Another 1000 ton Machine
I saw Cutty Sark for the first time 40 years ago, and was transfixed by its beautiful lines and fine workmanship of construction .
Like most people I was devastated when it was severely damaged by fire in 2002 (or was 2007? I can’t remember. Anyway, they spent a lot of money and time repairing the damage. And I revisited it today.
What the Cutty Sark Trust has achieved is nothing short of remarkable.
Today, when I first saw it again, I thought “what is that strange glass structure around the hull? Are they trying to do something modern and arty?” The masts, rigging and hull otherwise appeared to be unchanged.
Then when I paid my money and went through the entrance… 1. I felt poorer. The entrance fee was $AUD 54 for Cutty Sark and the Greenwich Observatory. 2. I was astounded to see that the entire ship has been lifted off the ground by ~2.5 meters, and is supported by 24 large steel props.
It really is spectacular. The fine lines of the hull are absolutely stunning from beneath. And it has removed pressure from the ageing hull structure, which was sagging from its own weight. The metal sheathing is Muntz metal, an alloy of copper, used to prevent barnacles and algae from attaching to the hull and slowing the ship speed. I am unsure whether it has been renewed, or just polished, but as you can see it is gleamingly beautiful.
And speed was what this tea carrying cargo ship was all about. Each ship load of tea was worth about 6 million pounds, and there was huge competition between the clipper ship captains to be the first home to England with the precious cargo, to get the best prices.
This greyhound of the seas regularly hit 20 knots, and on one voyage from China, averaged 17 knots. (20 knots = 23 mph = 37 kph). Remember, this is a sailing ship. Many modern cargo ships would struggle to reach that speed.
The intricate woodwork in the captain’s cabin and officers areas, the precisely made steering mechanism, the brass fittings are all as I remember. This really is a beautiful machine.