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The Grand Turk

Grand Turk against Old Quay near the old Watchtower

The Grand Turk was a perfect attraction for the historic harbour of Whitehaven and attracted thousands of visitors during it's stay. Prompting renewed interest in the scheme to re-live Whitehaven's shipbuilding heyday by building here a replica sailing ship as a tourist attraction.

The stern of the Grand Turk with florid designs above the captains cabinThe bow of the Grand Turk showing the complex rigging of this three masted frigate


Grand Turk was aptly named being built by Mike Turk in Turkey - originally for film work before being cast in the TV series Hornblower. It is a replica of a 22 gun frigate but fortunately only one very small cannon was fired whilst in the harbour as this was sufficient to deafen those on-board and waken the entire town to its presence.

A cannon being fired on-board Grand Turk

On paying a fee, which went to the National Trust Neptune Project, people were allowed aboard this superb ship. Here guides explained life on-board such a ship when it would originally have had a crew of 250. This would have included at least a couple of dozen to sail it, six men for each of the 22 cannon and a company of marines, who were partly there to guard the officers from mutanous crews.

The captain's cabin on-board the Grand Turk

Whilst ordinary sailors and landsmen were allotted just enough space to hang a hammock, the captain had a suite of rooms including this spacious cabin and its tables laid out with the finest cutlery and glass. Apparently in conflict this was all packed into a small boat and towed behind the ship - the captains having a pact with their French counterparts not to destroy each others personal belongings.

National trust displays below deck

Such civility was in marked contrast to the life of the fighters - a display below deck showed various projectiles fired from cannon, including grape-shot which was designed to fragment on impact and chain shot designed to tear apart sails and no-doubt any flesh that got in the way. This deck would have been nearly half as high originally - there having been an extra deck on the original. Fortunately the extra room in the replica allowed for a display of the ships TV career and many displays by the National Trust showing the importance of the coast and their schemes to protect it.

CaptainA woman stowed away as a boyA midshipman

A cast of characters in period costume helped recreate the atmosphere by splendid interaction with the crowds of people that came aboard.

Sailing past the North pier Lighthouse

As the ship had arrived at night, thousands of people gathered to see it navigate the new lock gates and sail out of harbour. Just enough swell on the sea gave an idea of how it cuts through the waves. This evoked a time when dozens of ships sailed past St.Bees head each week from the port of Whitehaven.

The Grand Turk at sea

External Links:

National Trust Coastal Show including a virtual tour of Grand Turk

Building Grand Turk more information on Mike Turk's project

Webcam Site with more pictures


Grand Turk