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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Zimba, Camden Maine

To Whitehaven, for an optician's appointment. Walking along the hard standing on the harbour my gaze was caught by a boat of quite outstanding elegance. A 60-foot yacht with a sleek black hull and neat cream-coloured strip decking that made it look quite the Art Deco transport of delight. The Zimba was registered in Camden, Maine, from which it inescapably followed that its lucky owners must have sailed it across the North Atlantic.
This led me to think of those Cumbrians who made the crossing the other way under sail, generally to the Maritimes and the Carolinas, in search of better fortune; and of others whose enforced transportation brought them from Africa in vessels whose home was this Cumbrian port. What the Zimba's crew came in search of is probably not difficult to gauge: Whitehaven arguably looms larger in American history than British. The family of their revolutionary hero hailed from hereabouts, and the town's Lowther-built gridiron was allegedly the blueprint for Manhattan's streets. And in 1778 the father of the US Navy, a local lad, brought the Revolution home with an abortive strike at the colonial power's economy by attacking the third largest slaving port in Britain. (One wonders what the Virginian revolutionary leadership felt about this stunt).
Whatever the reason, the Zimba gave Whitehaven harbour a welcome breath of sophistication and class.