IT WAS the largest gathering of boats in modern times.
Hundreds of yachts, kayaks and powerboats, led by the Queen on the royal barge, sailed up the River Thames yesterday in a spectacular pageant.
And proudly bringing a touch of Portsmouth’s naval history to the capital, more than a dozen vessels from around the city were there to follow her.
Tens of thousands of rain-soaked patriots lined the banks of the river in London to watch the procession with the royal family at its forefront.
Dotted along the route were also several other boats forming the Avenue of Sail.
One of these boats was the Gosport-based yacht HMSTV Endeavour. She was crewed yesterday by servicemen and women who are training to become sailors in addition to their other duties.
Their boat was moored at St Katherine Docks, near Tower Bridge, where the procession neared its end.
Endeavour’s crew joined thousands of others waving enthusiastically at the royal barge, the Spirit of Chartwell, as it passed them yesterday afternoon with the royal family on board.
Endeavour’s skipper, Greg Miller, from Gosport, said: ‘It has been a great experience.
‘We’ve been socialising with the other crews on the boats around here and it’s been nice having members of the public coming on board too.’
Joe Thorpe, 21, from Birmingham, was one of the select crew chosen to sail from Gosport on Thursday for the pageant.
He said: ‘It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, it’s pretty special. I’m in the Army and one thing that’s been nice is seeing all three services come together. The atmosphere has been really good.’
The Endeavour crew arrived in London in the early hours of Thursday morning. The boat belongs to the Joint Services Adventurous Sail Training Centre, based in Haslar.
Mark Durkan, Endeavour’s watch leader, from Gosport, said: ‘I’m missing a street party back home in Gosport to be here which is a shame but it is truly spectacular.
‘It is an amazing event and I am proud to be here.’
Legendary sailor Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, who runs the Gosport-based Clipper Ventures, also took part in the pageant with his 32ft yacht Suhaili.
Sir Robin, who became the first person to navigate the globe solo and non-stop in the boat in 1968/1969, said: ‘I wouldn’t have missed this for the world. It certainly isn’t something that is going to happen again in my lifetime. I think people don’t realise how popular the Queen is but it is things like this which show how popular she is.’
Other vessels from the area in the flotilla included Portsmouth Historic Dockyard’s Motor Torpedo Boat 102 which took part in the Dunkirk evacuations in the Second World War and was used by Prime Minister Winston Churchill and US President Eisenhower to review D-Day ships in 1944.
There was also British powerboat HSL 102 which was used by the RAF to rescue pilots during the Second World War, the Medusa which marked an approach to Omaha Beach on D-Day, the Spirit of Avalon yacht, and tall ship TS Royalist with its grand sails. HMS Diamond’s rigid inflatable boat also flanked the Royal Barge.