Operational paddle tugs have pretty much disappeared from rivers, estuaries and harbours everywhere, so it was good to see one survivor still in active service on the River Elbe in October this year towing a large barge past Schloss Pillnitz in the direction of the Czech Republic from which she hails.
The Beskydy is one of eight sisters built in the 1950s all of which had this distinctive arrangement of two paddle wheels at the stern. Several survive in static roles and one, the Sumava, now runs passenger trips from Prague.
Beskydy celebrated her fiftieth birthday in 2006 and still looks in remarkably fine fettle. At 180 feet in length she is about as long as many famous British excursion paddle steamers but her draft is very much less. The Elbe is not a deep river in this part and she needs only two feet of water to float her. Yes that’s right – only two feet. If you fall in, remember to stand up!
Her propulsion is and has always been provided by Diesel.
And now for the greatest excitement: If you have ever dreamed of owning your own paddler and have around £265,000 in spare cash plus a lot more to do her up and run her, then the Beskydy could be yours. She is up for sale, advertised through Apolloduck, and, according to their promotional material, would be very suitable for conversion into a party/hotel ship. So there you are. Your very own paddler waiting to be bought.
What eventually happens to her we shall have to wait and see but I rather like her as she is. She may not be the most beautiful paddler ever built, or the most famous, or have had the most adventurous career, but she still has an honest, workaday charm. And I found the sight of her paddling up the Elbe in October doing what she has always done rather uplifting. Long may she continue to operate.
Geoff Hamer has emailed to say:
I was interested to see that at least one of the Czech paddle tugs is still at work. They were obviously well-designed and well-built ships. There are actually two of them in passenger service. As well as the SUMAVA (http://www.evd.cz/our-fleet.htm), the TYRS is also in the Czech capital (http://www.lodebohemia.cz/plavidla.htm). She was converted in 1992 and ran initially from Decin to Hrensko, close to the German border, but moved to Praha soon after. She has not been altered as much as the SUMAVA.