PLA open day – Pretending to be a Harbourmaster, take 2

A sunny day in Gravesend, visiting the PLA’s open day. This followed an earlier trip in March, on a Harbour Service Launch, and was a further benefit of the Thames Tideway Navigators Club. Some PLA photos here

The new Gravesend to Tilbury ferry – a rather nippy trimaran. Last time I was here the pontoon was occupied by narrowboats.

Lightship 21, now moored permanently against the sea wall, and in use as an art gallery and educational space.

I started by visiting TITAN, the PLA’s relatively new workboat, with every imaginable gadget on board. Lots of technical details here

Various winch and crane controls – managed to resist the temptation

You can see the three joysticks controlling the rudders.

A five tonne sinker, used for attaching buoys etc.

One of the three propulsion engines. Keel cooled. The engineer looked a bit miffed when I asked if had any water in his fuel. The engine room was very clean and tidy, with a lot of sophisticated electronics. Next door the store room was full of cables, shackles, blocks etc.

Starboard prop shaft and stern tube.

And now the MAPLIN – the PLA’s new hydrographic survey ship, packed with loads of sonar and other gizmos, and able to measure its position in three directions very accurately. They had just spent a week or two surveying with a very loud 15 Hz sonar, which is able to see through quite a bit of mud. Thus far they had identified 800 possible unexploded munitions, although quite a few of them were likely to be blank shells from the various forts in the lower Thames! There’s a large hatch in the open stern deck, though which all sorts of devices can be lowered.

One of of the pilot cutters, busy all morning.

London VTS – Ch 69 in the distance, Ch 68 a bit nearer, and then the overall boss in the foreground. In the back row (out of sight) is the team that plans incoming and outgoing ship movements and rosters pilots to meet them. We had a good look at the radar and AIS systems.

PLA’s Gravesend pier, with the RNLI on the extreme right. I got some good advice about lifejacket servicing from their stand at the open day.

On the way home I attempted a recce of the Crayford Creek. Not very successful as a) the train was moving and b) there was no water  anyway, as it was near to low tide.

Here’s a clearer photo from Google Earth, showing both arms of the Draftford Creek and the barrier near the Thames.



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