Can we really get through this? This being the lock leading out of Swansea which Trinity House Vessel ‘Galatea’ must go through to get to the open sea. We’re leaving at night – no pilot available till then – which gives opportunities for some dramatic night shots (cameras just lurve lights shining across a night-time dockside, dark sea beyond…) They’ll go well in our film about Trinity House cadet training, ‘Not Just the Day Job’. It was certainly a good call to wait on for the pilot as it doesn’t look like much more than a strictly limited number of feet (inches…?) between dockside and ship. A certain mount of gulping from yours truly, but on the bridge, calm reigns, as Captain Darren Peterson drives his ship out into the Bristol Channel from the starboard control panel. Without a hitch – or scrape.
THV ‘Galatea’ has a highly professional crew – and a welcoming one too. As always with happy ships, that has a lot to do with the quality of the command team, and of course the Captain. This (picture) is Captain Darren Peterson, leader of one of the two alternating crews who keep THV ‘Galatea working’ (and working hard) to make sure our shores are safe for mariners by checking, servicing and replacing buoys, maintaining lighthouses, marking wrecks, and operating with the Trinity House helicopter. And much more. The atmosphere on the bridge is relaxed and friendly – but underneath the instinctive hospitality, there’s a steely determination to get the job done and done right. All the cadets we’ve talked to for our film react well to this – to a woman and man, they love their sea time in ‘Galatea’. So do we.
So… here we are working on another opening piece to camera for our Trinity House training film ‘Not Just the Day Job’. THV ‘Galatea’ is alongside in Swansea, prior to her departure on a sortie out to the Scilly Isles. After this opener, what our cadet presenter Lotty Astbury had to do is a challenge: a “walkie-talkie”, where the talent (as US film crews call their presenters) has to deliver a script, from memory, while walking along and arriving at exactly the right spot at exactly the right moment. Sounds simple? Nope. (The number of retakes I’ve had to do over the years, even with the best reporters…) On camera, I have to follow her and zoom out to show the ship (always a pleasure, that.) Lotty cracks it in one – and then all the safety retakes too. Get in!
So… the next phase for our film about the training Trinity House offers needed to feature our presenter, Cadet Deck Officer Lotty Astbury. This is the first ship she filmed with for us – THV ‘Alert’, the highly up-to-date and efficient Trinity House buoy and lighthouse tender. Only… it was meant to be her THV sister ‘Galatea’… but when we arrived at Harwich to join up with her, we indeed saw no ship – as she’d been called out on a last-minute emergency task, to wreck-mark, for a fishing vessel that had gone down in the Channel (thankfully, the two man crew were OK.) This location was important as the opening “piece to camera” of our film, which has to be right in one take – you can’t put right any mistakes in the edit. Lotty came through with flying colours.
Doesn’t look much, does it? But this is where Trinity House control all their lighthouses – a quiet, medium-sized room close by Harwich Quay. Here 60 lighthouses, and all the lightships, are monitored 24/7, to make sure they are also doing their job round the clock. We were here for our new commission from ‘TH’ – a film aimed at encouraging young people especially to apply for the cadet scheme run by this most ancient and enduring of organizations – first recognized formally by King Henry VIII. Then, ballast (shingle and gravel) was one of the vital needs of ships, and lucrative ballast rights in the Thames were granted to Trinity House by Henry’s daughter Queen Elizabeth. But there’s nothing ancient about the techniques used here, with on-line monitoring of all the assets from St Bees in Cumbria to St Just in Cornwall.
This is THV (‘Trinity House Vessel’) Galatea, the largest of Trinity House’s dedicated vessels keeping our seaways open. Lucky us – we got to work on board her for three days, making our film about ‘TH’s training scheme. Both ship and crew impress, highly. Galatea is constantly at sea – except on swift crew changeover days – checking that buoy lights are working, that buoys are in position, that their solar panels are charging the lights’ batteries OK, and that they’re free of the marine growth that encrusts them as they silently make the way safe for the thousands of ships operating around our coasts. She also maintains all the lighthouses for England, Wales, the Channel Islands and Gibraltar. Light vessels have to be cared for, too. But no keepers – it’s all run online from the Trinity House HQ in Harwich!
Rob is a TV producer, reporter and camera operator with 30 years’ experience at the BBC, Channel 4 and ITN, in news, factual and documentary production. He is a four times award winner, whose awards include a coveted Royal Television Society award for his work on Channel 4 News. His association with The Maritime Foundation goes back to 1995, when he won the first Desmond Wettern Maritime Media Award for a series of reports that led to a major documentary on the loss of the bulk carrier Derbyshire.
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