Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Thursday, 26 April 2012
The ship has been raised several metres to rest on a secure steel framework rather than its own keel (which was deforming its shape and threatening eventual collapse of the hull), and the wear and tear of decades (not to mention the damage from the fire during restoration work) has been repaired and refurbished with a degree of care and resort to traditional materials and craftsmanship that borders on the obsessive.
special space for the tiniest children).
practise his cycling and roller-skating), with most of the crew squeezed into quarters in the bows. Here the focus of the displays shifts to the wool trade and to the experience of working on the ship: there's a chance to practise your skill at steering to catch the fastest wind, and to sit on a seat that rolls while you watch old film of sailing ships in the roughest of seas.
Onward and upward to the top deck, with the officers' quarters, the galley (and pens for pigs and chickens, complete with sound effects), and the masts and rigging towering above. Then you "go ashore" into a staircase and lift block, to take you down to the dry dock itself, and the most dramatic element: lowering above the open space (which will of course be let out for lucrative private shindigs).
Here there is a small cafe, and a striking collection of ships figureheads, Tam o' Shanter's horse. More displays on the restoration of the ship and its impact over the years of its being a tourist attraction, and then, as ever, one exits via the gift shop.
It's not cheap (and not just to get in - nearly £5 for a coffee and small cake?!), but then neither was the restoration. Worth it? It was for me: but it may be years before I go again.