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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.


( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
20th Aug, 2016 00:25 (UTC)
Every year, Plymouth hosts the British Fireworks Championship

That is, basically, unfair, and I want to know who to complain to!

The pictures are unreal. That last one reminds me of Pirates of the Caribbean, for some reason.

(When I lived on a boat in Cambridge, we decided to watch the annual fireworks display from the river. What we didn't realise was that that put us between the fireworks and the crowd, who were being kept at a safe distance, and we got showered with bits of hot metal. It was exciting, though).

20th Aug, 2016 07:37 (UTC)
I believe it was someone in Plymouth who came up with the idea that there should be a British Fireworks Championship: I bet other tourist cities are kicking themselves that they didn't think of it! It is a great location for it, the shape of the harbour makes a sort of huge natural amphitheatre, and the fireworks are set up on a breakwater.

(I have to admit, I'm glad I don't live in Plymouth because it would be a real nightmare with the dogs and we'd never be able to go and enjoy it, but we live about 15 miles away on the other side of a hill, so no problem leaving them to watch it)

I thought Pirates of the Caribbean when that little yacht came drifting in front of us too, I had to hastily rummage and grab my camera. I think it is the rather elegant figure reclining against the mast :-D

They did have marshals in little motorboats patrolling to make sure that none of the boats got too close to the breakwater and have a Hot Metal experience like yours!

Living on a boat in Cambridge, that sounds great, specially if the houseboat is able to move about rather than being permanently moored. A friend of mine and I tried to arrange a boatshare in Oxford one year, but nobody wanted to do it, they said it would be too cold in the winter. I still regret that a bit!
20th Aug, 2016 01:34 (UTC)
It sounded great fun!
20th Aug, 2016 08:01 (UTC)
It really was!
20th Aug, 2016 04:58 (UTC)
Fabulous pictures. It's hard to get good pictures of fireworks. What a treat.
20th Aug, 2016 08:14 (UTC)
I had brought a couple of different lenses, but in the end I decided that I'd rather enjoy the fireworks than spend ages fiddling with the camera, so they are a bit blurry if you look closely. But they are good enough to catch a few memories of the event, anyway!
20th Aug, 2016 07:18 (UTC)
Sounds like great fun, both the fireworks and being part of the Wacky Races.
20th Aug, 2016 08:15 (UTC)
The Wacky Races were an unexpected bonus, and we were instructed to 'shout if you think I'm going to hit something'. :-D

Edited at 2016-08-20 08:28 (UTC)
20th Aug, 2016 07:43 (UTC)
Excellent! I'll probably have forgotten by next August, but right now I feel inspired to go on a boat trip to see next year's Cowes Week fireworks from the sea.

I am now imagining Vikings dithering on the quay. "I've never been to Lindisfarne before, so give us a tick and we'll work out how this whole raiding thing works, yeah?" And then a great Wacky Race of longships, trying to be first to reach the monastic toilet block.

"Servicing light-vessels". :-D Presumably this includes Eärendil's ship and the sun chariots of Helios and Sól and the like. It had never occurred to me before that such vessels would need servicing, but presumably behind every god, goddess or hero who drives a celestial body, there's a whole army of unsung mechanics. You'd need breakdown recovery service, too. Does a sun chariot need an MOT, I wonder...?
20th Aug, 2016 08:27 (UTC)
I bet there was a lot more dithering, shouting and Things Going Unexpectedly Wrong in Vikinging than you see on the telly. Maybe our series of 1's rolled on that visit to Skagos was true to life!

There was a moment when we were watching the fireworks when a very elderly wooden boat with a bowsprit crewed by some rather shouty and excitable gentlemen seemed intent on ramming us, but the Viking spotted them and reversed neatly out of the way. I think they had some sort of engine or steering problem.

I am strongly tempted now to draw Vingilot's boatyard and cast of supporting characters.
20th Aug, 2016 08:36 (UTC)
...whereas I've spent the last hour fighting the urge to write a short story about a day in the life of a mechanic on the celestial light-vessels' breakdown recovery team. :-D
20th Aug, 2016 12:59 (UTC)
Do it! Then I can draw an illustration!
20th Aug, 2016 13:17 (UTC)
I already have :-D

But I doubt it's quite what you were thinking. Yours sounds like a sensible idea. Mine is just silly. :-D

Edited at 2016-08-20 13:17 (UTC)
20th Aug, 2016 10:06 (UTC)
Yes, yes, please draw!
I'm glad it turned out alright and the rain didn't bother you too much. Beautiful pictures! I don't know about Gandalf at the Birthday Party, but some of your pictures are worth comparing. One of them really looks like there's going to go out a dragon from that fiery cloud.
'shout if you think I'm going to hit something'. - LOL!
20th Aug, 2016 12:58 (UTC)
20th Aug, 2016 14:50 (UTC)
A most excellent adventure, with dramatic and frightening illustrations.

I remain unconvinced Britain actually has thunderstorms, outside of literature. I've been threatened with them on a number of occasions while in Scotland, but at most I've only been dampened a bit.
20th Aug, 2016 16:22 (UTC)
Wow, the fireworks look amazing! It seems so atmospheric; I would love to have been there. :-)
22nd Aug, 2016 04:29 (UTC)
How absolutely lovely! I was caught right under a fireworks display once and it was terrifying - hot ash, blinding dazzle, very loud noises...luckily I was wearing a hat.
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )

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