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The Tall Ships Festival in West India Dock


After the excitement of the first day of the festival and the Royal visitor yesterday, very large crowds descended onto Wood Wharf to get a better look at the ships and in many cases to climb aboard and have a tour.

As stated yesterday, all the ships have there own story often including participation in Round the World  races. However a number of the ships have considerable historical interest as well.


Maybe is a traditional Dutch sailing ketch built by De Vries Lentsch in Amsterdam and launched in 1933 as a round-the-world cruiser. Whatever the original intentions for ship, the occupation of the Netherlands in the Second World War led to ‘Maybe’ was taken to the Dutch town of Jutplaces where she was hidden in the mud in a remote backwater.
After the war, she was recovered and restored in the same boat yard that had built her. Now she was ready for those sailing adventures and took part in first ever Tall Ships Race in 1956.
Further adventures of sailing around the world led to another complete restoration and finally returned to Tall ship races in 2009


Jolie Brise has a history that gives her a special place amongst  tall ships , Jolie Brise is a 56′ gaff-rigged pilot cutter built in Le Havre in 1913, launched by the Paumelle  yard to a design by Alexandre Pâris.

She was built for speed and ocean passages and was the last boat to carry the Royal Mail under sail. However it was when she was bought by E.G Martin in 1923 and after a refit she was reinvented as a racing yacht  participating in the Fastnet race four times, between 1925 and 1930, winning three races including the inaugural race in 1925.

In the 20s and 30s , she was generally used for racing or cruising before in the Second World war she was requisitioned by the Royal Navy, she spent the duration of the war laid up on a mud berth at Shoreham.

After the war, she ended up in Lisbon until the 1970s when she was acquired first on lease and then outright by Dauntsey School who now sail and maintain her.

Duet was  launched in 1912  was once owned by the famous explorer  Augustine Courtauld.

Ownership still remains in the Courtauld family on the understanding she is still operated for the purpose of sail training.

In 2012, Duet celebrated her centenary year by sailing around the UK as part of the ‘Voyage to Success’.


Many of the Tall ships undertake valuable work, training mostly young people in sailing skills, this is a creative use of many of the old tall ships that would otherwise been broken up.

Even the larger tall ships still run by the various navies use the tall ships for training for sailors, recent visits by the Gorch Fock and Amerigo Vespucci to the West India Dock show that this tradition is still going strong.

To prove the river is not all about Tall ships at the moment ,on the misty Thames this morning passing past the Tall ships , a flotilla of narrow boats made their way around the Isle of Dogs.

Also the long time West India Dock resident , the Portwey  taking a rare trip up the river.



The Arrival of the Tall Ships in West India Dock


Walking down the east side of the Island this morning, early morning joggers and walkers came across a rather unusual sight, a line of tall ships moored near North Greenwich.


I say unusual sight but if we go back a 150 years ago it would have been extremely common and in many ways the south dock of the West India Dock was the spiritual home of the clipper fleet in London. Many of the famous clipper ships such as the Cutty Sark and Thermopylae were often moored in the dock.


The South Dock 1885 (Photo National Maritime Museum)

The large number of ships moored  today for the Greenwich Tall Ships Festival are not the largest in the fleet but they all have a story and are interesting in their own right.


Over the weekend, I will be looking at some of the ships in more depth and reveal some of their interesting histories .


Although only the first morning of the festival , there were already a large number of people looking at the boats and talking to the crews.


 Just entering the dock is the John Laing with HRH Countess of Wessex aboard


Standing proud on the other side of the dock is the Stad Amsterdam which is not part of the festival but is well worth a look.