I think that the majority of my readers on this one, might look at the title and then think of HMS Ganges and its mast. It is, after all, the only mast of its kind left standing although over its life [1907 when erected on terra firma and 1908 when first used to current] it has been heavily repaired four times with other less involved maintenance at other times. Thus, it could be argued that it is nothing like the original mast of 1907, but its symbolism and its iconic value is apparent notwithstanding its history. As configured, it really does not belong in this story because it has never been a "sailing mast", just a shore training mast for boys.

I am grateful to and acknowledge the copyright of this photograph taken from 'Mail On-Line'.

Lovely, isn't it?

It is the sail training ship of the Columbian navy, the ARC GLORIA, on a showing the flag cruise, leaving the Pool of London en route for a Spanish visit just a few weeks ago [page written late October 2011]. In a moment, I will be showing you the list of the top ten tallest sailing masts afloat today, and this ship, number nine in that list, can get under the bridge but numbers one to eight cannot: they are too tall.

Having looked at the picture and the support brief text, there is no where which explains to an enquiring mind just how close the guys on top of the fore and main masts came to getting their heads knocked off by colliding with the upper stationary bridge structure. So........

In my next picture, I have used another of the Mail's splendid photographs to illustrate the parts of the story which are missing.

 The new picture requires no further explanation.

Before I show the list of the ten tallest sailing masts operational today, let's have a brief look at the navy's two icon masts.

They are the previously mentioned HMS Ganges mast which stands tall at 142 feet and of course THE mast, namely the main mast of HMS Victory which is a mind blowing 205 feet tall. Neither of course could have got under this bridge, a bridge which for London is very modern, built in the late Victorian period. In a way, it puts the Ganges mast and its manning ceremony into perspective which places Ganges as 'an also ran' in terms of young cadets providing a spectacular worthy of a good Hollywood movie and which temporarily, brought Thames-side London to a stand still.

It would be rational to think that ships are built in proportion and that long and wide ships have the tallest masts.  Not so, indeed far from it, so in the list below, number one ship is quite a good bit shorter in overall length than is number four [which is the longest afloat].

The list then is:-

1. KAIWO MARU - Japan @ 182 feet 2. ESMERELDA - Chile @ 165 feet 3. LIBERTAD VESPUCCI - Italy @ 165 feet 4. KRUZENSTERN - Russia @ 162 feet 5. AMERIGO VESPUCCI - Italy @ 160 feet
6. EAGLE - USA @ 147 feet 3 inches 7. DAR MLODIEZY - Poland @ 147 feet 8. MIR - Russia @ 145 feet 9. ARC GLORIA - Columbia @ 127 feet 10. CAPITAN MIRANDA - Uruguay @ 124 feet