Belfast Telegraph

Tall Ships: Pleasure-cruising around Belfast harbour is to delight in our maritime present and past

By Joanne Sweeney

Seeing Belfast city from its harbour on the opening day of the Tall Ships Festival is a sight to behold.

While the 48 Tall Ships with their high triple and double masts add colour and an air of mystery, the city still holds her own amidst the spectacle.

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A media boat organised by Belfast City Council gave local and visiting journalists a chance yesterday to view the visiting vessels from their best vantage - Belfast Lough.

Leaving Donegall Quay on the Mona, we sail around the Tall Ships, just behind the Odyssey Arena.

The Europa, Brazilian naval training ship Cisne Blanco, Morgenster and Gulden Leeuw are all docked there. Nearby are the Polish Fryderyk Chopin and the Norwegian Solandet.

While most of the ships are relatively new and used for training sea cadets, some had former lives as herring luggers or were once favoured by pirates for their speed.

When you are able to get up close to a Tall Ship, the beauty of the workmanship and the colour on the craft can really be appreciated.

Both Pollock Dock - which hosted the first Tall Ships Festival in 1991 - and Queen's Quay are equally populated with people and family fun events.

Ecuadorian naval ship Guayas dominates the vessels moored there and will host the BBC One Show broadcast as stunning images of Belfast and the visiting fleet are transmitted around the UK.

From the water, the difference between the class A ships with their majestic three masts, like the Cisne Branco, and the smaller boats is all too apparent.

The smaller ones huddle together in their berths past the back of the W5 while those at the back of the Odyssey dominate their side of the harbour.

Throngs of people are promenading by the waterside, many queuing to get on board the Tall Ships, others ambling along going from Titanic Belfast to Donegall Quay via the new bridge.

Music blares out from various vessels while others languish quietly in the waters. Some of the crew drape towels and bed duvets across rigging to air while they sit on board watching people watching them. Ships like the Morgenster could be seen taking private parties out on the waters for a short sail around Belfast Lough and back again.

Those fortunate enough to own their own small yachts and speed boats took a delight in travelling up and down from Pollock Dock to Queen's Quay as all eyes were on anything that moved in the water.

Sandwiched between the slate gray sky and waters, the yellow Harland and Wolff cranes look truly majestic. Titanic Studios - where Game Of Thrones is shot - with its grey and yellow abstract frontage, also dominates the sea view. Huge blocks of red colour from the three oil rigs being refurbished by Harland and Wolff also help break up the bleak skyline. But, undoubtedly the architectural jewel of the harbour area is the Belfast Titanic building.

It's angular shard-fronted exterior glistens under a dull sky and shows that it is a world class building, beautiful enough to front any harbour. It also reinforces the city's own maritime history as the builder of probably the most famous ship in history. Titanic's tender SS Nomadic is open for business offering cream teas and nostalgic music.

Despite the fun and relaxation the Tall Ships event brings, Belfast Harbour is a busy and very much open for business port. The cruise liner Princess Royal is in port alongside daily visiting cargo ships such as the Endurance.

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