The Cutty Sark, Greenwich
The Cutty Sark - Description
The Cutty Sark is a clipper ship in dry dock in Greenwich next to the Old Royal Naval College. The boat was built in Scotland in 1969 as a merchant vessel for the tea trade and is one of 3 remaining clipper ships of the 19th century built with a composite construction of a wooden hull on an iron frame. The Cutty Sark is 94 feet long, decorated with gold leaf and ornately carved. Her top recorded speed is 17.5 knots. The vessel was named Cutty Sark after the witch Nannie Dee in Robert Burns' 1791 poem Tam o' Shanter. Tam meets a group of witches all of whom are ugly except for Nannie who dances in a revealing garment called a Cutty Sark. The figurehead is a carving of a bare-breasted woman holding a horse's tail in her hand.
The Cutty Sark - History
The tea trade in the early days of the Cutty Sark's working life was an extremely competitive business and there was a substantial bonus for the ship to arrive in London with the first tea of the year. While the Cutty Sark was never the first ship home, she was one of the fastest and in 1871 broke the world record for sailing between London and China completing the trip in 107 days - at her fastest she covered 360 miles in a single day.
The Cutty Sark completed 8 round trip annual journeys to China, but the Suez Canal opened to shipping in the same year as her launch. The canal spelt the end for tea clippers as steam ships could use the shorter route through the canal and deliver goods more reliably, if not more quickly. In 1883 the Cutty Sark started transporting wool from Australia to England and for 10 years she was the fastest ship in the wool trade, however steamships eventually dominated that business too making it unprofitable for a sailing ship. As a result Cutty Sark was sold to a Portuguese firm in 1895 and she was used as a cargo vessel until the 1920s when she was sold on and converted to a cadet training ship based in Falmouth. In 1954 after a collision in the Thames and subsequent repairs she was moved to a dry dock in Greenwich where she remains.
The Cutty Sark - Restoration
In the course of major restoration works in 2007 the ship was badly damaged by fire the cause of which remains uncertain. Thankfully at least half of the fabric of the ship was off-site at the time being restored at another location.
Restoration of Cutty Sark is now completed and she was reopened by the Queen on 25 April 2012. Around 90% of the vessel is original including the masts, rigging, figurehead (called the Naughty Witch) and coach house. The ship is suspended 3 metres above her dry dock and it is possible to stand underneath her as well as go aboard.
The Cutty Sark - Visiting
Entry is by timed tickets available online (http://www.rmg.co.uk/cuttysark/), telephone ( +44 (0)20 8312 6608) or in person on the day.
The Cutty Sark - Website
The Cutty Sark - Getting There
Address: Cutty Sark Clipper Ship, King William Walk, Greenwich SE10 9BG
(click on a station name to find other places to visit nearby)