On 27th April 1964 Consul left Weymouth under the command of Capt Cyril “Chum” Holleyoak, formerly of Consul (1961), Embassy (1962) and Princess Elizabeth (1963), for slipping at Poole but failed to be hauled out. It was said that it was too windy on the day but there were those who wondered if the Hamworthy yard had got cold feet after all the difficulties, high costs and overrun of the ruinously expensive survey and refit there the previous year, Consul’s first in a private operator’s hands. In any case getting on the slipway required a good spring tide and these were now on the wane so Tony McGinnity, boss of her owners South Coast and Continental Steamers, looked frantically around elsewhere and eventually managed to source a slot in a dry-dock in Southampton for which Consul set out from Poole on 6th May.
In those days the Board of Trade took a very strict line when elderly passenger vessels were sold off to new owners. They made many difficulties for Consul in 1963 – stability, bulkheads, ballast, the state of the hull, the state of the paddle wheels and so on and on – resulting not only in massive and unplanned for expenditure but also significant delays while all the work was carried out which meant that Consul was not ready to start her season on the Sussex Coast in 1963 until way past the middle of July.
The list of Board of Trade requirements in 1964 was not so extensive but the survey came with a sting in the tail. When Consul returned to Weymouth on 14th May she did so with her Passenger Certificates seriously curtailed limiting her area of operation to from Weymouth to Lulworth Cove and Portland (where previously she could have sailed on a Class III to Swanage, Bournemouth and the Isle of Wight) and with her passenger capacity slashed from over 400 to just 230.
1964 was to be another difficult summer for Consul now running in competition with Princess Elizabeth from Weymouth for what was in any case a diminished market with a level of business unable to sustain just one paddle steamer let alone two.
But that all lay in the future. On 27th April 1964 as Consul backed down Weymouth Harbour on her way to sea there was a sense of excitement of a new season to come and all those lovely paddle steamer rides to be had.
This article was first published on 27th April 2021.