While at sea, Cutty Sark’s crew needed to constantly maintain and repair the ship to ensure it stayed safe and afloat.

Even though it no longer sails, ongoing care is still needed to make sure the 154-year-old ship survives for us all to enjoy.

Every day, our team of shipkeepers chip, paint, polish and repair all parts of the ship. They also carefully monitor its condition, looking for any changes. If you've visited before, you may well have spotted them in action.

Image
Shipkeepers work to reattach the figurehead to historic ship Cutty Sark

What do Cutty Sark's shipkeepers do?

Cutty Sark is made from many different materials – such as teak wood, rock elm wood, iron and brass – which all need different methods of care. In part this care is needed to make the ship look good, but more importantly it ensures that serious damage is avoided or repaired.

Much of the ship’s maintenance is planned on a yearly cycle. Cutty Sark is exposed to the elements which affects its components differently depending on the material. For example, the wood can shrink or expand due to external temperature changes. This can mean cracks or even leaks.

Some jobs – such as polishing the brassworks – start again almost as soon as they have finished. Other jobs happen less frequently and arise from a pressing need.

Image
The ship's wheel of Cutty Sark in Greenwich

What's happening now?

The poop deck (pictured) – the raised area at the stern, or back, of the ship – needs new planks to make sure everything below it remains dry.

Our team of shipkeepers, working with specialists TS Rigging, will spend the next few months replacing the current deck using traditional techniques.

They are using a wood called ‘iroko’, which has similar properties to the original teak. Teak is a high quality and durable wood, but it is now very difficult to ethically and sustainably source.

Fibres of hemp rope, known as oakum, will be driven into the gaps between planks using caulking tools. The video below shows this work in action, in a clip taken from 1954 when Cutty Sark first arrived in Greenwich.

Pitch, a tar-like substance made from pine wood, will then be used to seal the joins.

While this takes place, the poop deck will not be accessible for visitors, but we will be providing updates on progress both online and on site.

Bear with us; it won’t be long before Cutty Sark is ship-shape again.

Image
3D tour graphic of Cutty Sark ship with three masts

Cutty Sark virtual tour

Explore Cutty Sark’s poop deck like never before with our virtual 3D experience, created in partnership with cultural travel app, Smartify.

Follow the project

Sign up to our newsletter to get updates from the Cutty Sark conservation project, as well as news, events and ideas from Royal Museums Greenwich.

What’s On

Meet the characters of Cutty Sark
James Robson the cook, one of the characters you can meet on board Cutty Sark. He wears a flat cap and red scarf, and is pointing at the ship's rigging
Family fun

Meet the characters of Cutty Sark

Meet colourful characters from Cutty Sark’s past and hear astonishing stories about life at sea in the age of sail
Weekends and Fri-Mon in school holidays | 11am, 12pm, 2pm, 3pm
Included with entry to Cutty Sark
Cutty Sark
Cutty Sark Toddler Time
Toddler running in front of the figureheads
Family fun

Cutty Sark Toddler Time

Listen, learn and play at Cutty Sark: bring your under-5s on a different adventure every week!
Wednesdays | 10.30am | 11.30am | 1.00pm | 2.00pm
£5 per adult
Cutty Sark
Shipkeeping in action
Man and woman looking at gingerbread on cutty sark
Talks and tours

Shipkeeping in action

This is your chance to meet the team who care for and conserve Cutty Sark
Monthly | See page for details
Free for Cutty Sark ticket holders
Cutty Sark
Cutty Sark Comedy
Events and festivals | Museum Lates

Cutty Sark Comedy

Join us in the Lower Hold of the famous tea clipper for a fantastic evening of stand-up comedy
31 March and 26 May 2024 | 6.30pm-8.30pm (Doors open at 6pm)
Adult: £18.00 | Members: £16.00
Cutty Sark
Members' tours of Cutty Sark
A shot with the Cutty Sark on the left hand side, facing Canary Wharf in the background
Talks and tours | Member events

Members' tours of Cutty Sark

Discover the history of the iconic vessel with an exclusive tour for Members.
Friday 19 April, Friday 26 April, Friday 3 May and Friday 10 May 2024 | 11am-12pm
Free for Members – booking required
Cutty Sark
Cutty Sark Concert - The Old Time Sailors
Image of band of people under the copper hull of Cutty Sark sailing ship, standing on a stage wearing shirts and paper bag trousers, holding instruments. Behind them are an array of ship's figureheads.
Events and festivals | Museum Lates

Cutty Sark Concert - The Old Time Sailors

Sail back in time with us for an immersive experience of traditional seafaring music underneath the Cutty Sark
Thursday 25 April 2024 | 7.30 - 10pm
Adult: £23 | Member: £21 | Young person/student: £21
Cutty Sark