Track the Medway Queen’s progress back to the Medway

Medway Queen afloat - bob Stokes Tug Christine - Michael Pratt

The Medway Queen Preservation Society has announced that tug Christine is now on her way to Bristol to tow the 1924 paddle steamer Medway Queen to her new home at Gillingham – and you can track their progress over the Internet.

When Christine arrives at Bristol and all necessary surveys are complete and certificates have been issued, Medway Queen will be towed out of the dry dock, manoeuvered through the locks and onto the river Avon, and then along the South Coast to the Medway.

This phase of the operation will be entirely dependent on both weather and the tides, but it is possible to follow the progress made by Christine’s and the Medway Queen progress back to Gillingham using and AIS system website such as  Search for the Christine (UK registered tug), not for Medway Queen.

The tug and her charge are expected to take an inshore route along the South Coast. The date and time of arrival in Gillingham can only be predicted by following the tug’s progress, but the MQPS think the journey’s likely to take about five days from leaving Bristol, given good weather.

The Medway Queen’s arrival at Gillingham Pier is a major event; as she arrives the MQPS visitor centre will be open, although for reasons of safety the public will not be able to enter the pier itself while the ship is mooring.

PS – People have been asking whether the Medway Queen will be carrying passengers. I’ve put the question to the MQPS and been told that the issue is complicated, and that for safety reasons her new riveted iron hull is ruled out for carrying passengers on the open sea. I’m told the jury is out as to whether she’ll be able to carry passengers on sheltered waters such as the Medway – one issue is said to be that the well known paddle steamers currently operating have great difficulty paying their way.

18 thoughts on “Track the Medway Queen’s progress back to the Medway”

  1. And what’s the point of all this? She’s a ‘new build,’ and wont be able to carry passengers. And she is being towed. Haven’t they even tried to fire up the engines? Did they ever bother responding to request for info. about her future?

    1. Chris – I forgot to mention that I did get a reply. I think a lot of us would like to see her making regular scheduled passenger excursions, but it seems clear the society doesn’t know whether it will be able to achieve this result, and is anxious that it might not be financially viable.

      My main concern would be that not running excursions would limit the MQ’s contribution to local life. Also, my observation is that craft that are not in regular use tend to fall into disrepair in just a few years – and I hope that’s not what happens to the MQ.

    1. As I understand it, nothing’s certain so let’s not be too hasty! I’m sure the MQPS is full of folks that desperately want to see her carrying passengers!


      1. Found the article on the Medway Queen website:

        THE FUTURE

        The Medway Queen Preservation Society is still trying to find a suitable berth for the Medway Queen to return to although Damhead Creek will continue to be available. The availability of berths is limited particularly for the size of our ship.

        It is still our aim to have a fully operational paddle steamer once the restoration is complete. Unfortunately it is unlikely that she will run in regular passenger service again unless an exemption is granted by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency. So the future use of the Medway Queen is as a vessel moored alongside offering hospitality services and museum space. There is a possibility of occasional steamed trips between Medway Towns for a very limited number of people but not for definite. Even an rare trip to Dunkirk may be possible with a skeleton crew onboard as a visiting veteran of Dunkirk. The main priority though is to get the Medway Queen rebuilt to a operational standard and returned to Medway as soon as possible.

  2. That post is from 2012, it’s since been agreed that the MQ will live at Gillingham Pier.
    I’m a member of the MQPS but admit I have not followed that shipyard blog so was astonished at this stuff about the new hull not getting fully licensed to carry pax. I am sure it has never been mentioned in the magazine that gets sent out. Not happy at the situation at all, I feel very let down by the committee, frankly.

    1. If I was a member I too would be asking direct questions and demanding answers. OK – in a way you can see the point – if the hull does not meet modern day safety standards then perhaps it would be unsafe to carry passengers – in rough seas. But what about flat dead calm rivers? But why then was the hull allowed to be built so that it is so unsafe in the first place? And why has the committee not been upfront about the issue of not being able to take passengers? Even more worrying is the statement that she will be a static exhibit and rarely if ever move let alone steam. That is Gavin’s point here – a static vessel quickly deteriorates thereby wasting all the time, effort and finance in the restoration aka rebuild. I’m also curious at the notion of a skeleton crew sailing her to Dunkirk. If she so unsafe that even a full crew cannot be carried then she must be very unsafe indeed – in which case the whole project has been a waste of time and money.

    2. A comment on another forum opines: “… the organisation had better still be serious about restoring the MQ ‘to full operational use again’ as that’s the basis on which they are seeking donations.”

  3. River trips from Chatham/Rochester ought to be effective, as the “Kingswear Castle” showed, even if they cannot take her over to Southend (and an in-Thames programme could be successful). But

    is clear that they are nowhere near any of that – as of July, apart from restoration of the on-deck accommodation, they have no money yet for a boiler. She will have to have a period for further fundraising in a static mode before the rest can be done – at least by having her as a public exhibit they should be able to maintain interest provided work is seen to be going on (Gillingham Pier is not a great location for accessibility, but as a place which can also accommodate workshops yet which can be open to the public it may be the best available in that area – though security may be a problem).

    The MQPS is currently appealing for funds ” to help restore the Medway Queen to full operational use again” so they had better mean what they say.

    1. Gillingham Pier is not suitable for a paddle steamer let alone running a ship from because it dries out twice a day which will put stress on the hull. She would be better of moored to buoys n the river or inside the basin near St Mary’s Island. The Medway Queen is many years from steaming. Firstly she needs a boiler then you need to consider safety equipment which is not cheap. The hull will be seriously fouled before this money is found so a further dry docking will be required. It’s very likely that she will steam again but it is very unlikelyt hats he will run passenger trips to Southend because the MCA are unlikely to issue a passenger certificate so the most she would carry is 12 people which is the maximum allowed.

      The only feasible way of running a passenger trip is for an MCA surveyor to visit the ship every time she is wants go out on a trip where the MCA surveyor may, but not necessarily, issue an exemption certificate for operation on that particular day. This is not commercially fixable as the MCA are not cheap.

      The articl mentioned previously from 2012 was written by the then webmaster Tim Corthorn. He was a serving seafarer. I am sure he would be happy to answer any questions as he is also involved with the operation of the Kingswear Castle paddle steamer…..reply to this post and I’ll forward the messages on.

      With regards to the tow it is unlikely that she will arrive directly at Gillingham pier because the tug will need to be changed so the MQ can be shunted into the pier. It is likely she will sit out in the river until the tide is right as well.

    2. Hello,
      I am trying to contact David Asprey re Henry Flinn (Dominion Line)

  4. I agree with almost all of that, in particular about Gillingham Pier. The problem seems to be that they want to make her accessible to the public (where a pontoon berth or inside the open part basin would be best), while continuing with extensive restoration (which requires landside workshop, favouring a corner of the “commercial” basin). In my view, the latter should have been the priority. It’s usually possible to arrange occasional public visits to secure locations to tie up with big local maritime events – that’s the set-up with the restoration of the “Daniel Adamson” at Liverpool, tying up with local vintage bus group).

    Southend does indeed seem out (it’s open water), but I would have thought that she should be able to get a certificate for Category C waters only – ie Medway down to Garrison Point, and the Swale. If she cannot get that, it begs the question of what the new hull is for.

  5. “But why then was the hull allowed to be built so that it is so unsafe in the first place? ”

    The reason is down to the lottery money – in order to get the money the ship HAD to be built exactly as per the original plans, this meant a riveted hull etc. It was not possible to preserve the original hull, so technically its a new vessel that doesn’t meet modern safety standards.
    Surely its better to have got the money and preseve what’s left rather than not get any money and just have a collection of bits?
    You all seem to be missing the point of her preservation, and have become rather tied up in worrying about travelling on her for your own pleasure.

    1. But … the Medway Queen Society has been raising funds to restore the vessel and her engines whilst at the same time admitting on the web site that she will be mainly stationary – aka moored to some pier – and might never actually use her engines to get anywhere. I’m sure that we’d all like to see her get to Dunkirk sometime, but even that will not be possible, let alone making it up the Thames. Gavin’s point made earlier makes sense. If she is kept static – rarely firing up her boilers – then it is likely she will quickly deteriorate. She’ll become another Tattershall Castle catering for drinkers and wedding parties. So the question is – why is she being restored with a new hull just to become a static exhibit? They might just as well have saved the cost of a new hull and displayed her on land like Cutty Sark. If the Lottery thought that by providing funds to make a new hull using hot-riveting to ensure that those skills are kept alive then they could have done that far cheaper with some other industrial heritage project such as with a steam engine boiler. So basically what is the point of the restoration / rebuild with a new hull and reconditioned boiler and engines if she isn’t allowed to go anywhere?

  6. That’s all well and good, though it’s a very expensive way to preserve the bits that were left.
    Whether it is better or not depends on what happens to other good projects that been bumped down or off the Lottery’s list.
    Anyway, it is how it is, and I hope it will be successful.

  7. I’m a life member of MQPS, and feel disappointed with the way all this has worked out. What we have got here is not the Medway Queen, it is a replica! Also, a replica that I doubt will ever progress much further. If they need another 2 million to get her working again, I am not going to hold my breath. The thing I feel most let down about is the fact that they have spent all this time and money to build a replica ship that cannot be used due to safety concerns. What is the point? They have appealed for information on the engine room reconstruction because no-one bothered to document how the original equipment was installed before they tore it out. The crankshaft has had a cheap and cheerful epoxy repair that I’m sure won’t stand up to any kind of usage. So we are going to be left with a ship sat in the mud and being used as a museum/wedding venue.

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