Celebrating the Golden
Age of Shipping

British Isles Heritage Trail

June 22, 2010

An end of voyage report on the Around Britain Voyage of Maritime Memories

With so many special treats in store, this was always going to be another very difficult voyage to arrange, but I’m pleased to say that we did it and it was a huge success all the way, right from the moment we cast-off in Harwich at the start of the voyage.

We had about 180 Maritime Memory passengers with us and it really was a very special voyage. 

As we moved away from the Harwich quayside, one of the Harwich Svitzer tugs came alongside to give us a special New York style, VIP send-off and an amazing display of tugboat manoeuvrability and seamanship just for us It really was a spectacular display and something not to be missed.

You know, it would seem that on all these special voyages of Maritime Memories we are so blessed with the weather and it was sunshine, sunshine and friendly blue seas all the way.

Our first port-of-call was Guernsey where the local authorities provided a great Civic welcome for all us Maritime Memories people, with a Vin d’Honneur at the impressive Castle Cornet. 

Now to all of you not familiar with such an event, all I can say is that there was booze for as far as the eye could see. Well, almost!  No, but they really did lay on the old wine, and really good stuff at that, which made our return to the ship more reminiscent of ones we used to do years ago, when nipping ashore for a beer or two before, under the influence of too much booze, trying to find the way back to our ships.

Thank you Capt. Peter Gill and all the really nice people on Guernsey who worked so hard to arrange this special Maritime Memories welcome.    

Well, there just isn’t time to write a full report on the whole voyage but one thing is for sure, wherever we went we were made so welcome and I can say in all honesty that it made us all feel proud to be just that little bit special and to be part of our great maritime heritage.

Calls into Tresco in the Isles of Scilly and then Dublin fair City were followed by Liverpool which was special of course and one again, the weather was fantastic and I don’t think any of us have ever seen the City looks so good. It certainly wasn’t like that the last time I paid-off there, that’s for sure!

Once again all us Maritime Memories people were given VIP treatment including a special tour around the magnificent Cunard building, one of the “Three Graces” of the Liverpool waterfront that have been given special European recognition.

The interior of that building is truly magnificent and the view from the roof was fantastic.  That’s our ship down there at the landing-stage, right where the old ships used to berth during the golden heyday of the port. It was all so nostalgic and you just couldn’t have wished for a nicer day.

When we sailed at close to midnight, it was still warm and the whole City seemed to light-up.  Whistles blew and music played as we slipped our mooring, and then, to add a truly magical touch to the whole scene, a magnificent full-moon slowly rose into the starry night sky, taking its place above the Liver-building and those never-to-be-forgotten, Liver-birds.    

Quite honestly, it was worth going on this voyage just for that experience alone, but there was more and more to come.

We had lots of special dinners onboard, with fantastic evening meals being prepared from the menus of the “Saxonia”, “Olympic”,  “Northern Star”, “Windsor Castle”, “the “Port Auckland”, and the luxurious Cunarder “Caronia”, all of which made sure our food aboard was not only great, it was also even better than the stuff they used to serve up at our old sea training schools!   (Difficult to believe hey?)

Our arrival in Belfast was greeted by another wonderful VIP welcome from a Svitzer tug sending up plumes of water, and to play us alongside was the “Friendship Band, all of which, together with more and more beautiful weather, gave us another wonderful maritime experience.

We had our own buses waiting for us on the quayside to take us to the last White Star liner still afloat, the “Nomadic”.  She was fondly known as the ‘Titanic’s Little Sister’ and was built to take passengers out to the Titanic and the Olympic when they called in at Cherbourg.

“Nomadic” is now being lovingly restored in drydock, but the wonderful people restoring her welcomed us aboard and gave us a tremendous tour of the ship, all of which was a very moving and eerie experience as we walked through the ship, even sitting in the very same seats that those ill-fated ‘Titanic’ passengers sat in as they sailed out to board their ship; a truly moving experience indeed. 

It really was another very special day; they opened the H&W ship yards especially for us, so we could stand in the very spot where the “Titanic” and her sister the “Olympic” were built and by the dry-dock where, after being fitted-out, they were berthed for the final touches to be made to them before going to sea.

They also opened the old drawing offices where these great ships – and others such as “Canberra” were designed – and where we were given a special talk by Susie Miller whose great grandfather helped to build the “Titanic” and then sailed on her – only to be lost in the tragedy that followed.

I just have to give a special mention to Roy Snowden from the World Ship Society, who took us everywhere. I’ve already mentioned the old H&W designer office where so many great ships (Including ones that so many of you will have sailed on) were built.  How strange to be able to stand in those dilapidated offices today, knowing that not so very many years ago, they were at the very hub of the world’s greatest shipbuilding city!  Colin Cobb also did so much for us and showed us around.  What a great sense of humour!

And then there was more..! Belfast Harbour Commissioner’s Offices were opened for us, where we were given yet another special Maritime Memories tour, which included an unforgettable visit to the room where they store rare artefacts made for the “Titanic” including glass and silverware and, the magnificent dining table made for her Captain, that was going to be delivered to the ship in Southampton when she returned from her maiden voyage.

Today that table rests in an eerie silence; what stories it would have been able to have told had the “Titanic” returned and this table had been the centre piece for so many great dinners attended by the world’s most prominent people.

I actually manage to sit at the table in the Captain’s seat and as I sat there all on my own, it really was a very strange experience.

Anyway, we were so looked after extremely well and, once again, it was a fantastic day and one we will never forget.

Back onboard the ship we had more wonderful dinners, great entertainment including cabaret, our own maritime lectures and parties and, quite a few of the old drinks – but who cares, for we were all having the time of our lives.

There were special welcomes for us in Oban and in Invergordon, where they arranged another great Maritime Memories welcome with a civic reception furnished with tea and tabnabs and drinks of the alcoholic variety, lined up six deep, all along the bar!  You should have seen the bright little twinkle in the eyes of some of our old salty-boozers as they lifted the glasses of finest whisky to their eager lips.

Entertainers came aboard to give us a special Scottish farewell, and then pipers played on the quayside as we sailed,.

It was all so special, and to think that so much was done for us in such a faraway place as Invergordon really speaks volumes.

It was a spectacular sailing as the warm evening sun paved our way to the open sea.  Thank you Invergordon and all the people there that did so much to make us feel so welcome; people like Capt. Iain Dunderdale, without whom our Maritime Memories visit just wouldn’t have been the same; absolutely bloody fantastic

Pictures 26 & 27

Were there any down moments?  Well I have to say that no-one wanted the voyage to end and there was more than a hint of sadness when we came alongside in Harwich.

We all made our sad farewells and then it was time to wander back down the old gangway into the reality of the modern world.  But we were left with some wonderful memories and a whole lot of wonderful new friends.

I’d like to give a special thanks to David Hutchings for the use of the pictures used in this letter… How nice of him to say sober long enough to take them!

I would also like thank all of you who sailed with us for… well for just being you and for giving us all a very special voyage and one we will never forget.

And finally, I wish you all could have been with us, for what a great time we would have had then!

Best wishes,

Des Cox.    

Maritime Memories.