Tall Ships Ahoy!

I have kept a weather watch on the sea routes which approach the safe haven of Falmouth, as tall ships arrive for the great assembly of competing vessels to take part in the most iconic race and regatta. Europe’s historic vessels large and small will be tackling the perils of the Western approaches. Storms have endangered these historic craft before, but the mid-August entrails of Bertha, the tropical Caribbean hurricane, have created havoc across the Atlantic all the way, creating a nightmare for skippers as they set out from their European home ports. The powerful squalls have echoed the effects of last winter’s extraordinary storm which buffeted Cornwall and Devon.

Often inexperienced crews have to react so quickly to trim their extensive and lofty sails to cope with the most unexpected turns of weather as the barometers go crazy. Many of the training vessels carry disabled youngsters and, faced with extreme weather conditions, keep them restrained down below, not venturing on deck. Being also unsteady on my feet, the thought of coping with these conditions fills me with fear. The last sea voyage I attempted across the Thames Estuary over the Maplin Sands to the River Blackwater was too much for my lack of mobility and I had to jump ship from Robert Thorling’s Drascombe Lugger at Bradwell Waterside (close to the nuclear power station) which is naturally isolated away from general population and communications too.

The painful realisation that sailing was no longer for me reminded me to opt out of my daughter’s plan to join them on their yacht reviewing the tall ships in Falmouth’s fabulous harbour. The decision not to join them in Cornwall for this maritime festival was upsetting for all, but the realisation that the very same fleet will be passing our Crane Street riverside residence a week later resolved my disappointment. However, I have studied the various tall ships in detail via my newly-acquired tablet, and happily produced a detailed graphic impression for all to see, copies of which are available on www.peterkentgreenwich.com. To satisfy curiosity, I have visualised the effect of the tall ships on their unique voyage up Father Thames. In anticipation of this event numerous sketches have been produced – let’s hope my imagination captures the promise to come!

Tall ships Regatta and Festival - STRAIGHTENED no lines small

click on image to enlarge

I wonder how many friends of the Maritime Museum recall tall ship visits to the Clyde, Bristol and Newcastle which forewarned me of the large crowds that will descend on Greenwich. For the festival, I plan a mini ‘pop-up’ gallery at 15 Crane Street (just by the Yacht pub) where prints can be seen and ordered.

Memories also come to mind of a visit to Cherbourg, staying at a hotel set amidst the tall ships moored on the historic Atlantic terminal – perfectly planned by Desmond and Carol Pritchard. I remember meeting the principal organiser in the sale á manger who pronounced that London was not interested in tall ships. Happily, how wrong he was!

I am looking forward to hearing from my spy at sea on the suitably named ‘Eye of the Wind’ and to report back to one and all


PS: To continue this report written while in Faversham, the home port of the Danish ‘Eye of the Wind ‘where she was remodelled to become a notable tan-sailed tall ship. Our favourite Creekside Italian restaurant is bang next to Lerra Reekie’s house and moorings. By chance we were at adjoining tables and I asked her if she remembered the ‘Eye’. She was obviously much involved in maritime goings on and was able to answer all my probing questions with alacrity. I promised to report on this blog how she fares in the Falmouth race to Greenwich as one of her crew has promised to chart the ship’s progress in order that my Riverwatch blog is hot off the press! I can’t wait!

I must remember to thank both Tony and Helen Othen for handling these ramblings for your personal consumption. Without them they would remain in my spiral notebook, stashed away in my studio!

tall ships white001

click on image to enlarge

About RiverWatch returns

Peter Kent shares his Thames riverside studio viewpoint

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