Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Shieldsman Sails South via Solent to Shoreham

The fbb's lodgement from last Thursday thru' Mionday was at Shoreham Beach, the now-built-on  spit of shingle that forms the southern bank of the river Adur just before it joins the sea.
In the early years of the 20th century the slab of pebbles became the haunt of music hall and film stars with three film companies setting up small studios there. The area gained the name "Bungalow Town", although fbb has no idea why!
Much of this was demolished and all residents were removed in 1940 because of the invasion risk and to clear the land for military use. Since WW2 the "Beach" has become fully developed. fbb has blogged previously about the area and its new footbridge. See "A Bridge Too Far" (read again).
It was, therefore, as fbb was trotting purposefully over the new bridge on Friday last, that he spotted something interesting parked in the riverside sludge.
A fuzzy zoom reveals a vessel named "Shieldsman".
Dredged from the recesses of fbb's decaying mind was a fleeting memory of such a vessel, previously experienced, possibly even sailed upon. A quick search on line revealed just that vessel ...
... one of the boats that plied the River Tyne between South and North Shields.

The Shieldsman was built by Hancock Shipbuilders of Pembroke Dock and entered service in 1976. The ferry is double ended, and can operate either way, however they typically work one way, and turn around as part of the crossing over the Tyne. It could carry 350 passengers. The Shieldsman was retired early in 2007, at the age of 30 ...

... to be replaced by the new The Spirit of the Tyne. Nexus sold the Shieldsman in 2008 to a private buyer from the Portsmouth area, who chose to remain anonymous.  The Shieldsman was powered by twin 8lxb Gardner engines and the electricity was powered by Lister generators; i.e. she was diesel-electric. 

By the time she was "retired" her livery was various shades of blue as in this picture showing her boarded up and ready for sale.
In 2010, she left the Tyne for the very last time under her own power.
Her journey southbound was interrupted by technical problems involving a stopover at Great Yarmouth for repairs.
But Solent ship-spotters were mystified.

The owner of The Shieldsman, which plied back and forth across the Tyne near Newcastle for 30 years, is thought to want to berth her at Port Solent. But no-one at the marina knows anything about the plan or the new owner and neither does Portsmouth City Council which would have to consider granting a drinks and entertainment licence.

Eventually the vessel was spotted in a shipyard at Portchester not far from its intended berth.
What happened next is unclear. The vessel was put up for sale again on-line.
She spent a few brief weeks on Southampton Water and was then spotted sailing due east. We now know where she was going; and here she is, nestling on the mud of the river Adur ...
 ... and awaiting a shunt into position. Once appropriately parked, work began in earnest to make her habitable.
She even gets a mention on-line from the firm that sprayed insulation material on her structure; the pictures also showing fixtures and fittings under wraps ready for kitchen and bathroom creation.
And now she stands, incongruously, amongst smaller vessels. fbb nipped along the footpath to get a photo of the former ferry, festooned in her firmly-fixed finery.
Note solar panels, a canopy at the river end, patio doors and (you must imagine) a conservatory, also at the outer end. The steps up to the former open passenger deck form excellent staging for a picturesque profusion of purple petunias in pots.**
fbb would wager (if he did, but he doesn't) that the millions of Geordies who used to cross on Shieldsman from south to north Tyneside (and vice versa) for their diurnal toil would be incredulous to think that people actually live in her! As the shocked Tynesider certainly wouldn't say, proffering an opinion on the new owner, "Waye aye, mon. Where's ya netty, marra? I'm busting wi' larfs. That gadgie's a propa doylem, man."

** fbb has no idea whether they were petunias or not, but poetic licence allows such a corruption of the horticultural veracity of the situation.

 Next bus blog : Thursday 17th July 

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