Gloucester Dock is linked to the River Severn at Sharpness by a 16 mile canal.
The opening of this canal, in 1827, created the inland port of Gloucester which faded out in the early 1980s. In the Victorian period, 4-masted barques and deep-water steamers came up the canal. For the Gloucester Tall Ships event, in May, the Sea Cadets sailing training brig Royalist, which draws 11ft, came up the canal on her fi rst visit to Gloucester. Also, in the Main Basin, Roy Kerr’s brigantine La Malouine had to be pushed into her berth by a tug.
The Royalist was the largest of the seven sailing vessels at Gloucester and the smallest was the brig yacht Caroline Allen. Following the practice that started when sailing ships began getting part of their income from maritime festivals, the vessels hoisted their sails in calm weather. This was done by the wooden Irish ketch Brian Boru, a former ring netter and only Irish sailing vessel to have a licence for passengers and sail training. The Cornish lugger Grayhound, brigantine La Malouine and the North Wales tops’l schooner Vilma hoisted their sails. The public were very keen to go aboard the Bristol based replica caravel Matthew.
The Main Basin at Gloucester was abandoned when in 1988, Tommi Neilsen and Sarah White rented the two dry docks and sheds and started T Neilsen & Co which is now one of world’s leading restorers of large wooden sailing ships. In their dry dock, the 84ft Thames barge Gladys is being totally rebuilt, apart from the 2003 transom, and should be launched next year. Also laying here, was the Bristol Channel pilot cutter Dolphin, which has been to Greenland twice and the pilot cutter Mascotte that spends the winter here. This summer, Tommi Neilsen is skippering Mascotte on a 1,000 mile trip to Oban and on to the north of Norway.