SPOTLIGHT: 22 May, 2007
Tall Ships in London's Spotlight. Cutty Sark and Gothenborg
with Burlington Bertie .
Gothenborg. Photo SE1
all ships of the great days of sail are in the news this week, and its not just Disney's much hyped Pirates of the Caribbean, which opens in UK cinemas this Thursday, 25 May!
Britain's national maritime treasure Cutty Sark, last of the 19th century Tea Clippers, built in 1862 and dry-docked at Greenwich as a museum, was tragically gutted by fire on Monday. The ship is presently undergoing a two year refurbishment and fortunately most of its original timbers and artifacts had been removed, so the ship may yet be saved, though at significant expense.
On a happier note, the Gothenborg, an exact Swedish replica of an 18th century Dutch East India merchant vessel, sailed up the Thames to London on a goodwill visit over the weekend. She is now moored at South Quay, West India Dock, and will be open to the public until 31 May.
Built in 2002 to the lines of the original vessel which sailed out of London 262 years ago in 1745 and was wrecked in the North Sea, this is the only ship like it in the world. She provided a dramatic sight as she sailed upriver past Greenwich Palace in the sunshine. She passed under Tower Bridge and by the Tower of London, where she fired a cannon salute. The salute was returned by the guns
of the battlecruiser HMS Belfast, the World War II veteran moored as a museum off Southwark. The Gothenborg then sailed back downriver to tie up at South Quay at the West India Docks on the Isle of Dogs, opposite Greenwich Palace.
Burlington Bertie's Accommodation Choice:|
22 Hertsmere Rd, Canary Wharf London, E14 4ED
4-Star comfort in the heart of London's now regenerated old Docklands. Large rooms with every facility, together with a 7th floor club lounge and a famed restaurant make this an excellent option for both the city business traveller and vacationer. Take cocktails in the Manhatten Bar and Terrace before dining at the hotel's Curve Restuarant.
A wide variety of Canary Wharf restaurants are situated nearby, including the Royal China, (Peking cuisine); the Gaucho, (Argentinian steaks), Nobu, (Japanese specialities); Sri-Nam, (Thai cuisine); Zizzi, (Italian).
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Gothenborg's crew of 80 professional mariners and trainees had sailed her to Canton and Shanghai along the old tea route plied by windjammers in days of yore, and are on the final leg of their return journey. You are invited to go aboard for a guided tour of this fascinating ship between 26 - 28 May, 10am - 8pm, and between 29 - 31 May, 10am - 3pm.
The 'Isle of Dogs' and its West India Docks was once the busy centre of mercantile commerce in tea, silks and spices in the old days of sail, when Tea Clippers raced each other in 70 days or more from Shanghai and the China Sea, across the Indian Ocean, around the Cape of Good Hope and up the coast of Africa to London. The 200 year old wharf warehouses, counting houses and ship's chandlers were finally made obsolete by the modern container-ship revolution. They have been given a facelift as part of the great docklands regeneration scheme and have been converted into stylish restaurants, bars, hotels and apartments.
Enjoy a day out visiting the Gothenburg at the old West India docks, lunching perhaps at La Tasca, the popular Spanish Tapas bar and restaurant, (tel: 020 7531 9990). If fresh fish appeals to you, a terrace table and a bottle of white wine at Browns restaurant in a converted quayside warehouse, (tel: 020 7987 9777), will fill the bill.
If you are unable to visit her at South Quay, you can watch this beautiful old sailing ship sail up past Greenwich Palace once again on Saturday, 2 June, when it pays a second visit to the Tower of London. Tower Bridge lifts at 3.15pm and 3.45pm for the ship's passing before it sets off back down the Thames on the final leg of her voyage back to Sweden.
I shall be enjoying the spectacle from the Thames-side veranda of the historic Trafalgar Tavern at Greenwich as this fine ship of sail passes downstream on the tide. The Trafalgar still serves a fine plate of crisply fried whitebait, just as it did in the days when Charles Dickens sat there and watched great sailing ships like the Cutty Sark put out to sea.
I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
From Sea Fever by John Masefield, 1885-1967.
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