Full sails and big smiles for return of old friend.

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Hundreds of well-wishers lined the banks of the River Torridge to welcome the Kathleen and May back to Bideford on Saturday afternoon.

News of the return visit – revealed in last week’s Gazette – drew crowds of people, all keen to see the schooner make the last leg of a two-day voyage from Gloucester, where she has been involved with the filming of a new Johnny Depp film.

Perfect sailing weather meant she was able to do so under full sail.

Marilyn Clarke, wife of late owner Steve Clarke, who died in December, said: “Steve always promised he would bring her home – he couldn’t have wished for a better occasion.

“It was because Steve had the vision and determination to restore her that she remains a recognised national treasure to all the maritime community and the many people who have visited her and supported her.

“We as a family are immensely proud of what has been achieved since the initial restoration and appreciate all the valuable volunteer contributions both in Bideford and Liverpool.

“We are achieving a sustainable future for her and see no reason why she should not continue to be enjoyed by generations to come. Her provenance continues to grow.

“Thank you Bideford for such a warm welcome.”

The iconic British-built three masted top sail schooner – the last of its kind – left Bideford for the Albert Dock in Liverpool in 2011.

Making a happy return to her home port, the magnificent ship was met by two crews of rowers from Appledore Pilot Gig Club, who rowed out to the Fairway Buoy to meet her.

Club press officer Hazel Waters said: “We held our breaths as she headed for the new bridge, it almost seemed like the ship did too.

“She passed under the bridge with what looked like little to spare and then confidently emerged to continue to Bideford Quay, to be met by large cheering crowds, a pipe band, sea shanty singers and the firing of the Bideford cannon.”

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