Good, clean, cannon battle fun
Action aboard warring Tall Ships authentic, if not Hollywood
Watch the Lady Washington, the Lynx and Hawaiian Chieftain shoot it out nightly in cannon battles off Brotchie Ledge along Dallas Road at the Tall Ships Festival later this month.
But don’t go expecting to see a live version of what Hollywood puts on the big screen, Lady Washington’s captain Les Bolton says.
There’ll be no gaping holes in the hulls from cannon balls, downed masts, flaming decks and crew swinging aboard the losing ship. That’s strictly Hollywood and far removed from early sea battles.
“You wouldn’t do that. You’d lose a ship that way,” Bolton says.
“You’re endangering what you’re after.”
Historically, the goal was to capture the other ship with the least amount of damage to it and the victor’s ship.
“As much as I’d like to capture a couple of vessels [at the festival], I don’t have a letter of marque,” Bolton jokes, referring to the approval once given private citizens to seize another nation’s ships.
It might not be Hollywood, but there’s still lots of action at the festival’s cannon battles. Tickets went on sale last week for the battles, which take place June 27-29.
“What you’ll see is the dance of these ships as they try to outmanoeuvre each other,” Bolton says. The battles are more spontaneous than choreographed.
Depending on your vantage point, there’ll be flashes of fire and smoke visible, plus the sound of cannon fire.
For safety’s sake, the ships fire blanks, Bolton says.
Still, it will be noisy for those buying space ($95 per person) aboard the warring ships. Slightly less so for those on the three observer vessels ($80). And even less noisy for those watching for free from ashore.
Those aboard the cannon-firing vessels should bring ear plugs, Bolton says.
“It’s hard to take a good picture with your fingers in your ears,” he adds.
Don’t expect to help the crew in their naval battle. Nobody but certified technicians in the crew are allowed near the cannon.
Bolton says there’ll be playby-play aboard the warring vessels, not that passengers will need to be told when the crew out-manoeuvres the enemy.
“If you’re aboard, you’ll know when we scored — we’ll celebrate,” Bolton says.
Landlubbers should remember that the proximity of cannon battles to shore depends on that night’s tides, currents and winds, Bolton says.
Again depending on conditions, the noisy fun should start at 7 p.m. Both the fighting and observer ships leave the Inner Harbour at 6:30. Tickets, if available, can be purchased until 6 p.m. on site at Prince of Whales offices on the Lower Causeway.