On the Blocks

Supporting the preservation and operation of paddle steamers Waverley and Kingswear Castle

Final checks of the slipway blocks prior to positioning KC.|PSPS Collection

From Paddle Wheels No. 69

Kingswear Castle was slipped on Wednesday, May 4th at approx 14.20 hrs with a predicted tide height of 20.7 feet. The keel blocks have been set up to a tapered wedge formation for this slipping with 5 inches under the forefoot and 23½ inches beneath the stern. This arrangement gives much more room to work beneath. There was some last-minute speculation as to whether KC would go on the slip with the available water but all was well and John Oliver with his gallant little tug, Hobbit, brought her round to the slipway approach from where KC was warped in by hand.

Examination of the bottom and bilge plates showed them to be in good condition although the original paint was lifting in many places. lt hadn’t done badly though, all things considered.Much impacted dirt, barnacles, flaking, paint, etc. posed the problem of its removal in a fairly short period. The problem was resolved by the kind loan of a pressure washer, complete with van, by the writer’s firm and two days work knocked the muck off! Painting is proceeding with a total build-up of four coats of metallic type primer. Enquiries are out for the rolled plates for re-plating the bad areas. Some frame and bulkhead repair is also required and this must also be tackled whilst on slip. Some painting and varnishing has been carried on and some of these jobs are now falling into the category of annual maintenance which is a welcome step forward. The port bow scroll board is now back at ship after having been superbly renovated. The starboard board requires remaking, but it is hoped that the bows will soon be brought back to their original glory. Another job which will make a call on our artists is the paddle boxes. The starboard box has been stripped out to reveal badly wasted steel framing to be re-newed. Drawings and preliminary work are in progress for a complete rebuild alter which will come some interesting decorative work.

Please help the Kingswear Castle Fund reach the target sum of £3500 in order to get the ship sailing. We acknowledge, with grateful thanks, the kind assistance given to us recently by Messrs Wolf Electric Tools Ltd. This is in regard to the supply of heavy duty 110 volt tools in the form of drills and angle grinder which are already being worked very hard indeed on bottom plates.

Preparation of the slipway.|Margaret Scroggs
Drilling and grouting in fittings to secure blocks.|Margaret Scroggs
Final checks.|PSPS Collection
 |PSPS Collection

In Their Own Words – From Paddle Wheels No. 69, Guy Hundy

Kingswear Castle’s move on to the tidal slipway at the Medway Bridge Marina on May 4th was a vital step in the restoration programme. lt enables essential work to be carried out on the hull, paddle boxes and wheels during the summer months – work which will put the vessel well along the road to operation. The vessel’s keel is supported at an inclination of one degree by a series of 17 wooden blocks fastened to the slipway by specially made hooks. These, together with eyes, grouted into the concrete were made by volunteer members during the previous weeks. Lawrie Beal master-minded the plan and the prepared blocks were hauled down on to the slipway the previous weekend and adjusted for position and height. This in itself was no mean task but with willing hands on the ropes and with one member using a car to assist hauling the bigger ones, they were all fastened down before the tide covered the slipway.

Speed and precision were essential on the chosen day. Less than half hour was available for the manoeuvre before the peak height of the spring tide was reached. There were a few anxious looks at the improvised gauging sticks showing the depth above the blocks as the water began to rise. Would the tide make the predicted height necessary to float KC into position? With twenty minutes to go and KC just afloat on the mudberth the decision to move was made. PSPS members hurried along the gangplank on to the paddle steamer to make final preparations for casting off and the tug skipper brought the small motor tug Hobbit alongside. Under the crisp direction of Nick Knight the two vessels were soon swinging out into the centre of the stream and round towards the approach channel to the slipway. The tricky manoeuvre of KC along the channel with the tug astern was speedily accomplished, a gentle breeze assisting. Engineer trained, Lawrie Beal had insisted on the blocks being positioned “to the nearest thou”. Our project leader may have suffered some leg-pulling as he meticulously adjusted the blocks rand levelled them as high as possible to give maximum clearance under the hull. When the critical moment came, however, the precision planning was shown to pay off. At the top of the tide Kingswear Castle’s bow just grounded on the top block with the vessel exactly in the correct position. Lines were made fast and the tug, waiting astern just in case, was despatched.

Here she comes!
Demonstration of the pressure washer.|PSPS Collection

The excerpts above say it all – a lot of effort and cost, with not much work done on the ship itself. We welcomed a new member on May 4th – Roger Toft, who was able to play a leading part in the various engineering tasks ahead.

“This is how it goes”.|Margaret Scroggs
“Yeah, something like this”.|Margaret Scroggs
“Let’s see if it goes up”.|Margaret Scroggs
“Seems OK”.|Margaret Scroggs
A successful end result.|June Bushell