The Golden Hinde

I’ve walked past her hundreds of times, thought how pretty she is, and walked on.

I’ve taken my son up to see her, but we’ve never actually gone on board.

Yes, she’s a reconstruction – she’s berthed in Bankside on the Millennium Mile – but she’s a flawless, full-sized replica of the 16th Century warship upon which Sir Francis Drake first went round the world.

And she’s amazing.

To Isaac, she was The Dawn Treader; his head was full of Narnian adventure. I couldn’t help the pirate echoes – my image of her suffered from too many movies.

It’s wonderful to see things that you’ve only seen in imagination – cannon, boarding pikes, belaying pins, the capstan, the bell and the compass, the brig and the galley. There’s more rigging than you can imagine – there are ropes and pulleys everywhere – and what must it have felt like to stand in the fighting top while it swung back and forth and the deck pitched and yawed beneath you?

It makes you shudder. Romance aside, this tiny little ship was home to sixty – sixty! – crew. Elizabethans may have been 5’4″, but surely there’s not enough room, heightwise (below decks, you go everywhere at a crouch) or roomwise (hammocks over the bilge, anybody?) to cram in that many people?

Drake’s cabin itself was nice and roomy – on a calm day, in a dock – but if you’re on the gun deck? Fighting? In a storm?

The Hinde is astonishing. She’s absolutely beautiful – lovingly reconstructed down to the last wondrous detail – but under all that warm wood is just a hint of horror. Pirates of the Caribbean, my arse.

She’s lovely to visit in London. But you wouldn’t get me to sea in that thing!

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