Saturday, August 15, 2009

Voyage of the Vikings, Day 22 – Greenock/Glasgow, Scotland

Another day, another tour. Let's see - it's Saturday; this must be Glasgow. In the rain. We docked in Greenock, a town near Glasgow with good docks, on the banks of the River Clyde .

The Firth of Clyde and the River Clyde

Keith was up and showered at 6am, in the Crow's Nest watching the raindrops fly by. Entering the Firth of Clyde, the shore is barely visible in the rain. Methinks this countryside would be magnificent in the sunshine. The usual crew in the Crow's nest, talking mostly of shore side tours and of other cruises. It seems the majority of people we meet are marathon cruisers, with numerous cruises under their belt.


Greenock as Seen From the Maasdam

Speaking of shore tours, we are on one this morning for Glasgow and the Burrell Collection. What, you are asking, is the Burrell Collection? So are we.

Aboard the tour bus, we are told by our tour guide that she is a native "Glaswigian". Today's tour guide is as good as yesterday's was bad.

We are told the Clyde is a long river, over 100 miles. And here we thought the Mississippi was long!

Historically there were over forty shipbuilding yards on the Clyde, where vessels such the Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Mary were built.


Low Tide on the Clyde


Rainy Day in Glasgow

As we drive along the River Clyde, we hear something of the history of Scotland. Sounds like a country of underdogs. A succession of loosing rebels who died heroically battling the evil English.

To the right we pass the Chivas Regal factory. Any questions?

Coal, iron, steel, and shipbuilding are the foundations of the old Glasgow economy. Since the 1960's this largest city of Scotland is reinventing itself as a high technology economy. It now is a major regional conference and tourism center. The city is an interesting mix of Victorian and modern. We are told it is about half the population it once was.


Traditional Architecture in Downtown Glasgow


Modern Architecture in Downtown Glasgow


Rainy Bus Window Frames a Fancy Streetlight in Glasgow

Glasgow is a little bit hilly. We are told that these hills are remnants of ancient volcanoes. Funny, I don’t think of Scotland as volcano country, in the way that I think of Iceland as of volcanic origin.

The funniest thing we've seen so far on our voyage is a statue of James Watt, with a pigeon sitting on his head. This is the ultimate fate of all engineers, to be rained upon and shat upon by pigeons, in perpetuity.


Rainy Bus Window Frames James Watt & Companion


Typical Glasgow Street

We are approaching Argyle Street, the main shopping street of Glasgow, which is said to be the second largest shopping center in Great Britain. I'm so impressed!

We are headed now for the Burrell Collection. We still don't know what it is a collection of, but from the build-up, it must be really something!


Scottish Farmstead


Keith Thinks This is a Tractor Museum

Update - it's an art museum, folks. Kathy is walking about, viewing the exhibits, while Keith sits in the Café enjoying another wonderful example of British tea. They say you can’t get a bad cup of tea in Great Britain. So far, I must say it’s true.

In a absolute classic case of pearls before swine, Keith doesn't seem to appreciate art museums. He thinks museums should contain tractors, locomotives, airplanes, airplane engines, and other really interesting things.

On the other hand, Kathy seems to feel this place is the best thing since sliced bread. Different strokes.

Speaking of different strokes, today is the end of our "civilization" touring. After today we are back to natural and scenic wonders, such as volcanoes, the mid-Atlantic rift (again), geothermal power stations, etc. We have thoroughly enjoyed visiting places like Holland and the British Isles, but enough is enough, for the time being, as you can probably detect from some of the sarcasm which has begun to creep in the last couple of days. We are looking forward to a day at sea, then the natural wonders of the Faeroe Islands, Iceland, and Greenland.

We return from touring to learn that the Tahitian Princess is docked in front of us in Glasgow. Hmm - which ship shall we board?


A Steep Descent Reboarding the Maasdam

Back aboard at 12:30 for lunch. Dutch food at the Terrace Grill; sausage salad, red beet salad with herring in sour cream, pork satay in peanut sauce, bami goreng (Indonesian noodles), baked chicken in soya sauce, maatjes herring in platter, red cabbage slaw with carrots, chicken ragout on patty shell, veal croquette, meat balls in gravy, torpedo soft roll-brioche roll stuffed with hot dog. As you can tell, Dutch food is strongly influenced by the long Dutch relationship with Indonesia.


Indonesian Lunch

All this in addition to soup, salad, and half a dozen "normal" entrees and many desserts in the regular grill. Or, formal dining service in the dining room.

After lunch Kathy trudged back to the cruise terminal to shop for souvenirs. While there she logged 15 minutes of free internet, and learned that her father entered the hospital Wednesday, for carotid artery blockage. We are trying to learn more.

On return Kathy put clothes in the washer, while Keith laid down for a nap.

4pm and it's happy hour in the Crow's Nest. Sail away promises to be more interesting than usual today. Skies have cleared, and the sun is even peeking out now and again. Our exit promises to keep us in sight of land for several hours.

Our berth is on a very broad stretch of the River Clyde. Interestingly, the channel width seems only a few boat widths. It seems strange to see large commercial vessels sailing so close to us, in such a wide river. Sort of like Mouse Island on the Connecticut River; lots of water, very little of it deep enough to navigate.


A Narrow Channel at the Edge of a Broad River Clyde

The narrowness of the channel made for an interesting departure. About the middle of the afternoon the breeze freshened on our starboard quarter, blowing us off the dock. We were in the Crow's Nest, where there is no wind gauge, but Keith estimates it was blowing a steady thirty, with higher gusts.


Whitecaps on the River Clyde

Make for a Tricky Departure from Glasgow

Because of the wind, and because our position was somewhat confined in a narrow channel, with another cruise boat dead ahead of us, the captain requested two tugs to assist our departure. The maneuver involved moving sideways to port, away from the dock, then reversing several hundred yards to a wider channel, where the captain could swing us around 180deg to head us downriver. To complicate matters a bit more, it looked like a current of about 4 knots was flowing upstream. Tides in the Clyde are said to be the second highest in the world, after the Bay of Funday.

The risks with this maneuver were that the wind might blow us ahead into the Princess boat, or sideways to out of the channel, grounding us in the shallows. I have read that the bow thrusters on these vessels will hold the boat from moving sideways in winds up to about 20. With the wind blowing about 30, the need for the tugs is obvious.

The mark of a good boat handler is to make it look easy, and our Captain did just that. No muss, no fuss, no bother. Keith was never any more than a mediocre boat handler, so he is all that much more admiring of Captain Van Schoonhaven's excellence.

The rest of our sail away was uneventful, but the views were spectacular, with alternating sun and rain squalls. We sailed down river listing about 10 degrees to starboard in the high wind. I don't understand why the stabilizers didn't correct this list. We later were told it had something to do with the ballast tanks.


Rain Squalls Over the Firth of Clyde


A Traditional Side Wheeler Battles the Chop


The Maasdam Swimming Pool Demonstrates Our Port List

Tomorrow is a sea day. One hundred percent relaxation, no tours. I can't wait. Please don’t misunderstand us. We like the tours, but they are tiring.

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