Let’s deal with the elephant in the room first. I woke up with a bit of a sore throat this morning. It’s probably from the blasting AC on the 3 hour National Express bus ride yesterday, I thought.
Normally I wouldn’t be the least bit concerned … but these are still not quite normal times, so on our afternoon walk back from lunch and visiting the Cutty Sark, I put on a mask and went into Boots for some home test kits.
The dreaded double line appeared almost immediately.
It’s a good thing we generally don’t get close to anyone, and we often mask even when we don’t have to, but a very bad thing that we just got home from visiting friends in Portishead. They were the first people I told.
Naturally, Ted got the same result, so there’ll be no leaving the flat for at least 5 days except to get groceries (if we need them) and walk – far away from other people – in the park. And we’ll be masked. All of that is in line with the UK’s National Health Service guidelines, which now treat Covid (for vaccinated folks) much like the flu or a cold.
Maybe it will rain and we won’t feel so sorry for ourselves.
We’ve both had 4 doses of vaccine, the last one in December, so we’re expecting nothing more than the feeling of a common cold. And no, we have no idea where we were exposed. We’ve been in Greenwich for 12 days, so maybe on public transit?
Anyway, after that revelation, does anyone even care what we did before we knew?
Because the weather was gorgeous, and there are hardly any tourists around, we decided to tour the Cutty Sark, a ship currently in mourning for the Queen.
The Cutty Sark tour, with its downloadable audio guide, was really interesting. We began on the bridge, and then entered the lower hold, which during the Cutty Sark”s shipping years would not have had a floor – it would have been completely filled with tea chests from China, or later with bales of Australian wool. Today, tourists walk on a floor made of tea chests!
Here, as in the National Maritime Museum, there was information tying the tea trade to the Opium Wars. Basically, China wanted to be paid for its tea in silver, which the English did not want to do, so the English began illegally importing Indian opium into China, getting paid in silver by the addicts they created, and using that silver to pay for tea. When the Chinese tried to ban opium, two wars resulted. The British won both – and that’s actually how Hong Kong became a British territory. I find myself becoming sympathetic to the Chinese wanting it back!
We got a really good close-up look at the ship’s composite construction. It was one of the first ships to use lighter weight iron in place of wood, giving it vastly increased speed. Until the Suez Canal opened, giving steam ships an advantage over sailing ships, the Cutty Sark held several speed records for getting tea around the African cape and back to England.
Next we climbed to the ‘Tween Deck (below) which would also have been filled floor to ceiling with cargo. Its floor is slightly curved, so that any water coming down from the weather deck would wash off to the sides and not damage the cargo.
There were also models showing the various ways that the Cutty Sark could be rigged (above), depending upon where she was sailing and how much speed was needed.
On the ‘tween deck there were also displays of bales of wool. When the Cutty Sark was replaced by steam ships going through the Suez Canal from China to London, she was refitted for an Australia to London route, transporting merino wool.
On the return voyage from London, the ship carried whatever the people at her destination wanted from “home”: clothing, household supplies, books and more.
The masthead vane, below right, which would have been gilded to glint in the sun, is shaped like a Cutty Sark (a short nightgown, from Robbie Burns’ poem Tam O’Shanter). This vane was presented to the ship’s captain in recognition of a record-breaking 73 day transit from Sydney to London.
There were lots of interactive displays on this floor: drawers we could pull open to see what kind of food was served on board (lots of salt pork), letters written home by crew members, and memorabilia from the ship’s longest serving master (captain) Richard Woodget.
One of the touch screen displays allowed us to type in our last name and see if there were ever crewmen on the ship of that name. We found a James Brooks!
Next we climbed up to the main deck, where the crew worked, ate, slept, and kept pigs and chickens. It would have been smelly.
We noted the “head”, the two toilets. These were cleaned out by pumping salt water through them; there was no flushing mechanism. We learned that the Cutty Sark was relatively luxurious for having these toilets. Most ships required crewmen to go to the head of the ship and “hang” over the rail to relieve themselves.
We toured the anchor deck, with its black-and-white capstan, which would have been turned using wooden levers in order to bring in the anchor chain.
The rectangular highly varnished teak forward deckhouse is where crew lived. There are 12 bunks for the more junior crew; the entire crew complement was only 26-28 men and boys.
The aft deckhouse was for more senior crew, and had marginally larger bunks.
The galley, which we were unable to tour today, is the one place on board that has a stone floor, as a fire prevention measure.
The master’s cabin and saloon are the only comfortable-looking quarters on the ship.
The poop deck is where the ship’s wheel and the “bread box” containing its steering mechanism are.
After touring the entire ship, we headed UNDER it, to the dry dock where the resplendent,y copper-clad hull is visible. It’s beautiful, but it would always have been under water; copper was chosen for its light weight and resistance to barnacles.
Again, there were interactive displays. I particularly liked these “talking” hats.
This was also our chance to get a close look at the ship’s figurehead, as well as a terrific collection of figureheads from 19th century Merchant Navy ships, collected by Sydney Cumbers. The collection was donated to the Cutty Sark Museum in 1953, when the museum was dedicated as a memorial to the men of the Merchant Navy.
Our walking route home from the Cutty Sark took us through the Greenwich University campus again, where we peeked into the Chapel of St. Peter and St. Paul. Photography is not allowed inside, but that did not prevent us from going in and gawking at the stunning blue and gold ceiling, and the beautiful marble tomb dedicated to the Franklin Expedition’s lost ships Erebus and Terror.
In the chapel was a book of condolences for our Queen, so we took the opportunity to leave a message and sign a physical book instead of the online option. There was no line in the chapel, in contrast to the TWELVE HOUR , FIVE MILE LONG queue expected beginning on Wednesday to see Her Majesty lying in state at Westminster Hall.
Hardly any tourists, I said. But… on the way home walking along the Thames Path we saw the Viking Mars being tugged into port. That’ll be about 800 people in and around London for a day, potentially a few of them on excursions in Greenwich.
That’s it for today. There won’t be anything to blog about until we’re testing negative again, hopefully in about 5 days.