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Over 60,000 feeling nautical at big maritime party

By Amanda Poole

Over 60,000 visitors descended on sun-drenched quaysides over the weekend to celebrate a rich seafaring history.

Clarendon Dock and Queen's Quay bustled with activity as the fifth annual Belfast Titanic Maritime Festival welcomed ships including the Thalassa, Phoenix, Lord Rank and Johanna Lucretia to the harbour.

>>In Video: Gary Grattan and Grainne McGarvey report from a sun-splashed Belfast Titanic Maritime Festival

Many took the chance to get on-board the vessels, while others watched the high-octane antics of the Zapcat power boats

Dromara bride-to-be Mary McKay was among hundreds visiting the Phoenix where she was greeted by deckhand Oliver Schouw from Denmark, and personally escorted to the helm.

“I'm in Belfast for my hen celebrations. The girls and I have had a great day. The ships are stunning, the weather is fantastic and we are having a really good shop at all the craft and jewellery stalls,” she said.

Exhibitions and fascinating maritime heritage tours were spliced with live music, a funfair, and a huge food market.

Street theatre, a climbing wall, an Exploris touch tank and face-painters were also on-hand to keep the little ones happy as the adults enjoyed some artisan chocolate and a cool beer.

Stephen, Claire and Mae Stewart (3) from north Belfast were enjoying some family time.

Mum Claire said: “It's a great day out. We've been here since the gates opened this morning and had only planned to stay for a few hours. I think we will be here until the bitter end!”

Bronagh Cappa, boss of educational charity Ocean Youth Trust Ireland, said the weekend was a huge success.

“We’ve been providing sail training for people. No experience is required, just a real sense of adventure. This type of maritime event is great for Belfast. All in all, it's been a great weekend,” she said.

Nicola Strain from Carrickfergus got a fright when colourful character Captain Ramsey stopped by to say hello to her.

Lord Rank first mate Magda Olczat, and volunteer Sharon Doherty took New Zealanders Stephen Edwards and Lynne Scott for a sail up the river.

Hen party girl Lisa Slipchuk, from Glasgow, took in the festival on her first trip to Belfast.

“It's a beautiful city and I'm having a great time,” she said.

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