For the last few years, visitors to Whitby would see a town centre graced by the square rigger Grand Turk, a sailing replica of the 20-gun Royal Navy frigate HMS Blandford.
It certainly added something to the town, especially a town which gave so much to maritime exploration: visiting kids would demand that their parents pay to take them on the 'pirate ship' and they would spend a half hour or so marvelling at the masts and rigging, looking along the cannon and making loud broadside noises and shouting 'arrrrr'! (Right: Grand Turk entering Whitby Harbour and firing a cannon salute. The cannon actually blew up when firing this salute.)
Whitby is the maritime home of one James Cook and of many other less celebrated mariners. Cook insisted on Whitby-built ships for his circumnavigations and in the days of sail it was said that Whitby sailors were so zealous and hard working that every ship wanted one aboard. For a small town we have a lot to sailing history to brag about.
Yet the Australians built a the replica of Cook's Endeavour (left seen entering Whitby Harbour). It spent many happy weeks berthed here in Cook's maritime home but eventually, despite lukewarm efforts to keep it in Whitby it is now wowing the crowds and doing fine work in Sydney.
The Grand Turk was its replacement. Turk was a ship without a purpose: built as a film set, its work and income suffered with the introduction of CGI and she became uneconomic. Whitby was happy to offer her a cheap berth since the town was sorely missing a tall ship. She was put up for sale. Again, half-hearted efforts were made to keep her here but one March night, with little fanfare, Grand Turk slipped her Whitby moorings and set sail for her new berth in the bosom of the enemy she was built to fight: France. She will live in St. Malo, Brittany where she will do corporate hospitality, charter and film work.
Australia built and now run the replica Endeavour. France now runs Grand Turk. Another chance to use a sailing ship to inspire and educate a generation of children has slipped through our clumsy and uncaring British fingers.
Our young people need hands that can haul ropes as well as hands that hold games consoles. That's why we need a new Beagle gracing the ports of the UK.