Portsmouth, a Naval city

It was not easy to leave the Jurassic Coast; however, more adventures awaited us in Portsmouth, the second most densely populated city after London. Actually it wasn’t adventure that awaited us, but the adventures of others now preserved at the Historic Dockyards where we visited old ships and naval museums. But that was to happen the day after our arrival. On our first day in town we checked into our hotel, had an early dinner, and walked around the Portsmouth marina listening to the low, winsome song sung by a chorus of shrouds and stays. I felt restless and had an itch to stow away on the large white ferry preparing to set sail. Where were they going? Maybe Bilbao or Santandar, Spain; or ports in France like Le Havre or Cherbourg. But as I did not immediately act on my desire the ferry sailed out of Portsmouth Harbor without me, and we headed back to our hotel—and back to reality.

Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard is massive. There are a number of museums, a number of ships visitors can board, and the Mary Rose Museum or “hot box” were they were drying out the Mary Rose, Henry VIII’s favorite warship that sunk off of the coast of Portsmouth in 1545. It is amazing that in 1982 after the ship was at the bottom of the sea for over 400 years that a group of dedicated divers and engineers raised her hull and are slowly drying her out. Fortunately the process has gone better than expected and by next year the solid walls will come down and they will install glass walls so the public has an unobstructed view. Right now there are small widows in the wall, which is how we were able to see and take photographs of the ship. The large tubes in the photographs are part of the equipment being used to dry the ship. I also took photos of some of the 19,000 artifacts that they recovered. I enjoyed not only seeing the old ship, but also learning how they tackled such a difficult, painstaking task. It is an amazing accomplishment.

We also boarded the restored HMS Victory, Vice-Admiral Lord Nelson’s ship that fought at the battle of Trafalgar in 1805. What I found the most interesting was the small Broodie stove used to cook food for the 821-men crew. How was that possible? Then one of the museum employees told us that the crew (not the officers) often dinned on bread and ale. It was also interesting to go up on the poop deck and hold the massive ropes (sheets, shrouds, and robbands) used to hoist the sails—27 miles of hemp rope which they handled by hand with the help of wooden pulleys. They must have been hardy men—and hungry!

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