A couple of weeks before Father's Day, I saw an advertisement in the newspaper about a tall ship dinner cruise. My father spent some time in the Royal Navy and loves all things nautical, but particularly the history of the age of Exploration and old ships. I thought it would be a fun and different way to celebrate Father's Day.
I didn't tell Dad what I had planned. I only said to dress casually and that we were going to a restaurant that was on the water. He was very surprised when I drove into the marina. We could see the masts of the tall ships from the car park.
Some of the other guests were already on board and chatting with the crew who were dressed in 18th century sailor costumes. We learned the vessel was an authentic replica of an 18th century vessel and spent some of the year sailing into ports around the coast of Britain giving educational tours to groups of schoolchildren. The ship was amazing, and it even had real ten-pound cannons that would be fired in the mock battle both ships would be taking part in after dinner. It sounded very exciting; we could hardly wait.
The captain and guests were seated around the table together in the captain's quarters and passed each dish just like we were at family dinner. The cozy and informal atmosphere left us feeling like we were guests in a home rather than a ship. The meal was delicious. Green salad to start, followed by a choice of roast beef or fresh sea bream, potatoes, mixed vegetables and fresh bread were served. Dessert was apple or cherry pie with cream and vanilla ice cream. Everyone chatted and joked and those with some sailing background shared some salty sea dog stories. My Dad was in his element.
After dinner we went back up on deck. It was about seven o' clock when our ship got under way. The ship used its motor until it was out of the marina then the crew unfurled the sails. The other ship followed closely behind. Once they were both in open water the maneuvering and cannon fire started. It was hard to tell who, if anyone, was winning as the cannons fired only blanks. Only when our crew let out a cheer did we know for sure they had won. It didn't really matter – it was a great show.
As our ship headed back to the marina, members of the crew performed sea shanties on a variety of traditional 'shipboard instruments' such as the piccolo and fiddle as well as the guitar, harmonica and accordion. The crew even taught us a few songs. We really had a great time. My dad was the last one off the boat at the end of the evening chatting and laughing with the sailors and no doubt reminiscing about 'the good old days' and I think he really wanted to stay all night. He told me he really enjoyed himself, but mostly was touched by the fact that I had thought about an evening that would really appeal to him. To him, the thought alone was the best Father's Day present he could have wished for.