Golden Hinde review (Sep 2013)
This is out-of-date! I have been here again since I wrote this review
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The first time you clap eyes on the Golden Hinde you'll think that it's a joke. It's supposed to be a full-size replica of the boat that carried Francis Drake around the world, but it is tiny. It's like a decorated rowing boat. I reckon it would sink in a sink. I actually read the leaflet from cover to cover just to make sure that it really was full-size -- and apparently it is. How did Drake manage to spend two years cooped up in this little thing? My hats off to him.
Alas, it's only a replica. It's official name is the "Golden Hinde II" and it was built in 1970. But you'll be surprised to learn that this little copy has actually surpassed the original and sailed further than Drake did. It's been all around the world, up and down the coast of America, Asia, Japan, Africa... even to the moon and back. And you'll be even more impressed when you step inside and see how cramped it is.
When you step aboard the boat you are basically left to your own devices. You can explore the whole lot from top to bottom in your own time. The only thing that you are not allowed to do is climb the rigging up to the crow's nest -- thank god. That is why they don't have pirate ships these days, because they'd never get the crow's nest past health and safety. (I found it quite amusing when they issued me with an A5 health and safety sheet before I boarded the boat -- no smoking, no running, don't bang your head, be careful on the stairs... is this a genuine 16th-century document, I wondered? Francis Drake would probably have a good hearty laugh at that.)
There is no audio-guide or anything like that. Just a little map which tells you the names of all the different sections. There are a few placards dotted around which tell you bits and bobs, but I got the impression that it's mainly aimed at kids. There are no genuine artefacts onboard, no museum pieces -- not like the Cutty Sark. It's all replicas. But it's very well kitted out with cannons and barrels and a dining table for the officers. You can even lie down in Francis Drake's quarters and have a little kip. You can climb the little ladders to the half-deck and forecastle, and pretend to steer the ship's wheel... or descend into the hold and peer out the cannon's portholes. You can quite happily spend an hour of your time pretending to be a pirate.
I was pretty lucky with the timing, because when I finished at 11 o'clock a big group of school kids turned up. It's a very small boat, and having 30 kids running around screaming their heads off would certainly try my patience. They'd all be walking the plank inside five minutes. Or I'd stuff them inside a cannon and fire them up the Thames. Whenever I have walked past the boat in the past, it always seemed to be crewed by a gang of similar kids from the local schools -- which was one of the reasons I've never been before. If you're going to go -- take my advice and go when it opens.
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