Down to Bristol on a family visit, our favourite rendez-vous for lunch is the Pumping Station at the lock gate of the floating harbour, a Victorian edifice at the dock entrance to the Avon just upstream from Brunel’s famous bridge and the home port of ‘Balmoral’ who has graced our local waters during June as previously reported.
From there we spotted another old friend who is also based and built here, the Cabot replica ‘Matthew’. She was doing a ‘turn around’, I guess like her Bostonian ‘Constitution’ which has to swap her weathered side around. Also another old friend the motor launch ‘Tower Belle’ returning from a morning trip up and down the Avon; as her name suggests she was once a familiar sight in the Pool of London during the ‘50s.
Over the years we have enjoyed ‘Matthew’ since she was being built in the shadow of st. Mary Redcliffe, designed by the renowned Colin Mudie on the lines of Cabot’s ‘Caravel’. Regular visits with the family meant we were able to keep a regular eye on ‘Matthew’s’ build which was arranged in such a way that Joe public, as well as thousands of school children, could monitor the traditional method of construction. Her major test was to sail to Newfoundland and back in 1997 and we were most fortunate to see her triumphant return on board ‘Balmoral’ who met her at Avon mouth and escorted her into Bristol at the head of a procession of welcoming craft. Most memorable was the Civic service held in St. Mary’s great church, packed to the gunnels and where members of the crew told their tale.
By coincidence I met the promotional team from The Jubilee Sailing Trust at Bristol Grammar School (where Lottie, my granddaughter thrives and also is a keen weekend sailor) in the Great Hall where gap year opportunities were being offered. There I met a crew member of the ‘Lord Nelson’ who had been on board on her recent London visit. By chance I had spotted a disabled member of the crew being hoisted up into the rigging in his wheel chair to get a better view of the Greenwich historic waterfront earlier this week. We exchanged waves and cheers with gusto! ‘Lord Nelson’ is due back in the Thames at Woolwich later this month.