St Katharine's Dock mobbed


More than 20,000 people flocked to view the classic boats moored in central London over the weekend. An average of 1,000 visitors an hour poured into the former wine and ivory docks to see the boats moored there.

The St Katharine Docks Classic Boat Festival 2014 broke all previous records with attendance and boat numbers. More than 45 historic and classic vessels were crammed into the ancient dock, two of them, the motor-vessel Havengore, which carried wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s coffin to Westminster in 1965, and Pioneer the magnificently restored East Coast Skillinger, were forced to remain moored in the lock, as the dock itself was full to bursting.

The festival included several of the Dunkirk Little Ships that took part in ‘Operation Dynamo’ in 1940, including the recently restored gaff-rigged cockle boat Endeavour from Leigh-on-Sea, and a sample of the boats that participated in the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant in June 2012. Even Gloriana – the Queen’s Row Barge was on special display. First-time participants this year included an Essex Smack built in the 1860s, a yacht built for sailor Humphrey Barton, an Oyster Smack, a Danish sailing trawler, and a Fairey Huntsman 28.

Yachting Monthly was invited to present the prizes for the best-dressed vessels. Cruising editor Dick Durham sailed his own boat there – Wendy May a 1936-built 26ft gaffer designed by Maurice Griffiths – to judge the winners and the prize-giving was held aboard one of the historic craft – Cambria, the last vessel to trade under sail alone, which aptly enough Dick was mate aboard in 1970 when she discharged her last freight.

The winners were 1st: Sunbeam, a fully restored Colchester smack, whose skipper/owners, Nigel Butt, Tim Bradshaw and Tony Arnaudy were flying more match-winning pennants than any other craft. To them went a plump hamper donated by Tom’s Restaurant and Deli. Second came the beautiful Creag Dubh, whose light display put Southend Pier in the shade. Her skipper, Ian Ruffles, won a year’s subscription to Yachting Monthly.

This annual free event forms part of London’s ‘Totally Thames’ Festival and welcomed the return of many vessels from last year’s Festival as well as over a dozen new participants bringing an esoteric collection of boats.

With a large display of vessels being featured, this year’s popular event had expanded into the west marina for the first time, and included the sailing research vessel Song of the Whale. The west marina was also home to the UP Projects’ ‘Floating Cinema’ barge, showcasing arts.

With vessel information boards positioned around the central marina, visitors were able to learn about the background and stories surrounding the vessels.

Dockside activity included sea shanty singers and the National Youth Jazz Orchestra.

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