Political rivals unite over tugboat heritage

A near century-old tugboat has united opinions within Southampton’s civic leadership.

Pic. Courtesy Matthew Willis

A near century-old tugboat has united opinions within Southampton’s civic leadership.

The 92-year-old Tug Tender Calshot is undergoing a three-year restoration at James Wharf, Ocean Quay Marina – after almost being scrapped.

Built in 1929, the Calshot served as a headquarters ship in the D-Day landings, has carried Winston Churchill and tugged the Queen Mary on her maiden voyage in 1936. The only one of her kind, some see her as a Titanic tribute ship for her design and work with the RMS Olympic (Titanic’s seaward sister).

The Cabinet Member for Heritage, Conservative Councillor Spiros Vassiliou enthused:

“Restoring any historic maritime vessel, especially for Southampton – a maritime city – is really important.

“Once you lose these things you can never get them back. It really touches us in Southampton – as a port city. I’m so pleased.

Southampton Test’s Labour MP Alan Whitehead says of restoring old boats generally, “It’s not just a question of doing one-off preservation; you’ve got to have a long-term plan to keep that vessel viable.”

“I think it’s important we preserve that heritage, but there are questions of how well you berth it, who is responsible for the restoration and how good that’s likely to be – which has been a problem for Shield Hall & Calshot in the past. They are boats – they might sink.”

The TT Calshot is being restored at James Wharf, Ocean Quay Marina. Pic James Johnston

The Tug Tender Calshot Trust spent years campaigning to fund the sea skirter’s restoration. Matt Banbury, who helped maintain the ship for the Trust, said:

“I think there have been times in her history where she’s been close to being scrapped. This is certainly one of the closest times.

“It got to the point where we could no longer maintain her as a trust. You come to that realisation that 3 or 4 of you cannot maintain a vessel that was designed to have a crew of 17.

“We always hoped that someone would come forward and see the love that we have for her.”

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency declared the boat unseaworthy in 2017 but new owners, Woodshack, who have just completed the purchase of the Tug from the Trust are currently restoring it at James Wharf, inside Ocean Quay Marina.

While speaking to the Daily Echo, Calshot Trust Chairman Richard Hellyer paid tribute to the work of the trustees and volunteers of the TTCT adding:

“The purchase of TT Calshot by Woodshack is a significant step in the restoration of an iconic ship in Southampton’s maritime history.

She will be sympathetically restored as a repurposed historic ship, which will conform to modern operating standards, whilst maintaining her unique qualities.”

Pic: Courtesy Matthew Willis