Sails sparkle as the Tall Ships go up river

Heard quite by chance that a flotilla of 14 tall ships was going up river from Tilbury.    They are to provide short sails on the Thames in London during the Olympics under the banner Sail Royal Greenwich, and gourmet catering is promised plus a view of all the London sights.

Normally when I go to Tilbury Landing Stage for such an event, there are only a few hardened watchers there, but this morning, driven no doubt by the school holidays and the excellent weather, it was packed.   People everywhere;  the ferry passengers had a great view;  and over there at the new Gravesend Town Pier pontoon was a lady I thought I knew  –  a grey and black lady with fresh paint.   Cambria back ready for the Thames Match on Saturday.

The tall ships were moored at Tilbury Landing Stage overnight, and took passengers on board this morning, who, we were told, had been brought down river by Thames Clipper.   They left the landing stage under motor, but soon the sails began to unfurl.  

Then, on a sparkling sunny morning, they formed up  into a wonderful stately parade of sail for the journey up to Greenwich.    Standing on the landing stage, unfortunately I was facing straight into the sun so the pictures I took are darker than the beautiful day would have suggested.

Once the sails had disappeared  behind Tilbury docks, I raced by car back to Grays and down to the riverside by the old Wouldham works.   I missed the frontrunner, but was in time to see all the rest as they came past.   It was low water, so they had to be right in the middle to pick up the channel.   And luckily the huge Cobelfret ships stayed well back until the parade had passed.

Then they were gone.   The Sail Royal Greenwich website here tells you all about what the ships will be doing, and also mentions that today’s sail had to be curtailed.   They were not allowed to go right to Greenwich for security reasons, presumably Olympics security.   A friend tells me it was disappointing earlier as the river front at Greenwich was packed with people who had come to watch, but the ships had to turn back.   Tonight though they eventually made it to Greenwich. 

(Words and pictures – Tricia Gurnett)


Posted on 25/07/2012, in Gravesend, sb Cambria, Tall Ships, Thames Match and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Chris J Brady

    He he – I remember two occasions when security went by the window on tall ships – so to speak. One was in the 1980s on the ‘HMS’ Rose replica (now the ‘HMS’ Surprise) when she sailed up the Thames and under Tower Bridge. Possibly this was the first time that an 18’th c. design warship had done so. We got her into St. Kath’s – but only just. She was huge. Anyway the next day she sailed down the Thames past Cutty Sark. We’d had a German guy – Hans – on board and he’d just left the voyage. Apparently early in the morning he went down to the Cutty Sark and warned them that they would have cannon fired at them as the Rose passed by. So later not only did the Rose fire at the Cutty Sark, but the Cutty Sark fired back. Wonderful.

    Then in the 1990s I was on the HM Bark Endevour – the replica of Cook’s ship. We were leaving Portsmouth and asked if we could fire cannon in farewell. The Naval and Dock authorities said ‘no’ due to the security issues involved. The BBC were there filming her. I was on helm. Suddenly all hell broke lose as the command “fire in the hole” rang out. Yes – Endeavour had fired her cannon. Trust the Aussies to ignore instructions. Again great fun.

    BTW there was no issues with Rose using St. Kath’s – but we did have one heck of a job finding anywhere for Endeavour. All plans for St. Kath’s were cancelled at the VERY last minute after we’d spent weeks discussing passage through the lock, positioning for public visits and loading supplies, facilities for the crew, etc. Luckily Woolwich down in the East End came to our rescue. But the Aussies were NOT impressed with St. Kath’s at all.


  2. Thanks, Chris, for the great stories.


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