On Wednesday 8th October 1967 the former Tyne paddle tug Eppleton Hall was off the coast of Portugal making her way southward for Lisbon.
She had been saved from the scrapyard by two men, Karl Kortum, then Director of the San Francisco Maritime Museum, and Scott Newhall, Editor of the San Francisco Chronicle who was also a trustee of the museum. Neither of them were professional mariners but both were experienced yachtsmen and had between them gained much sea time on sailing vessels not dissimilar in size to Eppleton Hall.
They had originally intended to buy the paddle tug Reliant but missed out on her when she was acquired by the British National Maritime Museum. Not to be thwarted in their attempt to buy a British paddle tug they then turned their attention to Eppleton Hall which at that stage was in a pretty derelict condition and was already in the scrapyard.
They put up the money and bought her in June. She spent that month and July on the slipway of R B Harrison and Sons on the Tyne. Fitting out continued throughout August and by 14th September she was ready for harbour trials. A couple of days later she ventured outside the Tyne for sea trials.
It had been a major rebuild of an elderly ship during which they encountered many difficulties not least with the Board of Trade which was not happy about issuing such a tug with certification for a trans Atlantic voyage. However the new owners made the case that although Eppleton Hall may once have been a tug, and that whilst she still looked like a tug, she was in fact not a tug any more but a private yacht. And a private yacht of that size in those days didn’t need any BOT certification.
They won the case and so off she went from the Tyne on Sunday 18th September 1969. The following day she was making good progress passing Great Yarmouth but the weather was against her with strong winds. During the following week she made little progress down Channel in the now gale force winds and with a problem with her fuel pump developing was forced to put back into Dover for repairs.
She was away from there on Saturday 28th September and made good progress down Channel and across to the French Coast but experienced serious weather in the Bay of Biscay which delayed her so much that on Saturday 4th October she ran out of fuel.
She put out a call on the radio for assistance and eventually the cargo ship Cervantes responded and came along with the offer to top her up with sufficient bunkers to get her to her next port of call.
So on Wednesday 8th October 1967 Eppleton Hall was off the coast of Portugal making her way southwards for Lisbon where she arrived on Friday 10th October 1969.
To be continued.
For the full story try to get hold of a copy of “The Eppleton Hall” by Scott Newhall published by Howell-North Books in 1971.
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 8th October 2020.