Ships galore

EVEN the most dedicated of landlubbers found pleasures aplenty throughout the Great Yarmouth Maritime Festival.

Now in its 11th year last weekend’s hearty celebration of all things seafaring attracted an estimated 30,000 visitors.

Those whose legs might tremble at the thought of climbing the rigging of the tall ship Shtandart were still able to get a taste of life at sea.

Families queued to clamber on board the three-masted replica of an 18th century Russian frigate which was among the ships moored on South Quay.

Amid renditions of sea shanties, historical characters wandered the quay while the smell of freshly cooked herring wafted on the breeze.

Launched with a volley of gunfire from the muskets of the East Coast Militia, mayor Michael Jeal officially opened the festival before more than 2,000 visitors poured through the gates in the first 90 minutes.

Crowds were also able to savour the bygone grace of the 1915 built wherry White Moth, the 1906 shrimper Horace and Hannah and the 1921 Lowestoft smack Excelsior, officially classed as one of the 60 most historic ships in Britain.

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The current era was represented by the Gorleston RNLI and Caister independent lifeboats which gave demonstrations throughout the weekend, UK Border Agency cutter Vigilant, two offshore supply vessels and the Royal Navy’s HMS Raider patrol craft.

Some visitors were able to enjoy trips on the MV Coronia, the Cobholm-built pleasure boat returning to Norfolk from Scarborough for her 75th birthday, and the Southern Belle, Yarmouth’s resident pleasure cruiser.

There were demonstrations of maritime crafts such as net mending and ship building, maritime related arts and crafts, local herring and kippers, local beer and some of the finest shanty singers on three different stages.

Around 13,500 visitors attended THE BBC Bang Goes The Theory Roadshow with the science shows sold out, delighting organsisers.

There were cookery demonstrations by notable local chefs, walkabout performers, including The Giant Seagulls, displays from the East Norfolk Militia and other street theatre artists as well as appearances by Admiral Lord Nelson and Lady Emma Hamilton.

The town hall was open over the weekend with a display by Gorleston Model Boat Club, which even included a scaled-down Lydia Eva.

Companies from the offshore energy industries manned a marquee highlighting an industry that is revitalising Yarmouth’s relationship with the sea.

On Saturday night The Courtyard on Main Cross Road provided an evening of shanty singing accompanied by real ales from Blackfriars Brewery.

The festival finished on a poetic note with the mayor’s cadet Josh Taylor reading a verse celebrating the festival by Pearl Allard. It was the second year that Pearl, from Yarmouth, had won the competition held through the Mercury. Called Future’s Clean, Power’s Green, it was one of 24 poems entered for the competition on the theme of renewable energy.

The names of the entrants were not given to judges by from the festival’s organising committee until the decision was made.

Delighted organisers are already planning to build on the success of the Maritime Festival next year.

Festival chairman Aileen Mobbs said: “We were very happy with the turnout, which was just under 30,000. Everything went well and there was a good, happy atmosphere.

“No-one wanted to go home, it was lovely sitting by the river. I think there was a little micro-climate on South Quay.

“Although there were not as many tall ships as last year, we had a good mixture of commercial and historic vessels.

“Parking is an issue, but the problem is not bad enough to have a park and ride scheme, which would be ridiculously expensive.

“We are already starting to plan next year’s festival and will review everything that happened to make sure we keep making it bigger and better,” she added.