Touted as the world's last surviving tea clipper, the 138-year-old ship was built at Dumbarton on the Clyde in Scotland and launched in 1869. The opening of the Suez Canal that year, however, shortened her life as a tea-clipper, the tea trade being soon taken over by steam ships. From 1885 Cutty Sark became involved in the Australian wool trade and was famous for her speed, setting several records for the fastest passage between Sydney and England. Later, Cutty Sark was bought by Portuguese owners and continued to sail under various names up to 1938.
Thankgoodness half the planking and the masts had been taken away as part of the clipper's current restoration project.
I first saw her when I was living in London in the nineties, and visiting Greenwich one lazy Sunday. Fully planked and painted, with masts and rigging standing majestically. Such a wonderful sight to behold.
Let's hope we get to see her again that way.
Cutty Sark, by Kendrick Smithyman
In company with Cutty Sark at sea
only once, on Himalaya off Brazil.
They sailed into the doldrums.
Day after day another sail came into sight,
would lose the wind, then idle.
Forty-two ships counted from the masthead.
Sent up with a glass at daybreak
to mark if anything stirred, reported
a clipper coming from the south carrying
canvas, the mate observing from the poop
later was first to say ‘That’s Cutty Sark.’
They watched her through the day.
At last light she was hull down, northing,
had sailed right through the might as well
have been derelict fleet, forty-plus of them,
some getting on for four weeks there.