The Matthew Celebrates 20 Years Since the Festival of the Sea

Posted on 15/07/16 by The Matthew of Bristol

The Matthew of Bristol will be celebrating 20 years since her role as the main attraction of the 1stInternational Festival of the Sea, held in Bristol in 1996. To mark this occasion the ship has planned a series of public trips during this year’s Bristol Harbour Festival weekend.

The International Festivals of the Sea were a series of maritime festivals which brought together ships, boats, sailors, musicians, artists and performers – all united by their relationship with the sea - and has been held in a variety of locations including Portsmouth, Leith and Bristol.

The Matthew Celebrates 20 Years Since the Festival of the Sea

The first festival was hosted by Bristol in 1996 at the end of May and the key theme was John Cabot’s pioneering voyage of discovery to the Americas. As part of the festival the Matthew was dedicated in a ceremony, before she then attended Brest Festival in July and embarked on her famous voyage to Newfoundland the following year to mark the 500thanniversary of Cabot’s original journey ‘across the sea of darkness.’

During the festival visitors were able to visit the Matthew at Redcliffe Wharf, where she was constructed by a team of skilled local craftsmen using traditional skills – a rare chance to see the massive oak frames, the larch and pine planking being steamed into place and the fitting out of the rigging and sails.

As well as the Matthew there was up to 1000 vessels in attendance at the festival, from tall ships to workboats, fishing vessels and yachts. The current skipper of the Matthew, Rick Wakeham, remembers the event, saying, ‘it was a forest of masts, just like the old days. The whole place was bustling, full of colour and cultures, and the sights and sounds of seafaring.’

The last Festival of the Sea was in 2005 and since that point the Matthew has regularly been a key attraction at the annual Bristol Harbour Festival as one of the tall ships in attendance, open to visitors and offering public trips.

This year is no exception and the Matthew team have planned a busy schedule of events. On Saturday and Sunday morning from 10am the ship will be running 45 minute harbour trips - a fantastic one for the family - which takes passengers around the historic floating harbour, giving them the perfect vantage to see the harbourside activities happening on the quayside and in the water.

This year there is also the rare coincidence that the harbour festival falls on a date when the ship is able to run Avon Gorge Trips on Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons. This trip sedately takes passengers through Cumberland Lock, under the Clifton Suspension Bridge and down to the picturesque village of Pill – ideal for those who want to experience maritime heritage and get some respite from the busyness of the main stages and quay walls. The trip then finishes by returning into the floating harbour in the early evening, in time for the evening entertainment.

Tickets are available from the ship or from our trips page.