bunn (bunn) wrote,


Every year, Plymouth hosts the British Fireworks Championship, in which six professional firework companies compete over two days.  You can go and watch for free from lots of places all around the city : a couple of times, Pp and I have sat on Plymouth Hoe to watch, which gives a pretty good view.  But from the Hoe, you can't help noticing that the best vantage point of all for seeing the fireworks is from a boat on the waters of Plymouth Sound...  So this year we arranged to do that.  It sounded like a great idea, up to a few days beforehand, when the weather forecast for that day went to 'rain, possibly thunderstorms'.

But how wrong could it go, right?We had arranged to take the boat from the Cremyll quay, which is over the river from Plymouth.  After the weather had scared us with a short burst heavy rain on the way there, there was no sign of a thunderstorm at all.

We were slightly unnerved by the guy driving the boat, who had excellent Viking hair and giant beard.  He greeted the arriving boat trippers with a cheery cry of 'I've never been to Cremyll before so give us a tick so we can work out how it works, yeah?'

But he worked out how the quay worked in the end, and we all piled into the Weston Maid, a little ferryboat which normally does duty ferrying summer visitors from Plymouth across the sound to the Rame peninsula.  The Weston Maid was, we learnt, originally built as a lifeboat for the liner Canberra.

I'm not quite sure why the boat trip was planned to start quite so early, but it was quite pleasant pootling around the Sound, and still there was no rain.  We went out to have a look at the breakwater and saw some oystercatchers.  I looked out for dolphins, but no luck.  I never see dolphins in the Sound, though people keep telling me they are about.    Then we came in to the Barbican and popped out for a loo break.   Some people bought coffee, but that seemed a rash move given that we were getting back onto a boat with no toilets.

Setting off again the light was fading, and the fair on the Hoe was lighting up and booming out music.

This was the biggest boat that seemed to have turned up specifically to see the fireworks:  the THV Patricia.   I looked her up later: apparently she has a schedule of 'maintaining buoys, servicing light-vessels and lighthouses' but she also carries passengers, which is presumably why she turned up to see the fireworks.

She stayed further out than all the other boats, which, like Weston Maid's viking crew,  chose a floating position drifting  slowly West.

I wish I could have photographed all the boats,  but my few attempts were no good at all, what with the dark and the movement (although it was quite calm by then, the wind had dropped).
They were an amazing assortment of all ages and sizes, from kayaks on up.  Old wooden sailing yachts,  battered fibreglass sailing dinghies, shiny vintage wooden motorboats, practical little fibreglass yachts and shiny newly-built luxury motor-yachts  ('No use for anything'  said the Head Viking disapprovingly .  'all you can do is drive 'em, they've got no deck at all!')

The fireworks were magnificent, and very, very loud.

At the end of each display, everyone cheered and the boats that had horns hooted loudly.   The THV Patricia had by far the biggest and best hoot, and hooted after everyone else.

We all agreed, on the Weston Maid, that the last display was by far the best one.

As soon as the last firework went off, the Weston Maid leapt into trundling motion, going at her top speed back towards the Cremyll quay.  We wondered why the Viking was in quite such a hurry, and then we realised that the Edgecumbe Belle, the other ferry that had left Cremyll that evening, was coming up behind us!  And behind the Edgecumbe Belle, a great queue of other strangely-assorted boats, all motoring for all they were worth.  The Viking observed that it was like the Wacky Races, and it really was.   Everyone was going hell for leather West, presumably all hoping to get into the mouth of the Tamar or the Lynher rivers where they were mooring up for the night.

We weren't heading for the Tamar, but for Cremyll, so we were a little out of the main Wacky Race.  Sadly  for the Viking, who had presumably hoped to get back to the quay and offload his trippers first, the Edgecumbe Belle turns out to be considerably more powerful than the poor little Weston Maid, and overtook us to get back to the quay first.  Which is fair enough really, because Cremyll is the Edgecumbe Belle's home quay and she had new trippers to pick up there and take back to Plymouth : they had been watching the fireworks across the water from the hillside there.

But we got back to the quay in the end (I don't know if there were other boats behind us).   The moon came out!  And then we were very glad to have set off from Cremyll, because we had a nice quiet drive home, rather than competing with all the queues getting out of Plymouth.
Tags: boats, cornwall, devon, tamar valley, yay
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