London-based boats with fascinating histories and expectant owners are getting ready to play their part in the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant.
By Tom Bigwood
BBC NEWS, 23 April 2012—Dedicated owners have spent months preparing a wide range of vessels to be part of the floating celebration.
One million people are expected to line the Thames when about 1,000 boats form the flotilla as part of the Queen’s 60th anniversary celebrations.
From a “jolly boat” to the vessel that carried Sir Winston Churchill on his final Thames journey – a variety of craft will join the royal procession on 3 June.
The full route, including mustering and dispersal areas, stretches from Hammersmith in the west to the Old Greenwich Royal Naval College in the east and is approximately 14 miles (22km) long.
The official pageant route is about seven miles (11km).
One boat the Queen might recognise is Jolly Brit which is a “jolly boat” from the former Royal Yacht Britannia.
Jolly boats were used by members of the Royal Family and other guests when enjoying trips ashore from the yacht.
Boats of all types, including the New Southern Belle, are taking part
Now owned by Henry Butt, Jolly Brit was a mess when he bought her 15 years ago.
He spotted her for sale when she was languishing on the Grand Union Canal at Brentford in west London.
After dedicating years to her restoration, Mr Butt said Jolly Brit had become a big part of his life.
And so Havengore sails into history – not even the Golden Hinde has borne so great a man “
He said: “She’ll soon be out of the water to have her bottom cleaned when we undertake anti-fouling in preparation for the big day in June.
“It’s been a labour of love to restore her. Taking part in the pageant will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me and the four voluntary crew on board.”
Mr Butt is confident The Queen herself would have sailed on his boat many times, including during her visit to Gambia in 1961 when he claims she used Jolly Brit on a crocodile hunting expedition.
More familiar to Londoners is the replica of Sir Francis Drake’s warship The Golden Hinde.
Although the ship has not sailed from its dry dock in south-east London since 2003, preparations are under way for her to be part of the Jubilee flotilla.
She is a full-sized reconstruction of the vessel which Drake used when he became the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe in 1580.
She has sailed once around the world and a total of 140,000 miles, many more than the original, since being launched in Devon in 1973.
The Golden Hinde is open to visitors at St Mary Overie Dock in Southwark, south London.
Henry Butt has been devoted in his restoration of the Jolly Brit
Troy Richards, Golden Hinde Trust manager, said: “There’s no other ship in the world like the Golden Hinde. It heralded the beginning of England’s Golden Age, the beginning of Elizabeth I’s reign.
“And it was the country’s first maritime museum.”
Havengore sails back into the national spotlight during the Bank Holiday celebrations.
Her proudest, and most solemn, moment came in 1965 when she carried the body of wartime Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill during his funeral cortege.
Churchill’s coffin was piped aboard at Tower Hill as his body went on its final journey on the Thames to Waterloo.
‘Front of the pageant’
Commentating during the BBC’s coverage of the state funeral, Richard Dimbleby said: “And so Havengore sails into history – not even The Golden Hinde has borne so great a man.”
Chris Ryland, who owns Havengore, said: “We are extremely proud and honoured that Havengore has been chosen to play a central role in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee river pageant. Havengore will be part of the royal entourage at the front of the pageant.
“This historic event is set to be watched by millions worldwide, and will add yet another distinguished chapter to the story of Havengore’s heritage.
“As a ceremonial launch, Havengore has hosted her fair share of formal state occasions and is as much a part of London as anything.”
Havengore will be one of the vessels leading the flotilla in June
Mr Ryland has owned Havengore for seven years. Although she was watertight when he bought her, he has rebuilt the engines and introduced safety features so she could be registered to carry passengers.
Havengore was commissioned by the Port of London Authority in 1954 to act both as its flagship and principal survey vessel. She was designed specifically for use on the Thames and built at Teddington.
The Mississippi paddle steamer New Southern Belle may not look like a typical Thames boat, but she is another London-based vessel that will be part of the celebrations.
She is the first American-styled paddle steamer in regular use on the Thames.
She was built by family boat business Turks which has been trading since 1710. She was launched in 1982 and carries up to 200 passengers at a time on her regular route from Richmond to Hampton Court via Kingston.
Owner Richard Turk said: “New Southern Belle’s best moment was when she featured in Culture Club’s Karma Chameleon music video. You can still see the video and New Southern Belle in it on YouTube.
“She’s an iconic boat and there’s nothing like her in London.”
Read the entire story at BBC News online
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