Category Archives: Locations

Stunning videos of Portuguese Barco Rabelo being sailed and built

Rabelos are a traditional Portuguese cargo boat developed for transporting people and goods such as port wine along the Douro River to Porto.

The Wikipedia tells me that port wine companies continue to maintain a fleet of rabelos and race them each year on St John’s Day, June 24. It must be quite a sight.

My thanks to Dave Rowlands for spotting this one!

The Dutch are coming…

The Medway folks are celebrating the Battle of the Medway with various events climaxing in fireworks at Upnor Castle on the 17th June.

It looks great if you can do it on foot, though my plan to sail there to watch the fireworks has been shot away, as it seems great flotillas of Dutch yachties have booked all the nearby berths that can be found! Duh!

Over that weekend and the one before there’s quite a lot going on besides the fireworks, including living history events at Upnor Castle, Dutch and British warships, a a fun fair, food and drink stalls and a river pageant sail past the Dockyard and Upnor Castle. There’s also live music, walkabout entertainments and clog dancing performances will run throughout the evening. Check the leaflet for details!

Suffolk – the uneatable cheese of the Royal Navy

I’d like to introduce you lot to the excellent Foods of England project.

I particularly liked its entry for Suffolk Cheese, a product that is no longer made for reasons that will become obvious. Until the mid-18th Century it was used by the Royal Navy to feed its sailors, but by all accounts it was dry, salty and so hard there were many stories and jokes about the difficulty of eating it.

Naval administrator Samuel Pepys wrote that he was upset when his domestic staff complained about having to eat it. On the 19th December 1825, The Hampshire Chronicle carried a notice that read: ‘As characteristic of Suffolk cheese, it said that a vessel once laden, one half with grindstones and the other half with the above commodity, on arriving at its destination it was found that the rats had consumed all the grindstones, but left the cheeses untouched.’

Historian NAM Rodger reports that the Navy gave up provisioning ships with the stuff in 1758, no doubt to loud cheering from the foc’sl. My crews, of course, are always provided with the finest cheese I can afford…

Other sea related entries are hardtack or ships biscuits (a nuclear bomb test was named after them), grog, bumpo, and  Cheshire cheese (another Naval staple).

My thanks to Sarah Coxson for the tip!