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)