Herald Express April 12th 1978

Paddle steamer may be sold for scrap

The former River Dart paddle steamer, Compton Castle, moored as a tourist attraction in Kingsbridge estuary, may end her life as scrap.

Despite last - minute efforts by her owners to restore her, South Hams Council's leisure and recreation committee agreed yesterday that unless a Certificate of Watertight Integrity is produced the steamer must be removed from the estuary immediately.

The Harbour Master, Capt Jim Blazeby, has warned, however, that the vessel is in such a bad state that she cannot be moved from her mooring, which will leave the owners no alternative but to cut her up on the berth and sell her for scrap.

The council had previously agreed that unless the certificate was produced by April 1 the steamer should be removed and failure to do so would involve a penalty of £10 a day

Up to yesterday the owners had run up a debt of £110 which the council says it will collect, together with the arrears that continue to mount up until the steamer is finally removed.

Jim Blazeby

They sold it to someone, and this must be Clayton, who said he was going to run it again, turn it into a seaworthy ship, take it somewhere and do wonders with it.

I said OK Mr Clayton, you will have to remove that vessel from the Kingsbridge estuary by a certain date and served notice on him.

Now he couldn't take it straight away and tow it away because it was unseaworthy, so his problem was to make it seaworthy and have it surveyed, satisfy the Department of Trade as it was then, to enable it to be towed from Salcombe to Looe.

Now that was a real problem for him to start with because you can't tow any dodgy old thing and have it sink a few miles down the coast and become a hazard on the bottom or a wreck, so he had to patch it. But I didn't want to put him off, so in that sense I helped in terms of anything I could do to speed it on its way, providing it was within the law and satisfied the Department of Trade survey.

This we did and then towed it down the harbour. It had to have lots of hatches sealed so it could withstand a dose of bad weather on the way to Looe.

I supervised the removal from Kingsbridge down to the harbour and then the exchange of the vessel, towing it within the harbour to the vessel going to tow it finally way. That was all with the co-oporation of the Department of Trade and Industry to see that the vessel was safe and could go out of harbour. I wouldn't have wanted a dodgy thing being towed down the middle of Salcombe in the deep-water channel and over the bar if it wasn't safe.

I never saw her move, until I towed her away. I remember they used to run the engines up and to do that, for a pressurised boiler, you have to have the boiler certified otherwise unchecked it might explode and kill someone. When I went there they were still pressurising the boiler and turning the engines over. But fairly soon afterwards that never happened again. I was only interested in seeing the hull was maintained and the vessel was kept properly alongside the quay. They weren't experienced enough seafarers or knowledgeable enough about the water and the tide to understand that you've got to keep the vessel fendered and safe alongside our dodgy old stone quay.