On Thursday 30th September 1965 the Portsmouth/Ryde paddle steamers Sandown and Ryde were both tucked up for the winter in Newhaven Harbour.
Sandown had been the first to cast off from Portsmouth for her winter moorings in Newhaven in the third week of September and Ryde followed suit on Wednesday 29th September making the 48 nautical mile journey along the Hampshire and Sussex Coasts in around four and a half hours.
On this day, 30th September, Ryde’s boiler was blown down in a procedure to empty it of water. With the steam pressure having dropped overnight and through the next day to about 10psi, the blow down valve in the bottom of the boiler was opened and the residual steam pressure in the boiler forced the boiler water out through the shipside valve. When the water has almost gone you hear a sort of popping noise as the last of the water is blown out by the last knockings of steam in the boiler. The trick here is to shut the blow down valve at just the right moment when the boiler is empty or almost empty of water and before the balance of pressure changes for sea water to start entering the boiler. It takes an experienced ear to get this spot on. With the boiler then empty of water the boiler doors were knocked in to gain access to inspect the inside of the boiler.
Sandown made her last ferry crossings between Portsmouth and Ryde on Sunday 19th September 1965. She sailed for lay up at Newhaven early the following week and this turned out to be her last voyage in steam. She was towed away from Newhaven for scrapping in Antwerp in February 1966.
Ryde had four more seasons to go running between Portsmouth, Southsea and Ryde with very occasional afternoon excursions up Southampton water to view the Docks.
In September 1968 she had a little adventure organised by founding member of the PSPS Tony McGinnity who organised a charter of her to promote Gilbey’s Gin with a series of short cruises down the Thames to off Woolwich from Tower Pier.
It is thought that her last day on the Portsmouth/Ryde ferry service was Saturday 13th September 1969 when she took the 3.40pm, 5.40pm and 7.40pm sailings from Portsmouth.
She was kept in steam as stand-by vessel until Tuesday 21st September when she made a short trip out of the harbour to drop her coal ashes in Spithead before returning to the pontoon off the Harbour Station to be closed down for the winter. And there, rather than sailing off to Newhaven as in previous years, she remained.
There was talk at the time of her capacity still being needed, particularly on summer Saturdays, and that she was programmed to go to Husband’s Yard at Southampton for slipping in March but sadly all that never happened.
In the spring of 1970 she was sold to the Ridett brothers as a potential replacement for the Medway Queen then in use as a night-club, restaurant and bar at Binfield on the River Medina on the Isle of Wight. And there she remains to this day although now in derelict condition.
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 30th September 2020.