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Home / Learning Our World / Member Stories (41) / Undergraduate (4) / Student (2) / North America (1) / Environments: Ocean (1)


The Cutty Sark

Our Voyage on the Sea

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The Cutty Sark with the "crew" while sailing home from Sucia Island


On the afternoon of Monday, November 22nd, 1869, a beautiful little clipper ship was launched from Scott and Linton's shipyard at Dumbarton, on the Clyde river in Scotland. Her name was the Cutty Sark, and almost a century and a half later, an 8th grade class is found sailing on a namesake of that ship. I was in that class, on the week of April 12-16, 2004. I have learned about the original Cutty Sark and about her great adventures.

The original Cutty Sark was named after a poem written by Robert Burns, called Tam O’Shanter. He was riding home on his mare Meg (the fastest horse in Scotland) one night and comes upon a group of witches. One of the witches was wearing a very “cutty sark” or a short night gown. As the witches danced and leaped around the fire, her sark rose higher and higher, revealing her “treasures” to Tam. When he shouted out “Well done cutty sark!!” he was revealed and narrowly escapes the young witches grasp, after she pulls off Meg’s tail. The boat is named after the witch who is faster than the fastest horse.

The Cutty Sark’s sleek lines and huge sails made her the fastest ship in the race for Good Hope for the trade with China. Unfortunately for her and her owners, the Suez Canal was opened the same year as her launch. The Suez is not navigational by sailing ships and her last cargo of tea was carried in 1877. She was later used in 1885-1895 in the wool trade with Australia and set new speed records for herself year after year. After 1895, she was sold to the Portuguese and worked with her new owners for over 30 years until 1920. She was bought again in 1922 after she underwent a remodeling job in the Surrey Docks in London. After her captain’s death in 1938, his widow presented her to the Thames Nautical Training College and used as a training vessel. After the second World War, she was towed to Greenwich and placed in a specially constructed dock in 1954. After a lot of restoration work, she was opened to the public and continues to amaze tourists and all sorts of people today.

Being on a sailboat is very exciting. Having a chance to go on a boat like the original Cutty Sark would be an amazing experience. While on the sailboat named after the Cutty Sark, I was able to experience this for a week with my classmates. As we sailed through the San Juan Islands, we were able to feel what it was like years ago as the sailors traveled through rough seas, and light breezes. There are many things on sailboats that let you become a sailor. Sitting at the helm driving the boat, taking orders from the captains, figuring out navigation in the pilot house, scrubbing the deck, or striking a heroic pose while on bow watch and feeling like a character in a movie like “Titanic”.

Sailing is an invigorating experience. The wind at your face, the splash of the sea in your eyes, and the sails billowing in the wind. So go out, obey your orders, and “Haul on the mainsail, mainsail haul”.


Community Question

What other poetry has inspired other historical places and objects?

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