Shipshape and Bristol Fashion: it means smart, efficient and well founded and dates from the 18th century when Bristol was England's second most important port. Bristol had no docks back then so ships were dried out at low tide and therefore needed to be well built and in good shape.
In 1809 Bristol was transformed by the opening of the Floating Harbour. 80 acres of tidal river were impounded to allow visiting ships to remain afloat all the time. Over the next two centuries the Harbour grew as a busy commercial port until it closed in 1975. Since then, it has been regenerated for leisure, commerce and residence.
Our JST tall ships don’t go to Bristol very often because we need exactly the right tides to enable the passage of the ship all the way to the Floating Harbour – with enough water to pass under the Avonmouth Bridge and the right timing for the arrival at the locks into the Harbour.
However this year we have scheduled voyages for Lord Nelson from Southampton to Bristol (19-25 May LN813) and then from Bristol to Falmouth (27 May -2 June LN814).
The early part of Lord Nelson’s summer programme was written around the only tidal window that worked for us to take Nellie to Bristol!
If you join one of these voyages you will experience the fascinating cruising area of the Bristol Channel. It is the longest and largest inlet on Britain’s coastline and has the second highest rise and fall of tide in the world. The complexities of sailing there gave rise in the 19th century to the world famous Bristol Channel Pilot Cutter service. At the height of the coal trade, thousands of ships were making for South Wales ports, each one looking for a pilot for the last leg of the journey. Seaworthy, fast sailing cutters were built to 'seek’ the ships coming in who needed a pilot to help them navigate those tricky waters. Bristol Channel Pilot Cutters are generally seen as the most successful fore-and-aft rigged boats built during the age of sail. Speed was of the essence for these craft as the first pilot to arrrive at an incoming ship usually got the job!
Though the days of the sailing pilots ended in the early 20th century, the pilot service still exists and Lord Nelson will pick up a pilot as she heads up the Channel.
You will also pass under Brunel’s engineering masterpiece the iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge. It is quite something to look up at it from below!
Bristol itself is described as the city of bridges, balloons, boats, Brunel and Banksy. Bristol has several amazing sights to see if you choose to extend your stay and visit this historic city - from one of Brunel’s other engineering masterpieces, the SS Great Britain, to Bristol’s historic churches and cathedrals. You can see Bristol from a hot air balloon, take a City Sightseeing tour or Bristol Ferry Boat tour. You can download a free MP3 tour and walk the Brunel Mile. Or dress up like a pirate and take a Bristol Pirate Walk through the Harbourside to learn more about Bristol's pirating past.
Postscript: Banksy is a pseudonymous England-based graffiti artist, political activist, film director, and painter. His satirical street art and subversive epigrams have been featured on streets, walls, and bridges of cities throughout the world. Banksy's work was born out of the Bristol underground scene which involved collaborations between artists and musicians.
For another abit of Bristol trivia, you might like to know that Samuel Plimsoll (1824 – 1898) was born in Bristol. Plimsoll was a British politician and social reformer, now best remembered for having devised the Plimsoll line (a line on a ship's hull indicating the maximum safe draft, and therefore the minimum freeboard for the vessel in various operating conditions).