Cambria and friends on way to the Pageant

I went down to Tilbury Landing Stage on Thursday evening because Cambria, lying at the new Town Pontoon at Gravesend, was to start her journey up river ready to join the Avenue of Sail for the Diamond Jubilee River Pageant on Sunday.

It was a dull evening with slight rain, but, with the car on the landing stage, I was able to stay in the dry and just get out when Cambria was ready to sail.   She slipped her moorings at 18.05 and began the first tack across the river.   She looked tremendous.   Two tacks later, and she was near the Tilbury Landing Stage.   I could see everyone on deck, and identified Julie.   I had said I would wave a Union flag, which I did madly, and Julie says she could see me.

And then they were gone, hidden by the massive cargo ship moored at the far end of the Landing Stage because she’s too big to get into the Docks.

Tenacious approaches the Landing Stage

Meanwhile, more treats appeared.   First, the magnificent Tenacious, owned and operated by the Hampshire-based Jubilee Sailing Trust, a charity that promotes the integration of able-bodied and physically disabled people via the challenges of crewing a square rigged tall ship at sea.   As she approached Tilbury, a rib left the ship with six young people in yellow waterproofs who climbed on to the Landing Stage.   They found the deputy harbour master  –  that was lucky, usually there’s never anyone there when you want them  –  and he said Tenacious could tie up at the far end.

Shortly afterwards a little grey motor boat appeared, followed by three sailing vessels.   

MTB 102

The grey job was MTB 102, now in private ownership but built in 1937 as a motor torpedo boat able to mount a quick response to threats from both warships and submarines.   She saw active service mainly in the English Channel.   During ‘Operation Dynamo’, the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk, she crossed the Channel no less than seven times.   In 1944 she carried Winston Churchill and General Eisenhower to review the ships assembled on the South Coast for the D-Day landings.   So she saw both the end of the desperate evacuation of the British Forces from Europe and the start of their determined return.

Jolly Brise

The next sailing vessel was the Jolly Brise, a 1913 Pilot Cutter.   She is the only traditional vessel in the UK owned, maintained and sailed by school students.   She won the first ever Fastnet Race and then two more after that.    In recent years she was the overall winner of Tallships Races 2000 and 2004, being raced and sailed by Dauntsey’s School Students.

She was followed by Provident, a gaff-rigged ketch built in 1924 at Galmpton on the River


Dart, and at 90ft long is one of the medium-sized ‘mule’ class of sailing trawlers.   The Brixham sailing trawlers were legendary deep sea fishing vessels, their design combining strength and stability with manoeuvrability and speed.   Provident is one of only a handful of these famous vessels still in use and is now operated by the Trinity Sailing Foundation for sail training and sailing holidays from their base in Brixham.

Lastly, there was the stately Queen Galadriel, a gaff-rigged ketch Baltic trader built in 1937 in Svenborg, Denmark, and

Queen Galadriel

originally named Else, after the Captain’s daughter.   She traded as a cargo vessel around the coasts of Denmark and Norway, initially as a motor sailor, but after 1956 under motor alone.   By the 1970s she was no longer needed, but in 1983 she was bought by The Cirdan Sailing Trust and went into service renamed Queen Galadriel.   Now the Trust’s flagship, she provides disadvantaged young people with learning opportunities and self development through the challenge of life at sea.

So well worth the scramble back round the M25, actually completed in record time, to see not just Cambria but other vessels taking part in the Jubilee Pageant.   The MTB will be in the flotilla accompanying the Queen.   The others will be in the Avenue of Sail:  Queen Galadriel and Jolly Brise in St Katherine’s Dock, and Tenacious and Provident moored below Tower Bridge on the south side of the river.   Cambria will be moored between Tower Bridge and London Bridge, also on the south side, amongst a good number of her fellow sailing barges.

(Tricia Gurnett)


Posted on 02/06/2012, in Diamond Jubilee River Pageant, Gravesend, sb Cambria and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I need to correct what I said about Cambria being on the south side of the Thames between Tower Bridge and London Bridge. Dave Brooks tells me that she is actually on the north side, right opposite the old Billingsgate Fish Market. So the map on the Pageant’s own website is incorrect.


  2. Hilary Halajko

    I think you should have been on the BBC reporting team, you certainaly know more aboutthe boatsthan they did!!


  3. Thank you Hilary. It was a frustrating day for me watching BBC TV. They got so much wrong, and didn’t show most of the boats. They completely ignored the Avenue of Sail. It seems so simple doesn’t it. You put a camera on one of the bridges, and a camera on each bank of the river at the same spot. Then you show each boat as it goes past. And then you put a camera on a boat which goes from London Bridge to Wapping and back, showing the Avenue of Sail vessels on each side. After all, it was supposed to be a river pageant of 1,000 boats, not a programme about cooking, artists and inane comments from Griff Rhys Jones and Maureen Lipman.


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