UK’s oldest cargo-carrying sea-going steamship is towed away for restoration

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SS Robin, the oldest complete steam ship in the world

SS Robin, the oldest complete steam ship in the world

SS Robin, the oldest complete steam ship in the world

Victorian era steam ship SS Robin, the oldest complete steam
ship in the world, is towed away for restoration

The Victorian steam ship SS Robin, said to be the UK’s oldest complete cargo-carrying seagoing steamship and one of only three National Register of Historic Vessels Grade1/Core Collection ships in London – has left her home berth in Canary Wharf on her way to being restored.

The refit and restoration is the culmination of six years’ work for the SS Robin Trust, and has benefited from a £1.9 million loan from Crossrail, the new east-west railway for the capital. The new line is set to open a station near the SS Robin’s regular moorings next year.

“Volunteers and professionals have been working for months to prepare Robin for this complex journey, the first time she has left her home berth for nearly two decades,” said David Kampfner, project director and co-founder of SS Robin Trust.

I commuted daily to work in this part of London for several years and would see the SS Robin from the window of my train each morning – so I’m particularly pleased that her future seems assured.

PS – The SS Robin Trust has put up some new photos and video of her trip to Lowestoft. She’s to be slipped next week.


143-year old Solomon Islands canoe is restored for Maidstone Museum

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Solomon Islands canoe at Maidstone Museum

Solomon Islands canoe at Maidstone Museum

Solomon Islands canoe at Maidstone Museum

19th century Solomon Islands canoe arrives at
Maidstone Barracks for restoration

A mid-19th Century canoe brought to the UK by explorer Julius Brenchley is being restored before going on public show at Maidstone Museum, close to where we live in Kent, England. I hope to be able to let you all know when it goes on show. Curiously, the work’s being done at Maidstone Barracks.

Here’s the museum’s press release:

Canoe leaves museum for a year to undergo a revamp

A canoe has now left Maidstone Museum for a year’s worth of restoration work.

The 143-year-old Soloman Island fishing canoe left the St Faith’s Street museum yesterday (Thursday) to go to Maidstone’ s army barracks.

The 25-foot vessel would have been crewed by eight people and was collected by Julius Brenchley in 1865 when he travelled through the South Pacific.

While at the 36 Royal Engineer Regiment in Royal Engineers’ Road the wooden canoe will be housed in one of the hangers, where it will be worked on.

Eight people helped get it onto the removal lorry and once it had made its short journey down the road, Maidstone’s Royal Engineers helped get it into the hanger.

Conservator Justin McMorrow will be repairing and restoring the piece to bring it up to display standards. This will include cleaning; strengthening it to ensure it will stay together for the next few years and consolidating it meaning repairing parts which have previously broken. It will eventually end up as one of the key exhibits in the new East Wing of the museum.

Keeper at Maidstone Museum, Giles Guthrie said this canoe is going to be one of the ‘wow’ objects of the museum and was pleased the canoe made it in one piece. He said: ‘This piece has to be conserved because it’s an unusual item. The fact Julius Brenchley managed to get it back is a test of his ability’.

For much more on boats from cultures around the globe, go to Bob Holtzman’s great weblog Indigenous Boats.

The Waveneys of the Norfolk Broads

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Waveney One-Designs in action

Waveney One-Designs in action. Photo from Alan Davies
of the Museum of the Broads

Alan Davies of the Museum of the Broads has kindly agreed to allow us to republish a short article telling the story of the Waveney boats that he wrote for the museum’s newsletter. Many thanks Alan!

Waveney One Designs

Length 20ft, beam 6ft 2in, draft 2ft 11in, sail area 290sqft, gunter rig

Designer W S Parker

The Waveneys were designed in the early 1920s by William Parker of Oulton Broad, after the Waveney Sailing Club proposed to have a one-design boat. The first four or so boats were built along similar lines and developed into a consistent set of drawn plans in 1928.

The first seven were built before World War II and, instead of sail numbers, had the letters A-H in alphabetical order of build. This was later changed to numbers with a ‘W’, both in red. They are all named after wild marsh flowers.

The first six were built by the Evans Yard at Kirkley. Horace Jenner built Number 7 and Number 8 was built at Richards’s Shipyard. The rest were built by Tim Flower and his sons in a boat shed in their Lowestoft garden with exception of Number 24, which was built by Selwyn Watson.

WODs are occasionally mistaken for the more numerous Yare & Bure One Designs, but an easy way to tell them apart is the red sail numbers of the WODs and the fact they have two shrouds on each side as opposed to the Y&BODs’ single shroud. Another difference, only seen when the boat is out of the water, is that the keel is a ballasted metal plate rather than a ballasted wooden one.

By the early 1990s many of the 26 boats had already had to undergo major restoration and it was felt that as with the Y&BOD and the Broads One-Design the cost of building and maintaining new wooden boats would be too expensive. so local boat builder Jimmy Toplis decided to take a mould of his WOD, Penny Royal. By September 1994 the first GRP Waveney, Celandine (Number 27) was launched.

The new boat had to be assessed to make sure its performance was similar to the wooden boats, and once the weight was corrected the new boat’s performance was on a par with the older boats.

To date five more GRP boats have been built, taking the numbers to 32, with orders for two more. One of them has gone to Lake Windermere, and interest has been expressed in developing the hull as a small two-berth Broads cruiser, as has happened with the Thurne Class, which is based on the Y&BOD’s hull.