Over Easter, the kids and I, along with our friends, took a trip around Bristol Harbour on the fabulous boat, The Matthew of Bristol. The Matthew is a replica of the Tudor Caravel sailed by the Italian explorer John Cabot, along with his 18 crew, from Bristol to North America in 1497 . This voyage, commissioned by Henry VII, is commonly held to have been the first European exploration of mainland of North America, after the Viking Leif Erikson's visits to Vinland in the eleventh century.
The replica Matthew was built in Bristol, to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Cabot's voyage, and in 1997 she undertook Cabot's and his crew's original journey to Newfoundland, where it is believed the first expedition landed. The Matthew now lives at a mooring alongside the M Shed in Bristol and is managed by The Matthew of Bristol Trust.
The Matthew is largely run and maintained by a volunteer crew, and when it is home, visits to it are free (please check their website for when you can visit), The crew also run regular cruises around the harbour, for which there is a charge, the one we booked was their 'Captain Barnacle Pirate Panto', which turned out to be perfect family entertainment.
Captain Barnacle entertained us while we sailed around the harbour for an hour, with his one man pirate panto which included lots of pirate jokes, puppets and a sing song. It was great fun, and he tolerated our two 11 yr old boys, who had decided that heckling him throughout his performance would be highly amusing - don't you just love pre-teen boys!
It was a lovely way to spend the afternoon, the boat is wonderful, and it was great to see the harbour from the water. It made me reflect on what an amazing sea-faring heritage we have here in the UK, and we will definitely be visiting some more docks and boats soon.