Tag Archives: Historic Ship

A trip on Steam Tug Portwey

The ST Portwey is a regular sight both in West India Dock where she is based and during the summer months out on the river Thames. As she was heading down to Gravesend I decided to take a trip to see first hand this historic vessel and also to see some of the lower reaches of the Thames.

ST portwey (1) @ River Thames 24-6-16

The trip departed from Masthouse Pier at the tip of the Isle of Dog and we were soon dodging the Thames Clippers that are the main users of the pier as we headed past Greenwich.

Typhoon Clipper (1) @ Greenwich 24-06-16

After passing Greenwich we followed (a lot more slowly!!) one of the London RIB Voyages boats towards the O2.

Rocket Junior (2) @ Greenwich 24-06-16

Soon the Thames Barrier was in sight along with a bulk carrier alongside at the Thames Refinery berth.

ST portwey (10) @ River Thames 24-6-16

ST portwey (12) @ River Thames 24-6-16

Once through the barrier the Woolwich ferries then came in to view

Woolwich Ferry @ Woolwich Reach 24-06-16

Then it was in to unfamiliar territory for me having never been past Woolwich on a boat before.

ST portwey (13) @ River Thames 24-6-16

ST portwey (14) @ River Thames 24-6-16

Passing Dagenham we exchanged greetings with fellow tug the Svitzer Brunel who was heading up river to assist with the departure of the Orient Adventure that we had seen alongside at Thames Refinery.

Svitzer Brunel @ Dagenham 24-06-16

We continued to make steady progress down river and before too long the Dartford Crossing came in to view along with a pair of Ro Ro Ferries and a Tanker alongside the Thurrock berths.

Ships @ Dartford Crosssing 24-06-16

Adeline + Wilhelmine (1) @ Purfleet 24-06-16

ST portwey (16) @ River Thames 24-6-16

As we passed the lock entrance to Tilbury Docks another Ro Ro Ferry, the Pauline Russ, was preparing to depart.

Pauline Russ @ Tilbury 24-06-16

Then as we neared our destination the cruise ship Magellan could be seen alongside at the London Cruise Terminal on the north shore.

ST portwey (17) @ River Thames 24-6-16

Magellan (3) @ LCT 24-06-16
On the south side various traditional Thames Sailing Barges that were due to take part in a race the next day (and the reason for ST Portwey’s trip down river to act as a spectator boat) could be seen moored at Gravesend.

SB Adieu + SB Niagara @ Gravesend 24-06-16

Well worth a trip on board one of the last remaining operational steam tugs and a really friendly team on board – many thanks to all concerned.

ST portwey (18) @ River Thames 24-6-16

A few more pictures of ST Portwey and other sights can be seen here.


Historic ships at 2016 London Boat Show

After an absence last year the 2016 London Boat Show being held at the ExCel exhibition centre in London’s Royal Docks once again has a number of boats on display in the adjoining dock – whilst not in the numbers of days go by it is still good to see boats in their natural habitat.

Aside the very large and very smart looking all new Sunseeker 131 the rest of the waterborne craft are of the more historic variety.

The fireboat Massey Shaw is once again in attendance and promises a number of firehose displays during the course of the show which is well worth a watch.

Massey Shaw (5) @ KGV Lock 07-01-16

All part of the contingent are two former Thames tugs, namely the MT Kent and the MT Touchstone.

Kent (1) @ KGV 07-01-16

Touchstone (1) @ KGV Lock 07-01-16

A reminder of the type of vessel once seen in great numbers on the Thames and around the Royal Docks is the Sailing Barge Melissa one of a number of such vessels that can often be seen on and around the Thames – important that these don’t become forgotten history.

SB Melissa (3) @ KGV Lock 07-01-16

The final vessel is the Spirit of Falmouth which is a replica pilot schooner and is now used as a sail / adventure training with a focus on supporting wounded armed forces personnel.

Spirit of Falmouth (7) @ KGV Lock 07-01-16

The other arrivals for the show including a flotilla of narrowboats from the St Pancras club.

Narrowboats @ KGV 07-01-16

More pictures of these and the other waterborne arrivals for the boat show can be seen here.

Royalty in the Royal Docks

It’s not every day that we get to see Royalty in the Royal Docks but today was one of those rare occasions.

Royalty (14) @ KGV Lock 08-12-15 The London based Absolute Party Cruises brought their vessel the MV Royalty in to the King George V Lock today to allow the Maritime & Coastguard Agency to undertake a routine safety inspection to ensure that the vessel is safe to operate as an events boat on the Thames. Royalty (12) @ KGV Lock 08-12-15

The KGV Lock is often used for such maintenance and inspection tasks as it is a sheltered area of non-tidal and wake free water with good access from the dockside and also has an on-site workboat.

Royalty (2) @ KGV Lock 08-12-15

For a vessel that is over 100 years old (and is included on the UK National Historic Ships register) she is looking in pretty good shape.

Royalty (1) @ KGV Lock 08-12-15

Hopefully she passes the inspection and is back working the Thames again.

A few more pictures can be seen here.

Not so happy birthday for the SS Robin

On this day, 16th September 1890, a 350 ton coastal steamer was launched from the Thames Ironworks shipyard in London – she was called the Robin.

125 years later the SS Robin sits on a pontoon in London’s Royal Docks within sight of the place where she was built and close to the river Thames where she once plied her trade.

Sadly on this anniversary there is no bunting, no crowds of friends and well-wishers and certainly no cake – in fact, no sense of celebration at all.

You might wonder “so what?” – well, the SS Robin is the oldest complete steam coaster in existence and the last of her type in the world but her future is far from certain.

Part of the reason why this is not a happy birthday for the SS Robin is that a bid for funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) which would have enabled her to be fully restored and opened to the public as a museum ship was unsuccessful. There is no criticism of the HLF as they have finite resources and many deserving causes and on this occasion the numbers just didn’t add up in the bid submitted by the SS Robin Trust.

The SS Robin was in the extremely fortunate position of having salaried staff and a permanent office base (as opposed to so many other heritage ships that survive on part-time, volunteer only, basis) but she never really achieved a high enough profile to successfully attract support. It is a shame the Trust didn’t like using social media as that might have helped a bit!

The SS Robin Trust states that it remains committed to securing the future of the SS Robin but something needs to change in the ship’s fortunes and quickly as she has already been in the Royal Docks for four years and is no closer to being a self-sustaining heritage attraction than she was when she arrived.

There has been no communication from the Trust since the funding announcement and the future looks uncertain as there was no Plan B – to have any chance of a sustainable future the SS Robin needs to capture and hold the public interest – even if things are happening behind the scenes there needs to be better engagement with the public.

Here’s hoping that on a future birthday anniversary the SS Robin has something to celebrate!!

A blog report of a visit on the SS Robin can be seen here and the SS Robin Trust website can be found here.

Paying a visit to the SS Great Britain

Whilst outside the normal coverage area of the blog a visit to Bristol had to include a visit to the docks to the SS Great Britain.

SS Great Britain (54) @ Bristol 06-09-15

She is now a museum ship and is located in the dry-dock where she was originally built and given that she was laid down in 1839 she is in remarkably good shape.

SS Great Britain (7) @ Bristol 06-09-15

Visitors are able to go down into the dry-dock (an impressive feat of engineering in it’s own right) and can see the hull construction and propeller.

SS Great Britain (12) @ Bristol 06-09-15

SS Great Britain (45) @ Bristol 06-09-15

Visitors can also go onboard and see various spaces that have been set to depict what life was like on board!

SS Great Britain (49) @ Bristol 06-09-15

All in all a very impressive museum and well worth putting aside several hours for a visit to see such an innovative ship.

SS Great Britain (51) @ Bristol 06-09-15

Click here for more details about the ship and a few more pictures can be seen here.


Whilst on board the SS Great Britain the Steam Tug Mayflower was noted on one of it’s regular pleasure trips around Bristol harbour – the ST Mayflower is believed to be the oldest surviving tug in the world.

Mayflower (1) @ Bristol 06-09-15

Steam Ship George Stephenson on the Thames

Seen heading up the river Thames on Saturday 6th June was a rather interesting vessel.

George Stephenson (5) @ Gallions Reach 06-05-15

Named the George Stephenson it is a new-build steam vessel that has been planned and constructed by a Dutch businessman by the name of Servaas Strik.

The keel was laid in November 2007 and it is coming to St Katharine Docks marina in London for her official christening on 12th June.

George Stephenson (10) @ Gallions Reach 06-05-15

What makes this vessel especially interesting is the combination of using very traditional engineering techniques but more importantly making use of salvaged components from a huge variety of vessels – either directly or as raw materials.

For example, the propellers are made from a smelted down screw from the former French Navy aircraft carrier Clemenceau whilst there are doors from the RMS Windsor Castle on board. Some of the wood is also reported to have come from a former Thames paddle-boat!

George Stephenson (11) @ Gallions Reach 06-05-15

Whilst her lines might please some and offend others what cannot be denied is that a massive amount of time and effort have been put in to creating a unique piece of floating history and fitting that she has sailed along the Thames with it’s own long history of maritime engineering.

George Stephenson (17) @ Gallions Reach 06-05-15

More details can be seen on their Facebook page here and some more pictures can be seen here.

Update 13th June 2015

The SS George Stephenson has now left London bound for Rotterdam – as she passed Woolwich (and the Sailing Vessel Wylde Swan) she sounded her steam whistle.

SS George Stephenson @ Gallions Reach 13-06-15

Dunkirk Little Ships visit London’s Royal Docks

May 2015 sees the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the WW2 evacuation of Dunkirk – known as Operation Dynamo. The main event is a planned return of approximately 60 Dunkirk Little Ships that will sail from Ramsgate to Dunkirk.

Papilion @ Connaught Bridge 16-05-15

As part of the mustering activity for the fleet a number of ships were due to spend the weekend of 16th – 17th May in London’s Royal Docks – this festival was jointly arranged between the Royal Docks Management Authority and the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships.

Unfortunately on the Friday before the event the forecast of bad weather meant that an earlier departure from the Royal Docks would be needed and thus the Sunday festival was cancelled.

ADLS Fleet (7) @ Gallions Reach 16-05-15

However, 19 Dunkirk Little Ships still arrived at the Royal Docks to spend Saturday evening through to Sunday morning in the Docks and to take part in a sail-past on the Saturday evening.

Rather strangely this was being billed as part of the UK wide “Museums at Night” event which was a bit a stretch of the imagination as a short sail-past of some visiting ships in the dock didn’t seem much like an after-hours access to a museum but I suppose any free publicity is worth having.

ADLS Fleet (15) @ Gallions Reach 16-05-15
The ships arrived at the Docks late Saturday afternoon after making their way down the Thames from an overnight stop at Teddington Lock.

The ships gathered in the lock and then made their way through the Royal Docks waters until reaching their overnight resting place near the Emirates Cable Car.

ADLS Fleet (16) @ KGV Lock 16-05-15

There were a lot of people out to see the ships arrive and numerous vantage points throughout the Royal Docks were used.

Silver Queen leads the fleet (2) @ Royal Victoria Dock 16-05-15

One strange thing was that it appeared that nobody from the Royal Docks Management Authority was at either the KGV Lock or the Royal Victoria Dock berth to greet the Ships – hopefully someone was there for the press interview as otherwise it would be strange for the organisers not to be involved in any way.

ADLS Fleet (7) @ Royal Victoria Dock 16-05-15

A shame it is only a fleeting visit but great to see these historic ships and lots of people were enjoying the chance – fortunately, for anyone that missed them this time, this isn’t a once in a lifetime opportunity as Dunkirk Little ships can be seen at other events in London – most notably St Katharine Docks will be hosting the Classic Boat Festival in September.

ADLS Fleet (3) @ Royal Victoria Dock 16-05-15

Sunday departures

The fleet made an early departure on the Sunday morning to ensure a safe arrival at Ramsgate and a video of the boats coming through the Royal Docks can be seen here.

Elvin (1) @ KGV Dock 17-05-15

Some more pictures from the event can be seen here.

ADLS Fleet (6) @ KGV Lock 17-05-15

ADLS Fleet (3) @ KGV Lock 17-05-15