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Saga Pearl II blog - Captains' blogs

30th August, 2018

Well, the morning of Wednesday dawned a pleasant one, with the sky promising a good dose of sunshine for our special visit to Dartmouth’s 174th annual Royal Regatta.

We made a spectacular entrance to the harbour, passing through the narrow entrance guarded by castles before coming across strings of small sailing yachts moored in the middle of the River Dart, making things extra challenging for our poor local Pilot. After he’d worked up a bit of a sweat, and with the eyes of the town now focussed upon us, I thought it was only fair to take over for the remainder of the manoeuvre, swinging short round further north in the river with no dramas before returning back to the town waterfront, where we would moor in between two large buoys - right in the middle of the river.

This was our first visit to Dartmouth and seemingly the entire town had turned out to say hello. After an extremely brief tender hop of some 100 metres to the riverside, passengers were warmly greeted as they alighted, finding themselves perfectly located in the centre of this pleasant and quaint Devon town. On the other side of the river, only fractionally further away, is the town of Kingswear and running along the river bank to this town is the scenic South Devon Railway line, opened in 1864. Every half an hour or so the steam train, which is still running, lets off her whistle to announce a departure or arrival into the town.

We had a number of exciting organised excursions planned for our two days in town – the list is exhausting but among the highlights there was a trip to Britannia Royal Naval College, where Her Majesty first set eyes upon a young Prince Philip a few years ago, a trip on the aforementioned steam train, a nautical adventure aboard an original Brixham sailing trawler, or even a ‘Mystery Tour.’ My favourite had to be the ‘Spiritual Buckfast Abbey’ which for some reason conjured up an image in my head of a mass of very happy monks, however upon reading the tour description it quickly dawned upon me that the name does not refer to that infamous beverage.

I was lucky enough to be cordially invited to the grand opening ceremony of the Royal Regatta on Wednesday evening, where I joined the town Mayor, Commanders & Admirals from the Royal Naval College and other such prominent figures marching through the streets behind the Royal Marines Band before being invited up onto a bandstand for the ceremony proceedings and the cannon to mark the opening. It was all very exciting, however upon reflection perhaps I should have practised my marching skills beforehand…

Our second day in Dartmouth was another sunny one, where passengers could either embark on more tours, wander among the festivities in town or simply relax on board, where Saga Pearl II remained ideally positioned within the river to watch all the boat races – rowing, sailing, and even some capsizing. Later on that day we held our own special regatta on board outside on the pool deck, where passengers raced remote controlled boats with officers in strict competition, and those who remembered their spectacles could even learn how to splice a rope, aaargh!

Well, as always all good things must come to an end and toward the end of Thursday it was time to depart and head back to Dover again. Our departure was a beautiful spectacle, however I decided to drive the ship this time and so those ashore with video cameras at the ready were perhaps not as delighted with their footage as they may have hoped. Once clear of the river entrance we turned to port and headed east along the English coast back towards Dover again; another successful cruise over, but another soon to begin.

Captain Kim Tanner

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

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