It was dry, so I unearthed the trusty two-wheeler from the garden shed, inflated the tyres till they were rock-hard, donned the high-visibily, sleeveless jacket, the cycle helmet, and ventured forth.
HMS Caroline, a historic 1st World War light cruiser, has been moored in the port of Belfast for over ninety years.
In excess of £12 million has been spent on her restoration.
I dismounted at Alexandra Dock, purchased a ticket, and ascended the gangway.
A pair of headphones and a very helpful audio device is included.
Caroline's self-guided tour comprises the two principal decks, viz. the Upper and Lower decks.
She must have five decks altogether, I suppose, though the two below sea-level were used mainly for storage, fuel and so on.
The National Museum of the Royal Navy has installed several elevators or lifts throughout the ship.
I began my tour with a pot of tea in the Mess Deck Café on the Lower Deck.
This cafeteria also exhibits a historic recreation of a light cruiser's mess-table, ready for the ratings to get tucked in to a meal.
|The Stewards' Mess|
The Lower Deck also contains the cable lockers, coal store, torpedo school, engineers' workshop, signal-room; and, at the stern, the marines' mess, ward-room, officers' cabins, and officers' bathroom.
Directly below the torpedo school are the mighty engine rooms.
Ascending the steps to the Upper Deck, we observe the restored Sick Bay, galleys, the drill-room and the Captain's quarters.
Incidentally, Caroline was commanded by Captain Henry Crooke RN during the Battle of Jutland.
Captain Crooke went on to become Admiral Sir Henry Ralph Crooke, KBE, CB.
|The Ward Room|
Close to the forecastle (fo'c's'le) is the Navigating Bridge, with its four-inch guns, Captain's day-cabin, and "crow's nest" mounted on a massive steel tripod.
I'm in no doubt that HMS Caroline will become one of Belfast's main tourist attractions. It deserves to be.
This is a floating, historic museum which we are proud to have in the port of Belfast.