Cutty Sark Ferreira, further reading

Captain Waite wanted “Last Departure” bought for Cutty Sark

when he was the ship’s master.

If you are looking for the very best in marine art, you have found it here.

Available as a signed limited edition print

Cutty Sark paintings
Last Departure, Ferreira ex Cutty Sark, off Falmouth.

Last Departure”  76 x 101 cm (30″ x 40″) 

This beautifully evocative “Last Departure” painting was for several years honoured to be on display on-board “Cutty Sark“, at the invitation of her then Captain, Simon Waite.

Sold and the last I heard “Last Departure” is being re-offered for sale as the owner, a descendant of Vasco da Gamma is retiring and down sizing their home.

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Cutty Sark Ferreira inspiration for this painting.

A salty yarn, back in the early 1970’s, while browsing locally taken ship postcards in an old photographers shop at Falmouth, I discovered and added to my collection some rare old photographs of the famous tea clipper Cutty Sark being restored at Falmouth.

This and other paintings were part of the result of that discovery.

My interest in Cutty Sark first stirred in my by school visits to the old lady in her permanent berth at Greenwich, London.

The ship in this maritime painting is in based exactly on one particular high quality postcard size photograph of Ferreira at Falmouth which fortunately I recognised as Cutty Sark.

I still have that set of photographs and a copy of the now rare “The Log of The Cutty Sark” by Basil Greenhill.

I recognised the ship in part because as I child I had visited this living legend as one of a school party. I have never forgotten the Cutty Sark at Greenwich in London and I also built the delightful Airfix model of Cutty Sark.

This beautifully evocative “Last Departure” painting was for several years honoured to be on display on-board “Cutty Sark“, at the invitation of her then Captain, Simon Waite.

Besides liking the painting Captain Waite had noticed the ship was ‘spot on’.

Admiring this painting Captain Waite said, even the currents of Falmouth Bay and the Falmouth Working Boat (an oyster dredger) were correctly portrayed for the period, and he noticing I have included the bell on the Saint Anthony’s Point lighthouse. That bell has been removed as the lighthouse was ‘modernised’.

Incidentally, there was a tradition that all the masters of Cutty Sark at Greenwich were master mariners, retired from the British India Steam Navigation Company, all former captains as were many of the other officers aboard her.

Painting Last Departure

Cutty Sark Ferreira was restored during the early 1920’s at Falmouth, a port I know very well having sailed out of that port many times for five happy years and subsequently more so when visiting friends.

Marine painting details
Last Departure, a detail.

The currents, the working boat and the background were correct in part thanks to the many times I’d raced and cruised there an thank go to my Cornish friend Patrick Selman a fine traditional sail maker who built his own working boat ‘Agnes‘.

If Patrick was absent I was asked asked to skipper the crew of Agnes at regattas. That was great fun, stories for another time, maybe.

My own experiences played a role in designing this painting and very importantly the Admiralty Chart showing the approaches to Carrick Roads and Falmouth Port was useful.

For this painting, Pat took me to sea in his working boat Agnes, into the bay to check details and photograph the coastline from various angles one of which provides our background here in this breezy maritime painting.

Last Departure, Falmouth Working Boat & St Anthony's Head, detail
Last Departure, Falmouth Working Boat & St Anthony’s Head, detail.

Falmouth Working Boats still dredged engineless for oyster during the winters.

They work the beds of the Fal and Helford rivers thus I chose to show a Falmouth Working boat in the foreground of this painting, on passage to the Helford river, as device to improve the depth of the painting ad further illustrate the aging grandeur of the old clipper.

Thanks to Patrick’s experience and guidance I’m able to show you a working boat as they appeared during the 1920’s.

Captain Waite wanted “Last Departure” bought for Cutty Sark by the National Maritime Museum.

Alas that was not to be, as is so often the case the scholars and academics thought they know better than a sea captain so the trustees and the National Maritime Museum said no and have missed their opportunity.

This may be just as well as the painting might have perished when the beautiful Cutty Sark was by negligence, badly burnt.

Cutty Sark, 1993
Cutty Sark, 1993

Last Departure the background to the scene is explained.

Cutty Sark as Ferreira made her last commercial voyage from London to Lisbon in 1921 with scrap iron.

Cutty Sark is the most celebrated of tea clippers and was after 24 years sold out of British ownership.

Storm damaged in the English Channel Ferreira put into Falmouth, West Cornwall to self repair.

Recognised as the former Cutty Sark, Ferreira attracted a lot of attention  including from Captain and Mrs Dowman who had already made an unsuccessful attempt to buy the Ferreira.

As a cadet, Captain Dowman had see the Cutty Sark “in all her glory storming up the Channel” and vowed that some day he would buy her.

As a result of the chance call at Falmouth, Captain and Mrs Dolman again resolved to buy the old ship and this time via an agent, were successful.

Cutty Sark has always been a lucky ship !

For more than half of her sea going career Cutty Sark was known as “Ferreira” and Basil Greenhill in his book tells us the Portuguese were very proud of her.

Ferreira Cutty Sark made her last commercial voyage from London to Lisbon in 1921 with scrap iron.

For 28 years the ex Cutty Sark had sailed as “Ferreira“, Portuguese owned, engine-less to the end.

Ferreira lost her original square rig in a storm off Cape Town (1912?).

She was ‘self repaired’ at Cape Town meaning her own crew working with limited resources and money did the work and took Ferreira back to sea.

Still an elegant ship, Ferreira was much loved by her crew who claimed she leaked not one drop to the end.

In 1921 storm damaged again this time in the English Channel, in distress she put into Falmouth where she was repaired by her own crew.

The famous old clipper retained beneath old paint and sea grim her elegant lines, evidence of past glories.

Battered and distressed by age her legend and fine lines still attracted hundreds of visitors wherever she called.

As her working life drew to a close Cutty Sark was put up for sale.

Captain and Mrs Dowman who had retired to Cornwall, saw and visited her when she put into Falmouth in 1921.

When a young man Dowman had seen Cutty Sark in her ‘glory bee!’ days under full sail storming up the English Channel and thought one day to buy the magnificent clipper.

The Dowman’s  had already tried to buy the old lady but when the owners discovered they were English an exorbitant price was demanded.

The ship’s visit to Falmouth resulted in a second attempt to buy Cutty Sark, this time via a Portuguese agent.

Purchased, the old clipper was towed to Falmouth by the steam tug Triton and restored in one of the dry docks for use as a training ship.

She never again set square sails in earnest being employed as a youth training ship and was sometimes at Falmouth and Fowey as a [popular] regatta Committee boat.

By the time her saviours Captain and Mrs Dowman could no longer keep her Cutty Sark was at last recognised as a national and world heritage asset.

Accordingly she set fore and aft sails for the last time off the white cliffs of Dover while being towed to Greenwich, London were you can to this day visit and go aboard her.

Last Departure, Ferriera ex Cutty Sark, detail
Last Departure, Ferreira ex Cutty Sark, detail

Cutty Sark, first time on board

New Helmsman for Cutty Sark
My son Graham doing as I did when I was his age…

I  first encountered Cutty Sark as a child  aged about 7 on a school outing with Brabourne Rise Preparatory School, thank to you Miss Atkinson.
In those days the old ship was as smart as any super yacht and still had the scent of China tea below decks…

Many years later I made sure my children experienced London and visited Cutty Sark.

Do take a visit to Greenwich; besides the charming village and Cutty Sark, you can visit the unrivalled British National Maritime Museum the world’s largest maritime museum.

Aside from enjoying lunch or a snack in the tea rooms this is a maritime museum filled with inspirational stories of exploration and endeavour at sea.

For the specialist it’s possible as I have done, to have access, these days for a price, to the tens of thousands of items not generally on public view.

A brief walk away you can stand on the Greenwich meridian line, stroll in the parklands of this former palace and explore the famous Greenwich Observatory and the seaman’s hospitals, these latter now also offering memorable exhibitions.

One way or another this makes for an unforgettable day out particularly if you arrive via the river boat from the Tower of London.

Log of the Cutty Sark, the book.

This book gives us the Cutty Sark’s history from her building on the River Clyde in 1869 for the Willis Shipping Line, Cutty Sark as a British ‘crack’ clipper ship for the then very lucrative China Tea Trade.

In Cutty Sark’s day, tea was a very valuable cargo. The ships raced mostly to London or New York. The first ships home with the new season’s tea earned for their owners and crew a worthy cash premium. This is the origin of the term ‘Premium Tea‘, a label still used today to denote the finest quality tea.

Produced near the end of a long period of design development, Cutty Sark was one of the last tea clippers to be built and without doubt one of the fastest in any weather. The slightest ruffle of her sails and she was moving, in the heaviest southern Ocean gales she romped and excelled.

The opening of the Suez Canal soon made the tea clipper uneconomic as sailing ships gave way to steam propulsion.

The clippers including some of the most famous ships, then found further gainful employment and further renown on the Australia run often sailing out with migrants and returning with wool.

Your best source of further information is “The Log of the Cutty Sark” by Basil Greenhill or ask me, Gordon Frickers.

As for this original painting, after a year displayed on board cutty Sark I reclaimed Last Departure.

A favourite of mine this painting graced a wall in my lounge for several years before being sold to Portugal to a direct descendant of Vasco de Gamma.

The last I heard was the owner was downsizing their home, buying a bungalow so offering Last Departure for resale.

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Gordon Frickers © 17.03.2015 updated 13.11.2023

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This Gordon Frickers art signature is on all my more recent paintings.