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See the sea festival

Maritime stars are joining Britannia for an international seafaring festival in Edinburgh. Jane-Ann Purdy reports.

The International Festival of the Sea comes to Scotland for the first time this month. The maritime celebration will transform the Port of Leith, Edinburgh, into a living museum of seafaring history. Ships from all over the world are expected to weigh anchor in the historic harbour, which is already the permanent home of the former Royal Yacht Britannia.

Vessels already confirmed include the Jubilee Sailing Trust's Tenacious, the Sail Training Association's Prince William and Leith's own Jean de la Lune. From Europe, the Belgian Navy's sail training ship, Zenobe Gramme, and the Dutch schooner Oosterschelde are also expected while the Barque Endeavour, a reconstruction of Captain Cook's famous 18th-century ship of exploration, is making the trip from Australia.

Yachts from all over the country are queueing up to take part and, for the first time, the festival is welcoming a guest nation - two of Norway's graceful tall ships, Sorlandet and Christian Radich, will be sailing across the North Sea to celebrate a shared seafaring heritage.

Other historic vessels appearing include a Clyde "Puffer", Auld Reekie and Aileach - the only replica of a Scottish Highland galley ever built.

Events will include spectacular displays by the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, who are famous for abseiling from aircraft to chase across the harbour in raiding craft. There will also be opportunities for novices to try their hand at sailing. For landlubbers, there will be an extensive array of model boats, and educational stands explaining everything from ecology to the marine trades, which are also represented by traditional craftsman. Demonstrations of knot tying, boat building, sail tanning and iron forging will include opportunities for visitors to try their hand at these ancient crafts. There is a special programme for schools.

Festival dates: 23-26 May 2003. Tickets pound;7.50-pound;15, children under six free. For more information and group rates Tel: 0141-587 6071 Email: pam@festivalofthesea.co.uk www.festivalofthesea.co.uk

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