After the devastating fire of 2007 it took five years and cost £50m to restore the 212ft clipper ship Cutty Sark. The ship, at Greenwich, has been very authentically returned to a clipper, but it is a very different visitor’s experience to the original display.
Before the fire the Cutty Sark had been presented as a ship in a dry dock about to return to sea. She would never have gone back to sea because her 1869 iron frames were far too weak but they still remain and 540 of the original teak planks.
Now the ship is suspended in the air and has a glass roof at her waterline. The ship has become very much a visitor’s attraction and with the glass roof it is difficult to get an impression of the whole ship. However, walking under a 963 gross ton clipper is a unique experience.
The Cutty Sark was built on the Clyde at Dunbarton in 1869 as a tea clipper, to bring the first of the season’s tea back from China. She was built to beat the Aberdeen clipper Thermopylae, but never did. Under Captain Richard Woodget the Cutty Sark achieved fame for her fast passages in the wool trade from Australia. Woodget brought her home from Sydney in 1885 in a record 73 days.
When Captain Richard Woodget left the Cutty Sark he apparently became a coal merchant in North Norfolk, at Brancaster Staithe Quay. In the late Victorian period small ketches such as the Blue Jacket were bringing coal in until 1914. The Quay was repaired in 2007 for the shell fishing boats and just below it lies the 37ft beach ‘yoll’ Amity wasting away for the want of attention. The Amity was built in 1912 to run trips under sail off the beach at Great Yarmouth, but her hull is based on the famous East Anglian salvaged yawls. She was damaged when the German Navy shelled Great Yarmouth during World War I. Later The Loose family of Brancaster used the Amity for mussel fishing and she proved to be a good sailer when she became a cruising yacht.