Christening a boat or two
It’s always an uplifting occasion to welcome new build vessels as they go through the time-honoured custom. Down at Maldon up in Essex – a port with historic and modern connections with Thames Sailing Barges, the ‘work horses’ that plied in shallow waters transferring goods from ship to up-river wharves.
The sun shone at the gathered company assembled on the Hythe quayside to welcome a brand new sprit sail barge to the fleet. A guard of honour mounted by sea cadets and Royal Marine lads set the tone as this purpose-built barge especially for young people to learn the ropes was christened ‘Blue Mermaid’.
The Sea Change Sailing Trust already charter similar craft to provide action-centered learning and seamanship training to disadvantaged and socially excluded young people based here at Maldon. The hull was built down in Cornwall and towed up to this Essex port to be filled out and fully rigged by traditional local craftsmen.
For years I have enjoyed the sight of their magnificent tan sails navigating the estuarial waters, and when they pass by our Greenwich house everything stops to observe these gracious craft sail past. Well, this is exactly what ‘Blue Mermaid’ will do as she will be engineless, which surprises one and all. The idea is that she will work the tides and wind just as her forebears which thronged the Thames Estuary and London river.
The gathered company that witness the christening ceremony will hopefully help to raise the necessary funds ready for next year’s season when young folk will be able to participate together in a unique bonding experience as they man this challenging new craft. I wish I was their age again!!
Earlier this year, the brand new ‘cruise ship’ came to Greenwich to be christened and launched into an extensive marketing exercise.
A new ro-ro Cobelfret ship in the Essex-Belgium run that sails from Purfleet also was ‘launched’ to international shipping folk gathered on board at Greenwich Tier. Memories of previous celebrations include both naval and merchant Navy new builds which just love Royal Greenwich’s maritime background for marketing purposes. Who can blame them?
Memories of similar naming ceremonies of new waterman’s cutters at Trinity House on Tower Hill and at Mark Edward’s Richmond boat yard – more private but as emotional as the Grand Reaper takes his toll.