I had left the Jeanie Deans the previous day to return to school but of course Captain Woods, Ken Moore and Alfie Le Page were still aboard and they updated me on how the voyage panned out when they got back. I also have here some notes from the Jeanie Dean’s new chief engineer Arthur Blue. The accounts in the following few days are based on their recollections.
As the clock ticked over into Sunday 7th November 1965 Jeanie Deans ran into serious weather as she made her way down into the Irish Sea on her voyage from the Clyde to the Medway with next planned stop Falmouth. The wind came up. The seas got steadily bigger. Jeanie Deans got slower as she was tossed about by waves which were described in the log as “mountainous”.
At first light Chief engineer Arthur Blue went aft to check the steering engine and on opening the hatch was confronted with an arena of carnage. He recalled “At one point in the greying light of a stormy day I went aft to see how the steering engine was doing. whereupon a scene of devastation met my eyes when I opened the hatch and looked down. Various spare ropes and cans of oil had been stowed in the compartment. They had broken free and were now sliding back and forth in an oily tangle. Looking forward along the deck I could see smoke streaming from the funnels to be immediately beaten down to the sea surface and whipped away down wind while unending ranks of large white-topped seas marched towards us from the west.”
Shortly after that there was an ominous bang from the area of the starboard sponson which housed, amongst other things, lavatories. These emptied straight overboard so if the ship was in a bit of a seaway whenever the sponson slammed down on a wave anyone sitting on one of these thrones would have had a nasty surprise as water came in with some force rather than the effluent going out. Years and years of such constant banging of the sponsons up and down onto the waves had taken its toll weakening the structure. The full force of this Irish Sea gale speeded up the process. In this weather sea water was forced into the loos with such high pressure that one of them gave up the ghost, broke free from its moorings and became smashed to pieces.
It was not long after that when another one went off which had the effect of disinclining the crew to use the facilities. This was just as well as before long the whole deck of the lavatory in the compartment fell out leaving nothing beyond the doorway but open sea below.
It was not a good day for an excursion steamer built for the relatively sheltered waters of the Clyde to be out and about on the hurly burly.
To be continued.
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 7th November 2020.