Last Thursday was to be a dry, sunny day so I fancied a road trip afternoon. Initially I was going to the East coast for a walk along a beach but the forecast was for strong breezes and with the cool temps, a beach afternoon didn’t appeal.
So I looked on Google Maps for somewhere else up the coast and saw a marina area at Hartlepool that would fulfill my two objectives of a decent drive and exercise at the destination. I zoomed in and noticed there was a museum, in fact The National Museum of the Royal Navy so I used Google Street View to look closer and found the interest I was looking for…….HMS Trincomalee, a Royal Navy sailing frigate launched in 1817 shortly after the end of the Napoleonic Wars and now restored as a museum ship.
That would do for me.
It was only 70 miles away and the drive would be mostly on motorway or dual carriageway roads so it would only take 75 minutes or so. I noted that just 7 miles from the museum and right on my route was a Toby Carvery so that’s where I’d stop for lunch. My plan was set and so I left home just after midday………
- cruise control keeping the car at a steady 70mph
- climate control keeping me at a steady 70 (22.1c to be precise)
- favourite tunes blasting from the USB player
- Waze app keeping me on the fastest route
- sunglasses keeping the sun glare from my eyes
Yes it was just over an hour of seriously pleasurable driving and I reached the restaurant by 13:15.
Fully fed and rested, it was scarcely a few more minutes after leaving that I was at the enormous museum car park where only about 4 cars were already parked. I’d bought my entrance ticket online before setting off as it was only £6 rather than the £8 it would have been if I’d just turned up and paid. The museum was free and the £6 fee was for exploring the ship and when I showed my pre payment via my phone, they printed me a receipt and told me it covered revisits for a full year.
As I couldn’t be sure of the good weather lasting, I decided to bypass the museum and go on out to the ship to take some external photos, watch a demonstration of guns and cannon firing and then explore the decks.
After the cannon had been fired and the barrel cleared of residue, water was poured down it and pushed out the vent/firing hole to complete the cleaning procedure before reloading. It was fun to see the water spurt out as I didn’t know this task was done.
Then it was time to go on board the frigate and with the few other visitors elsewhere, I basically had the entire ship to myself.
I bet it wasn’t like this on the Bank Holiday !
Apparently 65% of the ship is original with the rest mostly made of replaced wood due to rotting of the original. Only 4 of the many cannons are original but the replicas are fantastic and you’d never tell them apart.
Then it was down to the next deck which had even more cannons than on the top deck and also had the galley with a polystyrene cook rustling up a pan full of something probably inedible for the crew.
Well when I say galley, it was really just a large stove and seemed inadequate for feeding 315 officers and men. Maybe the common crew just brought their own sandwiches and travel mugs, eh ?!
At the far end of this deck was a board room with a large table where the captain would normally eat but could also be used for senior officer gatherings to discuss navigation issues and what movie they were going to watch that night.
Cannons to the left of me, cannons to the right of me, wrote someone once.
The next deck down, the third, was where the officers and crew ate, slept and spent whatever r&r time they got, which probably wasn’t much.
Here are two crew members having a wee dram, some nibbles, playing cards and waiting for fast broadband at the next port. They all loved getting emails from home.
With music streaming a few centuries down the line, entertainment, such as it was, seemed to be on a do-it-yourself basis. Here an ancestor of Ed Sheeran is squeezing out a tune on his old concertina. I was particularly impressed with the electric radiator keeping his tootsies toasty while he played.
A warm crew is a happy crew.
The rows of dining tables reminded me of my old boarding school refectory with probably the same standard of food being served. Ah happy days !
Yep the same food !
In a “room” at the end of the deck was the dining area/table for the officers and occasionally the captain would fancy a bit of company and join them.
I’m not sure if the place settings were accurate of the time, mostly because I’m sure we had that plate pattern at home. Anyway I wasn’t impressed…..and the gravy was cold.
The bottom (4th) deck, the hold, was very dark with several store rooms for sails, ropes, casks and all the other equipment and spares needed to keep the ship in tip top condition. It also held the serious items like cannon balls, gunpowder and the various tools needed to service the armaments.
It was from here that young crew members, usually 12-14 year old boys called powder monkeys, ferried gunpowder from the powder magazine to the artillery pieces, either in bulk or as cartridges, to minimize the risk of fires and explosions. They had to be small to run fast along the decks with their low beams and I was told that if anyone accidentally got in their way performing this vital duty, the offender would be flogged.
However this would never have happened on board the HMS Trincomalee as it never fired its guns in battle.
Half of this deck was off limits to me as I just couldn’t get my unfit fat ass around the tight corners. In my defense I was carrying my phone, my dSLR camera and my man bag so it was all I could do to keep my head down and go around those corners built for my bulk and level of fitness.
Back up on the top deck it was still a lovely day and just before I went off to see the 4pm showing of the “Fighting Ships” audio/visual presentation – which wouldn’t have been out of place at Disneyland – I took the opportunity to have my pic taken at the helm of the ship. The young, friendly and very informative museum staff member who followed me around as I was the only visitor (that’s my story/hope anyway !) took the photo.
He was the fella in the 6th photo ramming his rod into the cannon barrel forcing the water out through the vent hole to remove any residue from the previous firing.
Honestly. He did !
I don’t think it had power steering as I couldn’t move the wheel but in a way I guess that back in the day it did have “crews” control !
Sorry about that. I’ll give myself a good flogging later.
I took loads of photos during the “Fighting Ships” show but I think this post has been long enough and there is still the YouTube video for you to get through. You could ignore it of course but it’s only 17 minutes long and gives a much better idea of my journey along the 4 decks.
Don’t worry, I’ve not added music to this phone video, which is why I was able to upload it to YouTube as they’re more picky than Vimeo about copyrighted music.
So you get a lot of wind noises (I blame the Toby Carvery sprouts) before I go below decks but I hope you still enjoy it, despite my rambling commentary. It was my home movie and I wasn’t intending to have it published.
Make sure you watch it in 1080p and full screen if possible. Hate to waste the quality 😉
Feel free to leave comments on the video or this post.