We hadn’t discovered the joys of off-peak travel when we decided to go to Portsmouth for the day, so a quick look at the train prices convinced us that renting a car was the go, particularly as we are so close to London City Airport. We’ve since discovered that travelling off-peak (after 9 am) as a group can be as much as 50% cheaper, if you know the tricks when booking on line — and well done to Paula for working this out. However, while Graeme got the job of chauffeur, we were all pretty happy with the upgrade to a fairly substantial people mover, so we swanned the two hours down to Portsmouth in something like style.

The museum dockyards are still part of the working docks, so security was reasonably tight, and we were always in no doubt as to the relationship between the Royal Navy and Britain’s ‘Greatness’. There were lots of possessive pronouns flung around, which was interesting, and the obvious pride of the guides on the Victory was quite engaging.

   

 VIctory is undergoing a twenty-year restoration, starting with the exterior, so all her top masts are down and some of the interior is closed off, including the Great Cabin; but the exterior is substantially complete and quite different from the previous paint scheme. It turns out that they discovered the invoice for the 1803 paint job, together with the recipe for the paint, so here she is with a buff and black colour scheme in the place of the yellow and black oaken wall I have some often imagined.

  

The museum now insists on guided tours, so no more free-ranging over the old girl; but Graeme and Sally commented that the guides improved the experience. We got a constant stream of information from cross-trees to keel, and a detailed explanation as to why they were certain as to the exact point that Nelson was standing when he received the fatal hit. Below decks was a dark cavern, making photography a bit of a challenge.

  
We could only visit the Mary Rose building, because the preservation spraying and drying has finished earlier than expected (after twenty odd years) and the whole facility will not reopen until 2017; but it will be worth coming down again one day to see here. We will have to, because we only scratched the surface in our six hours at the dockyard.

  

  We wandered through the small boat museum, took a boat over to the Submarine Museum at Gosport – absolutely fascinating – and finished off with a whirlwind tour of Warrior as the sun came down. We didn’t get near the RN Museum, not did we have time for the Marines. Oh well, life is a reconnaissance mission for tomorrow!