Things looking up for Yarmouth Maritime Festival

THINGS are literally looking up for Great Yarmouth’s Maritime Festival with a daring aerial circus act set to tumble from the rigging of a magnificent tall ship.

The Lord Nelson will berth at South Quay for the two-day festival and provide the backdrop to the Pirates of the Caribina aerial display by the No Fit State Circus.

The swashbuckling stunt will herald the start of the popular event, now in its 12th year and whose line-up – one of its biggest ever – was confirmed this week. The festival opens from 10am to 6pm tomorrow and 10am to 5pm on Sunday.

Around a dozen craft from impressive tall ships to bright offshore supply boats will bob alongside each other offering more access and trips than ever before.

Also featured will be the wherry White Moth – the last one ever made – harking back to the golden age of sail, a war veteran and a movie star.

But the main attractions will be the spectacular tall ships including the Oosterschelde, the only remaining three-masted Dutch topsail schooner in the world.

Originally built in 1918 and restored to her former glory in Rotterdam in the early 1990s the Oosterschelde has a beautiful wooden panelled lounge-bar area and can carry up to 120 passengers.

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Named after the river Shelde, which runs from France to Holland and splits into the eastern ‘ooster’ and western Scelde in the Netherlands before reaching the sea, the Oosterschelde set out as a freighter before being converted into a modern motorised coaster and then refurbished.

Passenger sailing trips from two to four hours are available until tomorrow.

Ken Sims, chairman of the Greater Yarmouth Tourist Authority which organises the festival said: “Sailings on the Artemis and Mercedes at previous Maritime Festivals proved very popular with visitors who were keen to experience life under sail out on the high seas.

“The Oosterschelde is possibly the most magnificent of all the tall ships who have visited so far, and is sure to be a great asset.”

The Jubilee Sailing Trust’s Lord Nelson, a regular visitor, is one of only two tall ships in the world especially designed for a crew with a range of disabilities.

Built over two years from 1984 to 1986 in three different locations, she has taken over 24,000 people on voyages to ports all over the UK – but rarely hosted circus acrobats.

River cruises including a trip to the outer harbour will be available at 11am, 1pm and 3pm on both days of the festival aboard the MV Coronia, a 1935-built pleasure steamer which used to take trippers out to see the seals. She rescued 900 troops from Dunkirk during the second world war and afterwards returned to use as a pleasure cruiser in Scarborough where she still works.

Trips will cost �5 for adults and �3 for children; tickets can be bought on the day on the quayside.

Other boats and ships attending the Maritime Festival include the the MTB 102, a motor torpedo boat built in 1937 and restored to feature in the 1976 film The Eagle has Landed, starring Michael Caine. It is also hoped that the Excelsior, officially one of the 60 most important historic ships in Britain, will be in port.

Lifeboats on show will include the Samarbeta from Great Yarmouth and Gorleston RNLI, an all-weather Trent Class seagoing lifeboat and Caister Volunteer Lifeboat Service’s Valentijn Class life boat, the Bernard Matthews II.

It is also anticipated that the MV Confidante, a coastal survey vessel owned by Gardline, and the HMCC Vigilant will be in port. Built in 1989 and subsequently rebuilt in 2000 the MV Confidante houses two 50m2 laboratory areas and a range of technical equipment.

HMCC Vigilant is part of Her Majesty’s Customs Service fleet. She patrols and protects the UK coastline 24 hours a day, all year round, using up-to-date technology, intelligence and highly skilled staff to combat smuggling and enforce Customs controls.

l The Maritime Festival is tomorrow and Sunday. For sailings contact Great Yarmouth Tourist Information Centre on 01493 332200.