Hi there, my name's Penny. I was the heritage consultant on the original Roker Pier and Lighthouse HLF bid, working with the Sunderland City Council team. On a beautiful day in August 2016 I sat on the cliff top at Whitley Bay watching the tall ships sail out to sea and thought to myself - I'd really love to have a go at that. So with Sunderland 2018 in my sights I set about booking a little high seas adventure that this saw me sailing out of Woolwich dock on Sunday 8th July on the Oosterschelde, a three mast topsail schooner bound for Sunderland.
Hi there, my name's Penny. I was the heritage consultant on the original Roker Pier and Lighthouse HLF bid, working with the Sunderland City Council team. On a beautiful day in August 2016 I sat on the cliff top at Whitley Bay watching the tall ships sail out to sea and thought to myself - I'd really love to have a go at that! So with Sunderland 2018 in my sights I set about booking a little high seas adventure that saw me sailing out of Woolwich dock on Sunday 8th July on the Oosterschelde, a three mast topsail schooner bound for Sunderland.
Why London to Sunderland?
So why sail from London and not take part in the race to Esberg? Well two reasons really; firstly, I get travel sick on the train to York so I was a bit worried I would spend the six days redecorating the deck. Second, and most importantly, it was to re-trace the route my great grandfather may have sailed when he worked for the merchant navy in the late 19th century.
I am not a native of the North East but relocated here from the south in 2002. Whilst I love my adopted home imagine my surprise when I discovered I had strong personal links with the area after doing a bit of family tree research. My great grandfather - Charles 'Chas' Ward Middleton - was born in North Shields in 1863. I had no idea I had family here, in fact my relatives in London had always said great granddad was Scottish because he 'had a funny accent and flaming red hair'!
His father (my great, great grandfather) John Middleton, was a ship owner and broker in Tynemouth, but on his 17th birthday young Charles left to join the Royal Navy. He sailed on a number of ships ending up on the HMS Duke of Wellington, the first combined sail and steam warship, before leaving to join the merchant navy in December 1890. He then settled in Canning Town (where he met my great grandmother Mary) working the trade routes from the Royal Victoria Dock. So, while I can't really be sure, I like to think that 'Chas' sailed the route I will take next week.
So that is a bit about me, now about the ship I am sailing in..
The ‘Oosterschelde’ is the last remaining representative of the large fleet of schooners that sailed under the Dutch flag at the beginning of the 20th century. The ship gets her name from a former estuary in the province of Zeeland in The Netherlands; the area has since had a 4km long dam built on it to protect the country from flooding.She was built in 1918 as a sail-powered freighter and plied European waters, as well as being regularly seen off the coast of Morocco and on the Mediterranean Sea. From 1939 the vessel sailed under foreign flags, undergoing a drastic conversion in 1950 into a modern coaster. Finally, in 1988 she was brought back to the Netherlands where the Rotterdam Sailing Ship Foundation raised the necessary funds to fully restore the vessel to her former glory. The ship is now registered as a heritage monument by the Dutch Ministry of Culture. The above information is taken from the ship's website at: https://www.oosterschelde.nl/?lang=en
I boarded the Oosterschelde at 8pm on Sunday evening and set sail from Woolwich soon after. First we sailed up the Thames to look at London and then out to sea, around the North Sea coast to finally dock at Sunderland on Wednesday evening.
You can track my progress on this blog over the next few days and perhaps come give me a wave from Roker Pier on Wednesday.
Penny Middleton is a project manager at Northern Archaeological Associates (NAA), responsible for built heritage and conservation. She has worked on a number of projects in the North East including Roker Pier and Lighthouse, Hylton Castle, Seaham North Dock, St Mary's Island and Lighthouse and Miek Lighthouse. For further information check out the NAA website: https://www.northernarchaeologicalassociates.co.uk/