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2010年7月1日星期四
Take a bow for all your hard w

It is their labour of love, a replica of John Cabot's famous square-rigged ship The Matthew - and it takes a lot of looking after.

But for the ship's hardy team of volunteers, it is more than worth it.

The team has been working in all weathers to get the Matthew through the maritime version of an MoT, ready for another year of sailing.

There is a rare chance to see the ship in dry dock at the historic Underfall Yard, off Cumberland Road, Bristol, while work is being done.

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The Matthew undergoes two checks this time of year, one in the water and one in dry dock, when the wooden hull is inspected, sanded down and then oiled.

The team is led by skipper Rob Salvidge, who was sanding the hull as flakes of snow fell around him yesterday.

Rob, 52, who lives on a boat in the harbour, leases The Matthew from the ss Great Britain Trust through Shipshape and Bristol Fashion Ltd, the management and operating company.

He said: "The problem with a ship built in the traditional way is that there is always something that needs doing.

"To keep it up together costs about Pounds 50,000 a year."

To keep afloat, the ship is hired out for film and TV work and for celebrations and corporate parties.

It was used in a recent documentary on the history of the Royal Navy presented by Dan Snow and will feature in a forthcoming programme about how Britain became great through its ships.

The Matthew can be seen at maritime festivals and it is regularly visited by school pupils learning about the Tudor period.

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Several hundred people visited at the weekend just to see the work being done at Underfall Yard.

Rob said: "It is fortunate that we have got this window. In the last two years, the ship has really suffered from the weather to be honest.

"The volunteers have done an incredible job. There are about 20 volunteers of all ages and a core group of six to eight who carry out the hard graft."

Rob's links with The Matthew go back to before it was built to mark the 500th anniversary of John Cabot's voyage of discovery to Newfoundland in 1497.

His dad Bill was a friend of the shipwright Michael Blackwell and over the years his love of sailing grew and he caught the bug.

Rob's passion for the ship is obvious but passion alone will not keep it shipshape.

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He said: "I do think The Matthew is a wonderful icon of Bristol. We could do with a few more supporters but I do think the city council should support it as well.

"A successful city like Bristol is only successful because of achievements on a lot of levels. The way it presents its past, its history, is an important part of that story.

"What I like about The Matthew is that it's for everybody, whether you live in Knowle or Clifton. You get a real sense of the spirit of adventure that Bristol people connect with.

"I don't want to see it only rented out for posh people's parties.

"I am passionate about keeping it for everyone, but that will only happen if the city supports it."


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