugs - must be spectators - hope there are no traffic problems. The Ruskies can always find everything they want to know about the QE in the Telegraph, of course.

      At the moment I am pondering whether to go out at 1am for a freeze on the cliffs - of course, I don't have a camera that would take a worthwhile night-time shot. Maybe I could take a selfie of me watching the ship? I was recently intrigued to see folk at Glastonbury taking selfies of themselves dancing - now that's something. I never thought of that, so selfies have suddenly taken on a whole new lack of meaning for me. A selfie of some freezing cold git failing to see a famous ship in the middle of night must be a historic photo, surely? Specially if it rains - perfect.

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  8. Things starting to move now - tugs Kittiwake, Fidra and Hopetoun positioning to start swinging the QE round, and fire tender Dalmeny standing by - 22:42... (I can't see this, just watching it on the app)

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  9. OK - OK - I stood on a headland for about an hour and peered out to sea - quite a dark night - eventually you start to imagine things. Eventually saw the escort vessels (HMS Sutherland and the tug SD Tempest) and the carrier was behind them. The carrier must have been in mid channel - just a few coloured lights and a long way away - not much of a spectacle, really - eventually it passed in front of the Elie lighthouse, and it blocked the light from that as it passed, so I guess it's a big vessel! This was about 02:05, but too dark for the binoculars, and I was getting very cold - I've seen it. Going to have a small cognac and go to bed.

    No selfies.

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  10. I got no pics, but there was a fair photo in the Sc*m of the carrier passing under the Forth Rail Bridge, with the top mast dipped to let it through - I'll tack it onto my Late Edit, just so there's something...

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  11. Nice dramatically lit exit photo, I wonder if they were piping appropriate sound track music to enhance the effect?

    Well done for making the vigil.

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    1. I thought there might have been a few more idiots up there, watching, but no - just the odd horse. I tell you, if I'd been on watch on a ship at night, there would have been a lot of false alerts - after a while the village of Pittenweem appeared to be sailing downstream - hallucinations!

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  12. Danka commrade for your full reportski. Wizout your information we would not have known zat zis new imperial warship 'Daily Mail' has sailed. Our fleet eez standing by, over and out...

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    1. I think Ivan will probably hold off until the beast is better equipped. I'd have welcomed a bit of Russian company last night.

      I was standing on the headland at one point, wondering whether social media will play a major part in future conflict. Could we assess the weaponry of an enemy ship, as we closed in on them, by checking the ship's Facebook page? Instead of firing an expensive missile, could we just send them an abrupt message with an angry emoji? Would it make it easier to identify exactly whose fault the loss of the Light Brigade was?

      Please Like our declaration of war and share with your friends.

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  13. What a grand new toy. Presumably while waiting several years for the jets to be ready, we could land a few helicopters on it. Or perhaps it could function as the Royal Yacht for a bit? It is named after Liz, after all.

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    1. Somewhere on one of the press sites I saw a little film showing the demonstrator software they are using to train pilots and flight control crew. Looks very good - they made the point that it will save millions using VR trainers. This is such a valuable saving that I wonder if there is any mileage in the idea of just having a virtual carrier, and we can all download the software (purchase it - better and better) and watch it in the comfort of our own homes. We'd have to sell the Russians a slightly tweaked version, probably.

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  14. Martin Blevins emailed to comment that he would have felt like the Norwegian resistance fighters spotting the Bismarck setting sail - he asks do I have a secret radio hidden in the back of the bookcase.

    Well, no, actually.

    He also asks what film this scene was from - erm, wasn't it Sink the Bismarck? - not sure.

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