Cutty Sark's Maiden voyage - Part 1

Half marathon notice

Visitor notice: On Sunday 4 March Cutty Sark and the museum car park will be closed for the Vitality Big Half Marathon. All other museums will be open as normal and DLR and rail links will be running. Find out about road closures

Shortly after midnight on 15th February 1870, a new and unknown cargo ship sailed out of London on her maiden voyage. Bound for China, no one could have guessed that that ship - Cutty Sark - would one day be the sole surviving extreme clipper ship in the world. 

Under the command of Master George Moodie, a short-term crew of twenty-five were assembled to take Cutty Sark from Dumbarton, Scotland - where she was built - to London, her registered home port. Once in the capital, she loaded a ‘general’ cargo of beers, wine and spirits at East India Docks and awaited her moment.

Cutty Sark at sea

A new crew was assembled from all over the world. Of the twenty-seven men, fourteen were from London or port cities of England such as Liverpool. From further afield, there were two Fins, an Able Seaman from Sweden and one from Chile and three men from the islands of the West Indies. The youngest on-board was eighteen year old William Parker, an Able seaman from London. The oldest was fifty-two year old cook, James Rae. Master Moodie and Carpenter, Henry Henderson, had been employed to oversee the building of Cutty Sark. Their intimate knowledge of the ship undoubtedly helped the crew to gainfully tackle the task of manning a brand new ship with all of the unknowns that entailed.

Cutty Sark routes

Cutty Sark was assigned a tug-boat to tow her down the river Thames and out to the open sea. Once out into the English Channel, she could set her sails, utilise the wind and propel herself toward the Atlantic Ocean. Just eleven days after setting out, she passed the Canary Islands, off the North West coast of Africa.

On the 14th March, almost one month after she had left London, Master Moodie recorded that Cutty Sark had ‘crossed the line’. The ship had sailed over the equator for the first time and was headed south, for South Africa.