Sunday, 5 May 2013

Odd jobs and old boats

The rain stopped about lunchtime and Torquay really came to life with bank holiday crowds, stalls selling mostly things to eat and drink, entertainers, musicians etc. On Bonita I spent some of the time doing the sort of minor maintenance jobs which are easier when the boat is empty. Always an interesting feature of new harbours are the old historic vessels of all types of which there are so many in Britain.
A Fairmile B off Mulberry Harbour
during D-Day landings.

The Fairmile B is a wartime fast motor launch. The one here in Torquay looks in remarkably good condition given that these boats were quickly built in the expectation of a short but exciting life. Today she is busy taking passengers round Torbay, but it seems at only a small fraction of her designed operational speed.

SS Shieldhall built 1954


Back in Weymouth I was interested to also see the SS Shieldhall. She is a 1955 steamship, one of the largest steamships still in working order. Big ships today are driven by huge diesel engines. The Shieldhall was built to carry sewage and was doing this until the 1980s. She too has been restored and looks very good.

I remember seeing the sewage ships at work on the Thames when it was still acceptable to dump unprocessed waste at sea. They were elegantly designed ships more ornately painted than usual to divert attention from their unglamorous purpose. Apparently they were originally designed to to carry sight-seeing passengers as well as sewage sludge on their trips out to sea but the dual use was not a success. When passing downwind of them one could not mistake the true nature of their cargo.

When we were in Weymouth the Shieldhall was getting up steam for a bank holiday trip to Southampton; having given up on the sewage she now seems to have plenty of passengers. Keeping a ship of this size in good condition is a huge undertaking  and it is fortunate that there are enough people who care about old ships and think the effort is worthwhile.