From 2010 up to 2013, continued. Almost 100 years of P.S. Compton Castle - in one form or another!

Beyond the oil drums I can also see bags of onions and bread rolls, then just empty space; an ideal area for beds for patients suffering from scarlet fever, cholera or typhoid; a thought prompted by yesterday's trip on the Dart. Compton Castle might make a good isolation hospital but she'd need to be towed away from Truro; downstream to an isolated spot. And a flag pole erected. But I'd prefer she were back on the Dart.
In that frame of mind I relived yesterday's trip pretending I was aboard a resurrected Compton Castle. Another resurrection? Why not; it's happened before. But with the dream a lot was real. Moving around the boat I dipped in and out of conversations. Some I only eavesdropped, others I engaged with; and every so often I found a quiet corner to scribble a note of what I had heard.

We are heading down river towards Dartmouth Castle. The man towards the front of the boat is holding a mass of balloons. He is preparing to release them. He is the finance director of The Dartmouth Steam Railway and Riverboat Company. I know because I asked him.

"Originally you know she had no wheelhouse. Coal? It comes from Wales; uses the same as the trains. We wheelbarrow it onto the boat. The coal used to come from Russia. In 2000 the rail and boat companies here came together.

Oh yes these balloons; I'll be letting them off soon; as we turn around and go back upstream

Sure, she's the perfect form of transport. I remember being on holiday in Switzerland. We went on a paddle steamer on one of the lakes. All the women stood on board admiring the scenery, while the men admired the engine. Both satisfied. Perfect.

We had talked about getting Kingswear Castle back on the Dart. It'd been muted for a long time but the merger with steam trains seemed to seal it. It somehow gave the preservation society, who owned the boat, more confidence in us."

The boat started to turn, the siren hooted, and the gold balloons were released.

When I looked down into the engine room I knew I was looking at a power source older than Comptons. For this engine had once belonged to an earlier Kingswear Castle, built in 1904. I don't know why after only 20 years service she was scrapped. But she was; her engines and fittings were removed, and the remains of the boat used as an isolation hospital. That engine was transferred to this Kingswear Castle, and we shall soon pass by the yard near Dartmouth where she was built – Philip & Son - now closed.
Because the old Kingswear was considered contaminated the authorities eventually ordered she be burnt. They moved her hulk up river to Fleet Mill Bay where her remains can still be seen beside the river bank. We're not travelling up that far today, but on an earlier trip I saw her remains; unaware then we were looking at a derelict hospital where patients with contagious diseases had been confined. What you can do with a paddle steamer!