Dull gray skies spit rain and the wind tore through my hair, but no amount of bad weather could wipe the grin off my face as I steered the Tall Ship Lady Avenel down the River Thames. As luck would have it, my visit to London had coincided with a press event held by the Royal Borough of Greenwich to announce that more than 50 tall ships would be returning to Greenwich in September 2014 for the Tall Ships Regatta. I held the giant red wheel steady as we sailed through the Thames Barrier, taking in the magnificent views of the O2, the Old Royal Naval College, the Cutty Sark and Canary Wharf, wondering how I got so lucky.
Earlier that afternoon, Greenwich city officials and business representatives had gathered to launch the Royal Greenwich Festivals 2013, which showcases the very best in dance, music, art and theater throughout the summer. Following a mini-performance by contemporary dancers and a trampoline artist who flew so high he appeared to be climbing the side of the Old Royal Naval College, they boarded the stately Lady Avenel, where they signed the official contract to bring the Tall Ships Regatta back in 2014, the first major Tall Ships event since London hosted the Tall Ships Race in 1989.
An inner borough in south-east London, Greenwich has always attracted millions of visitors each year and is perhaps best known as the site of the Prime Meridian, which runs through Greenwich, and the Greenwich Observatory, where the designation Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) began. However, the great maritime history of the borough was enhanced when it hosted 34 events during the 2012 London Olympics and Paralympics. Capitalizing on this exposure, the borough hosted the inaugural Sail Royal Greenwich. For three weeks during the Olympics, 14 Tall Ships provided spectacular afternoon and evening cruises that took in many of London’s famous sights along the Thames. Due to the success of the event, a second edition of Sail Royal Greenwich will take place from Wednesday August 28th until Sunday September 1st 2013.
In addition to the return of Sail Royal Greenwich, the borough’s tradition of support for the arts continues throughout 2013, with a calendar of events that includes the following:
Through June 27, 2013
A festival of dance and movement in spaces across Royal Greenwich that features performances and workshops, as Greenwich Dance features some of the UK’s leading dance artists in streets, parks, libraries, and museums
Cost: A range of free and ticketed events
Greenwich + Docklands International Festival (GDIF)
June 21-29, 2013
London’s leading annual festival of free outdoor performing arts (theater, dance, and street arts)
Events in local parks in Royal Greenwich, ranging from live music concerts to electrifying dance performances
Greenwich World Cultural Festival
Greenwich Dance and Greenwich Theatre bring together professional artists and local community performers to transform the wide open spaces, secret hideaways and historic gardens of Eltham Palace with a celebration of dance, theater, circus, and music from around the world
Cost: To be confirmed
Greenwich Music Festival
Through March 2014
A series of public performances, including staged work, dance, chamber music concerts, film, lectures, and educational outreach programs
Cost: A range of free and ticketed events
The exceptional 2013-14 roundup of cultural events in the Royal Borough of Greenwich will be capped by the Tall Ships Regatta in 2014. Dates for the Regatta will be announced when all the ports have been selected and the Race course determined. For more information about events in Greenwich, visit the borough’s official website, http://www.royalgreenwich.gov.uk/events.
If you’re considering a visit to London, my favorite site for finding the best prices on accommodations is Booking.com. I earn a small sum if you book by clicking this link, which helps keep this blog free for you to read.
17 thoughts on “Sailing a Tall Ship through the Thames Barrier in London”
Tallship Chronicles is described on Wiki and various other websites. It was never released on VHS or DVD – but is available from home-tapers. I have a complete set of the episodes.
What a great experience! Glad you had fun!
Looks like great fun! We’ve always wanted to try our hand at sailing but haven’t found the right opportunity yet, hopefully someday soon. Love your photos too!
Thanks Barbara. I always say I can’t decide whether I like photography or writing more, but I guess in the end they both tell stories, which is my aim.
What an amazing experience 😉 I’d love to try it out one day!
Wow looks like great fun behind the wheel!
What a cool experience! You look like a natural behind that wheel 🙂
Dan, you’d laugh if I told you how seasick I get. I may look like a natural, but outside of the river you couldn’t PAY me to get on one of those boats. Fortunately, the Thames was very gentle that day.
Greenwich is one of London’s real highlights – but what a way to get there.
Hi Mark: Unfortunately, after the press conference and sailing trip, I had little time left to visit Greenwich. Only got a glimpse inside the Old Royal Naval College and never got to the Observatory. The grounds are absolutely gorgeous and I may even stay in Greenwich the next time around.
Wow! You do look so happy! I would just love to have done that. Do you remember a Travel Chanel Show called “Tall Ship Chronicles”? I suppose it might even be classed as reality tv, but I loved it. It followed a tall ship, The Picton Castle, for a year. It is the last tv to which I remember being addicted!
Hi Linda: Can’t say that I ever heard of the Tall Ship Chronicles but it sounds fascinating. I’m a sucker for those kinds of shows, so it’s probably a good thing that I rarely have access to TV. I loved the tall ship experience – I really wonder how I get so lucky sometimes.
Have you considered a new career as a sea captain? imagine the far off places you could visit that have much kinder climates than rainy London
Except for the fact that I get terribly seasick, Heather! Fortunately, that wasn’t a problem on the river 🙂
What luck! Everyone thought I was crazy to want to see the Thames Barrier! I go to every arts festival I can find and to enjoy at the Naval College……brilliant…….love that place. Last time we were there, they were filming a 18th c. movie, the costumes and carriages completed the picture. Great photos by the way……what camera do you use? You look like you are in 7th heaven steering the tall ship!
Hi Trixie: I use a Canon EOS Rebel, the T3i, which is not a high-end body, but I spend money on the lenses. Most of the hots you see were taken with a super wide angle Canonn EF-S 10-22 mm. And, I definitely was in 7th heaven sailing that tall ship!