Thursday, May 31, 2012
Julian and Jeannie live in Deptford Creek. Twelve years ago Julian – a boat builder by trade – rescued an old boat from destruction and brought it back to their moorings in the Creek. Initially, he rebuilt the main cabin and cockpit, and most recently he has been restoring other parts of the boat to get it into shape for the role it's about to play in the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant on Sunday.
The boat was originally a lifeboat, and like many boats of its age (it was built in 1924), it was converted to a motor cruiser in the 40s. Quite a few working boats were rehabilitated at around that time by amateur enthusiasts for whom sailing and motor cruising would otherwise have been financially prohibitive. But there are very few boats like this remaining, which makes Cathia special enough to be included in the 1000 boats accepted for the flotilla.
Cathia will be processing in the Lifeboat Section of the flotilla (a "bureaucratic mishap since it's no longer a lifeboat" says Julian) within the larger category of "Historic & Service". From the tons of paperwork – much of it to do with security – involved in this extravaganza, Julian and Jeannie have gleaned they will be in the middle of the 7-mile long armada, which is expected to take around four hours, with the Queen's barge now confirmed to be leaving Battersea Bridge at around 2.40pm.
Firstly Cathia must 'muster' at West India Quay on Friday evening, spend the night there, then progress to the main mustering area west (or upstream) of Hammersmith where they will spend Saturday night. No expenses are paid to the 1000 boats taking part, but Julian's boat is a lot cheaper to run than a car, so he's not too worried if there are delays in this unprecedented use of our river.
For those Republicans amongst you who haven't got riverside tickets but still want to catch a glimpse of what is described as a unique spectacle in our lifetime, most of the boats taking part will be 'dispersing' from Tower Bridge after 5pm and must report back to West India Quay, so will be sailing back to Greenwich and can be viewed, from nearby riverside vantage points, sailing past with probably a bit less of the pomp and ceremony, flag waving and bell ringing that will feature in the main event.
Julian's request to do a right turn (sorry, go starboard) into the Creek on their way home was disallowed – Cathia must progress on past Deptford Creek, to the 'roundabout' at Greenwich Yacht Club, then come back (via the north bank, since oddly, river traffic takes to the right) to come home.
We're especially proud that such a lowly and lovely old boat from Deptford Creek as Cathia is taking part in this special river pageant, and it's hardly a surprise that Julian is also the man behind The Lenox Project – one of the projects put forward by Deptford Is... to regenerate Convoys Wharf.
Build The Lenox wants to build a replica wooden 17th century warship in the place it was originally built, the King's Yard in Deptford (Convoys). It aims to create opportunities for all in jobs and training (in both modern and heritage maritime skills) as well as tourism. 'Warship' may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about boats, but Lenox was the first in a boat-building project begun in Deptford, overseen by Samuel Pepys, that led to Britain's position as a leading maritime power.
Julian's next voyage is this June, to Rochefort in France where the town is about to celebrate the launch of the hull of the replica warship Hermione which they've been building there for several years (from plans made by the English navy whose ship overtook her in battle). Rochefort has much to celebrate – this small town's fortunes have turned with this project, bringing employment, training and tourism, and now has 250,00 visitors a year.
Truly inspiring. Go Deptford!!!
Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant
Build The Lenox
For boat lovers in our part of town, there is also an Avenue of Sail to be seen around Tower Bridge from Friday, which features "some of the world's most historic and beautiful boats" which are too large to travel in the flotilla on Sunday. It seems to be free but may be mobbed! See the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant website for details.