On Saturday 23rd June 1984 Kingswear Castle ran a single trip from Strood to Gravesend via Southend and Tilbury carrying 11 passengers. This was a sort of shake down season of a few days spread over the summer when KC ran some trial trips carrying up to a maximum of 12 passengers.
That day we had three volunteer captains aboard Colin Wright, Dan MacMillan and me. The day opened at 7am with KC berthed alongside Knight’s pontoon at Rochester as this extract from the log shows.
We were away from Knight’s Pontoon at Rochester just after 8am for Gillingham Pier where we took on coal from 8.45am to 10.40am. Then we sailed back up river to Strood to collect our passengers for a 12 noon departure. We left the Medway at 2.15pm and sailed by the wreck of the Richard Montgomery on the way to Southend where we made a brief call 3pm – 3.15pm. Then it was on up the Thames past all the oil jetties to Tilbury for 5.30pm.
Dan McMillan and Colin Wright went ashore there and I took KC over to Gravesend for a reception for representatives from the Gravesham Edwardian Fair. That ended by 7.50pm and we moved out to moor for the night on a buoy off the Gravesend Promenade where finished with engines was rung at 8.05pm.
Remember that KC has never had any crew accommodation so those who stayed aboard had to slum it by dossing down in sleeping bags on the saloon benches or the saloon deck. She did have a captain’s cabin in her days on the Dart but that was tiny with insufficient space for a bunk and in the end I thought it better to use the area to expand the forward saloon servery. And KC has never had any cooking facilities and only very limited storage space so food for the crew, such as it was, was ever of the cold variety although I recall some of the more adventurous amongst the volunteers upgrading onto Pot Noodles.
KC remained on the buoy until the following Saturday when she ran a couple of one and a half hour cruises at 3.40pm and 5.30pm for visitors to the Fair.
The summer turned out to be success and as a result former PSPS Chairman Nick Knight and PSKC Trust Chairman Malcolm Cockell persuaded me to come on board full time and lead the project the next winter to return KC to service with full Passenger Certificates in time for the 1985 season. It didn’t occur to me then that I would stay so long.
Kingswear Castle returned to service in 2023 after the first part of a major rebuild which is designed to set her up for the next 25 years running on the River Dart. The Paddle Steamer Kingswear Castle Trust is now fund raising for the second phase of the rebuild. You can read more about the rebuilds and how you can help if you can here.
This article was first published on 23rd June 2021.