Saturday, August 12, 2017

Historic working ships at Gravesend

When the ferry arrived from Tilbury we were met by three historic working ships and three groups singing simultaneously.

The Swingtime Sweathearts (below, in the rain) were singing 40s songs while a group of salts were chorusing sea shanties and three pirate types were tackling Waltzing Matilda - all at the same time!

This is not normal for anywhere, let alone Gravesend, so it was clear that something was up. It was one of those British maritime history dos that seem to pop up most summers, this one called "Something for the Weekend... don't mind if we do!".

I suspect an end-of-the-pier double-entendre is in there somewhere.

Anyhow in terms of boats what there were two tugs and a naval victualling ship, two of which can be seen here:
Ok, maybe one and a half can be seen here.

The half is the tug Kent of Rochester (which I'm pretty sure I've been on before, probably at a boat show) and the other VIC56. The latter was built just after WW2 so never saw active service but was used by the naval off Scotland.

I spent longest on the steam tug Portwey which was lovely (check out the colourful funnel at the top and wider picture below) and had a very informative tour. According to the web site it is "the only twin screw, coal fired steam tug now active in the United Kingdom".

Big kudos to all of those that keep these three boats in such good conditions. On my tour was the chair of the society restoring the Medway Queen so there was lots of informed debate between him and the crew about the challenges they face.

It sometimes feels like a uphill (or should that be against tide) battle to save these historic boats from just rotting away. I've seen other tugs in Ramsgate harbour held up by sunken concrete and there was talk of boats along the Medway similarly suffering.

In a way its a problem of excess: there is so much British maritime history, a surfeit of boats to save, that inevitable that some will be lost.

Respect and thanks to those that gave up their spare time to look after three.


my2fish said...

Neat that they were there the same day you toured the boats.

In high school, we toured Michigan's upper peninsula and did a ferry boat tour of the Soo Locks (massive locks between Lake Superior and the lower Great Lakes). While on the ferry boat, we looked over to the shoreline and a lone man stood there playing the bagpipes. It was neat to hear the sound carry all across the water.

JP said...

I love the sound of bagpipes over water - very atmospheric.