We were going to meet our friends in Bristol; we were dropped off by a pub called The Nova Scotia – which we’ve never been in, and were going to walk through the Underfall Yard, along Baltic Wharf and Whapping Wharf to meet them near the M Shed Museum. Maybe we should visit the old pub:
The Nova Scotia is a historic nineteenth century public house situated on Spike Island adjacent to the Cumberland Basin in Bristol Harbour… It was originally built as a terrace of three houses and then converted into a pub. It is a grade II listed building. It was a coaching inn and traces of large lanterns and the entrance to the coach yard survive.
We strolled along Baltic Wharf towards Wapping Wharf and I remember I looked up the name once – I got to wondering about the word ‘wapping’ as there is also a Wapping in London. I can’t find what it means, but the London Wapping’s name was first recorded c.1220 and it may have come from something meaning ‘the settlement of Wæppa’s people’… I guess there might have been another chief in this area also called Wæppa, or maybe it was just named after it’s London counterpart.
We passed a load of kids learning to sail in little dinghies and as ever we were reminded of a great lad we saw a few years ago, doing the same with four other lads from his school:
They were quite big lads, and the boats were very small, and no doubt felt ever so wobbly as they sat while the instructor gave them the last few details. It obviously wasn’t very comfortable for them as they weren’t used to where and how they should fit, and there was a lot of laughing and joking between them; one of the boys was called Mohammed, and he decided that while he was waiting, he would lean back against the jetty, with his elbows on it in what must have been a more comfortable position… well the result was to be expected, the boat drifted, the gap between Mohammed’s elbows and the rest of his body increased and into the water he went. Cue much hilarity from all, and one of the others called out to us and told us to post our pictures of the splash on Facebook.
Laughing at himself, the good-natured boy got back into his little craft, as the instructor launched the first boy, and off he wobbled, out into the harbour, and before long it was clear he had grasped what to do, and seemed quite confident. He waved to us as he sailed away and we waved back. The instructor was getting the next boy ready, and he too managed to steer away from the jetty. Meanwhile Mohammed and one of the other boys, were getting ready, the third just sitting, waiting… which was probably more sensible because the other boys both went in, one just slipping and getting a bit wet, Mohammed had a complete plunge and his boat capsized. There was a lot more laughter, from him as he got himself out, and the other two got into their dinghies.
I must say, that despite his false starts Mohammed became very proficient, and was handling his little sailing boat very well as the wind came up and sent them shooting across the harbour.
As we walked along our friend sailed past us and we waved and he waved back – this is what he was in charge of:
Our friend used to be a pilot, guiding ships in and out of Bristol, into and out of the Avonmouth docks, and up and down the Severn estuary. Now from time to time, he drives/steers – what is the technical term, this 1996 replica of The Matthew, the ship of Giovanni Caboto, known locally as John Cabot. Cabot left Bristol on May 2nd 1497 on board this small whip with a crew of eighteen, bound for the Asia, but in actual fact heading straight for the Americas. He arrived in North America on 24 June 1497, that’s just over seven weeks! No-one knows exactly where he landed, possibly Cape Bonavista or St. John’s in Newfoundland . He stayed there for about a month and then headed back across teh Atlantic, mistakenly sailing a more southerly course and arriving in Brittany instead of Bristol.
It was wonderful to see this replica, now powered by an engine, moving through the waters with happy and no doubt excited tourists aboard. I have been on it, and it’s amazingly small – however Cabot managed that amazing journey, I just can’t imagine – but he did!