The Paddle Steamer Shuffle

4 August 2017

The configuration of Gillingham pier is such that two ships cannot pass for much of its length. A slipway parallel to the pier and its associated marker piles prevent a moving vessel from passing a moored one. So we have to play the “shuffle game” whenever a ship needs to berth (or leave from) ahead of Medway Queen. Just such an occasion arose on Thursday 27th July when the MV Tongham arrived to berth at the pier. The ex-minesweeper, Tongham (ham class of 1957), has taken the place of light vessel LV21 at the landward end of Gillingham Pier. This required Medway Queen and the Sailing Barge Cambria to be moved out while the Tongham came in and then, of course, to be moved back to their moorings. Cambria can move by her own effort but we cant (yet!). All movements were carried out by A J & A Pratt's tugs Christine and Nippashore. Removal of the visitors’ gangway was necessary to allow the movement which meant that public access to the ship on the following Saturday (29th) was not possible. Moving Medway Queen requires a partial dismantling of the access gangway and we were unable to replace it in time for Saturday's visitors. As usual the exact date of the move was not known much in advance and there was no way in which all possible visitors could be warned. Despite notices on Facebook and the Medway Queen website some visitors were disappointed, but we hope they will be able to return and see the ship properly at some future time.

With the gangway replaced the following week, Medway Queen is now open as before on Saturdays from 11am to 4pm (last admission 3pm) and visitors can see the poignant “Memories of Dunkirk” exhibition in the lower aft saloon which has now completed its lighting upgrade. This display remains until September 4th, after which it will be replaced by “Spithead Review (1937 and ’53)” once our Heritage Open Days Art and Photo Exhibition is finished. More details on can also try out the recently installed full-width companion-way down to the upper aft saloon which has replaced the rather narrow temporary arrangement installed in Bristol. For fire safety reasons the new stairway is made of steel but will, in due course, be clad in timber to recreate the look of the ship when she was in passenger service.

Amongst all this excitement two boiler houses at the Kingsnorth Power Station on the other side of the river were explosively demolished at 3pm, and that too was captured from the pier by our ever-vigilant photographer, Joe Stokes. Credit: Richard Halton

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