Falmouth – Greenwich

We anchored in the early hours of the morning just of Leigh on Sea, in Leigh small ships anchorage. When we woke up we could see several of the other Tall Ships were also anchored there. Late morning we raised the anchor and set a few sails to motor sail up the Thames and towards Gravesend where the pilot boarded. Whilst we were still anchored various vessels came closer to say hello and the traditional greeting of water balloons followed.

We moored alongside a pontoon Woolwich Royal Arsenal Pier, with various other vessels having to move so that we could get alongside. Friday saw a busy day on board in the morning everyone went ashore for the voyage photograph and then some intrepid voyage crew who normally use their wheelchairs making the effort to climb aloft with assisted climbs. Others put their faith in their fellow crew members to hoist them up in their wheelchairs.

The Bosun’s mates Ted and Katie with help from others then got the ship dressed overall with flags. A voluntary happy hour was called to get rid of cake crumbs on the deck some had been helping me below decks earlier in the morning. A mad last flurry of lunch and getting into uniform for permanent crew and smarter tops for volunteer voyage crew. The galley team had been working hard making canapés. Gaz made pretty symmetrical patterns with glasses and filling them with red or white wine alternating and flutes with orange juice. Then it was time for the function hosted by ASTO (association of sail training organisations, which we were honoured to have on board. They had invited their patron the Countess of Wessex. Also on board were other invited guests to do with youth projects or sail training. The Countess of Wessex gave a speech and spent some time talking to some of our voyage crew who were delighted to meet her. Amongst the lucky ones to meet her were Mark, Michael M, Alex, and Karen. Their parents couldn’t believe that they had come on a sailing voyage and met royalty.

Saturday saw another very busy day as usual the voyage crew took it in turns doing harbour watches during the night. The ships and vessels around were constantly changing during our stay, as they were doing 2-3 public sails a day, at times not getting back until 22.30, meaning you never knew which ones you would see at any time. Also the clipper ferries use this pontoon as well. Other tall ships are up nearer Greenwich some on buoys, some of the smaller vessels are in West India Dock so the fleet is a bit spread out. Saturday morning saw last minute preparations for the crew parade the transport had been arranged for before lunch so the crew took packed lunches with them to eat in Greenwich Park. They were a colourful noisy crew in various wigs and fancy dress, and they took the Cornish Flag to wave. Gaz the second engineer went and collected the cup for 3rd place at the prize giving after the parade. Following the prize giving was the crew party. Most of the voyage crew were back on board to watch the fireworks at 21.45. We had an excellent uninterrupted view from our stern.

Sunday saw a slightly less frenzied last day than usual with last minute packing and stripping bunks after breakfast and then a final happy hour, before Captain Darren gave a farewell speech to the voyage crew. Then it was a gradual goodbye as people left to go on their various journeys homeward bound. The washing was in mountains in the laundry, and the permanent crew had a quick breath before getting the ship ready for the incoming voyage crew. Watch leaders joined that night.