Issue Number 2 - Summer 2011

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Sheerness: Building 86 Progress Update

The Lecture Room

The Lobby

The Office


Lancashire Boiler Faceplate

Robey Portable Boiler (1885)

The faceplate is from a Lancashire Boiler built 1889 by W.J. Galloway & sons of Manchester. A complete boiler can be seen here, with a detailed history. The intention is to mount the faceplate on one of the ground floor walls inside Building 86.

Robey & Co was founded in 1854, initially building threshing machines and portable boilers, but soon expanded into all types of steam engines. Clink here for the history of Robey & Co. The Robey Trust has supplied details about this particular boiler.


B&Q and Homebase Donations

The trust is very grateful for the generous donations made by the two DIY companies, especially to Darren (Gillingham B&Q), John (Dartford B&Q) and Matt (Chatham Homebase). Materials received include timber, paint, sanitary ware and fittings, along with assortments of screws, nails and other sundries, all of which will help towards the repair and refurbishment of Building 86 at Sheerness Historic Docks.

Blue Town Festival

Blue Town was alive with the sights and sounds of yesteryear at the Dockyard Festival over the last weekend in June.
Groups wearing period costume welcomed hundreds of visitors to the festival to celebrate Sheppey's proud maritime history and to mark the 50th anniversary of the dockyard's closure.

The Medway Maritime Trust booked some space to display photos of our work. We asked for volunteers and 23 people applied.

Thanks go to the Caledonian Plywood Company Ltd who kindly donated the plywood to display the photographs. The plywood was used again on our stand at the Kent Show and again when moving Vigilant. The people involved were Sam Ballard, director, Helena Faulkner, logistics co-ordinator, and Roger Bromley who transported the plywood.

Medway Sunlight Rotary Supports The Trust

by Nicola Roesch

A group of members and their families from Medway Sunlight Rotary, based in Gillingham, visited us on 24th July to see our projects first hand and determine how they could best offer support. Martin's 1951 vintage RT bus ferried the group from site to site. The tour was a real success, everyone enjoyed it and came away impressed with the restoration and preservation work the trust is undertaking.

Our first joint activity is a 'tools amnesty', where local businesses and individuals are being asked to donate surplus tools in good condition to the trust to help with our projects. The first tool, an electric drill, was recently presented during the weekly breakfast meeting at the Sunlight Centre Cafe. The Rotarians have also pledged a donation of window glass, which will hopefully make Building 86 pigeon-proof.

We would like to thank Medway Sunlight Rotary and look forward to more joint projects in the future.

Kent County Show

Friday - Sunday 16th - 18th JUly

By Mike Toms

Owing to work commitments, preparing our stand couldn't commence until the Thursday. Martin Stevens, Ben Tindale and myself put it together, with Ben and Martin working until about 2 am Friday.

The centrepiece was a stand with the Vigilant model on it surrounded by photos of its working days. We also had a piece of the scroll from her bows together with the wheel of TID 164. This drew people into our area which also contained the forward capstan from the Vigilant, found in the bilges. Visitors commented on what good condition it was in considering where it was found. Another photo arrangement told the stories of the three boats, Vigilant, John H Amos and TID 164. Steve Rayfield brought along his detailed model of TID 164. Ben had his CNC cutting machine and demonstrated its uses.

There was a steady stream of visitors, including Kent County Council officers, who were very impressed with what we were trying to achieve and our plans for the future. Our thanks to Kent Life Society for looking after the Vigilant model overnight in their shed. Also to the Pie mash and liquor stall which kept us going. Nicola Roesch from Germany was converted to good British food (apart from jellied eels), although the Bratwurst stall nearby was a bit too tempting!

All in all a very successful 3 days, and a pleasant surprise for us all when we received a certificate for 3rd best stand in our category, (Geerings Award for the best exhibition by a charity or voluntary organization). Although tiring, the weekend was most enjoyable. Roll on next year, planning has already started!

We would like to thank Davies and Eason of Faversham for the loan of a giant tv screen for showing our videos and photographs.

John H Amos Special Visitor

Ex-JHA crew member Tom Skelton, accompanied by son David, visited the boat on his 80th birthday.

TID 164 at Chatham Historic Dockyard Steam Festival

Easter saw the annual Steam Festival at the historic dockyard. As we have TID164 moored there it was an opportunity not to be missed to drum up interest in the Trust's work.
We were not allowed to put up the large display and table that we wanted to, however there was a photo board, and members handing out leaflets sufficed.
We chatted to many people and a few dared the long ladder climb down to the TID for a closer look. (Why is it that on all occasions when we have lots of visitors the tide is out?). An enjoyable weekend albeit a bit cold, but good practice for the Kent County Show later in the year.

TID 95 'Ernest Brown' Scrapped

From Hervé Cozanet

TID tug 95 'Ernest Brown' took its final journey earlier this year. The tug crossed the Channel in 1996 to attend a large sailing regatta in Brest, but was destined never to leave. For years it stagnated and rusted at Landévenec. On April 15th it was towed to a quayside and lifted out of the water to be transported to the scrapyard of Guyot Environment. Click here for more photographs.

TID 95 was constructed by Richard Dunston Ltd, Thorne, and launched on 28th May 1944. The vessel was one of a dozen completed by C. D. Holmes, Hull.

TID Model at Arronmarches Museum

The Arromarches Museum features a large model of the Mulberry Harbour, including this TID tug, built by Alain Dechorgnat. Click here for the museum website. Information supplied by Hervé Cozanet.

Vigilant on the Move - "All's Well That Ends Well"

The Customs Cruiser Vigilant has been in Faversham Creek since her rescue by the Medway Maritime Trust.
When the owners of the quay where she has been berthed for four years rented the building and the berth to a sail maker the time had come for Vigilant to move. The facilities at Sheerness are not yet ready so an interim berth has been made available through the generous help of Marine and Industrial Transmissions Ltd of Queenborough.

The best laid plans ...

Having secured full insurance, including removal of wreck insurance, permission from the Medway Harbour Master and an escort from his official launch, escort from a vessel whose skipper knows the creek, complying with stringent conditions imposed by a marine surveyor, arranging the services of two approved tugs and funding courtesy of the Vigilant Trust ... it all went wrong!

The tug master had to tow Vigilant stern first and then decided it would be better to turn her.
This took precious time and by the time she had cleared other vessels moored in the creek the tide was ebbing.
With the benefit of hindsight the tug master might have decided to postpone the tow until the next day.
Instead he increased speed. The wash from his propellers pushed Vigilant to one side and she went aground.
The two tugs combined were unable to pull her off on a falling tide.

Having rescued the Trust volunteers from the Vigilant, who were there to man the four pumps if required, the next several hours of the night were spent collecting plywood from Sheerness. This was to be fixed to the deck of Vigilant to waterproof it and prevent the vessel filling up before she could float.

All the while Vigilant was listing more and more.

Martin Stevens said, "I am the eternal optimist but I thought we had lost her. The probable outcome was that she would end up upside down in the middle of the creek blocking the fairway. With no possibility of getting a crane over the marshy fields or up the creek the only outcome would have been to chop her up."

The tide had covered the deck about a foot deep at the critical lowest point. Defying all logic and physics Vigilant then decided to float again.

Someone said that whoever you believe in was looking after us that night.
Others have said that Vigilant is telling us she wants to be restored.

The tow continued through the night, Vigilant yawing from side to side up the Swale until she was finally tamed when the two tugs were lashed alongside her. The temporary deep water berth for the next two days was near the Coal Washer on the Pump at Rushenden, Queenborough.

Vigilant is now sitting comfortably, none the worse for her ordeal, alongsde a tug at the MIT berth at Queenborough. She will be there while the Trust design and build a portable cradle which will transport her across Sheerness Docks to the land behind Building 86 where restoration will start.


Vigilants Past and Present

By Mike Toms

'Vigilant' has been associated with HM Customs and Excise (now HM Revenue and Customs) since the 18th Century, and 12 vessels have carried the name continously for over 350 years.

Thanks to the Revenue Cutter Association for permission to use their photographs.

1902 - 1919

1919 - 1928

  Vigilant 1, based Harwich.........?-1774
Vigilant 2, based London .........1777-1805 The Commissioners Yacht
Vigilant 3, based London .........1797-1805 Patrol Cutter
Vigilant 4, based Dartmouth......1806-1819 (wrecked at Torbay)..
Vigilant 5, based Gravesend .....1824-1865
Vigilant 6, based Gravesend .....1865-1900
Vigilant 7, based Gravesend .....1902-1919
Vigilant 8, based Gravesend .....1919-1928 formerly HMS Esther (1912)
Vigilant 9, 1946-1960 formerly HMS Benbecular (1943)
Vigilant 10, 1965-1980 V class cutter
Vigilant 11, 1989-2003 Protector class
Vigilant 12, 2003-present Damen Stan Class

1965 - 1980

1989 - 2003

2003 - present

Further to the item in the Spring newsletter ...


Spring 2010 Newsletter

If you missed the Spring 2010 Newsletter, please click here

So You Think That's Funny?

by Scuttlebut

Two sailors get off a ship and head for the nearest bar. Each one orders two whiskeys and immediately downs them. They then order two more whiskeys a piece and quickly throw them back. They then order another two apiece.
One of the men picks up one of his drinks, and, turning to the other man, says, "Cheers!"
The other sailor turns to the first and says, "Hey, did you come here to talk, or did you come here to drink?"

John decided scrape and paint the hull of his boat. Not being sure how much paint to buy and knowing that Paul, a close friend who had the same size boat had recently painted his, he gave him a call. "Paul," he said, "How many gallons of paint did you buy for your boat?" "Six," said Paul. John went out and bought six gallons of paint but when the job was done he had two gallons left over! Calling Paul again, "Paul," he said, "I bought six gallons of paint for my boat, but I've got two gallons left over." "Yes," said Paul, "So did I."

Why is it when you transport something by car its called shipment, but when you transport something by ship it's called cargo?

Want to stay in touch?

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Friends of the John H Amos
Friends of the Vigilant
Friends of TID 164

We are setting up all of the above to help raise funds.
If you would like to help by creating a monthly direct debit or standing order for whatever sum you think you can afford then please contact Mike Toms who will explain how easy it is! The government will also add 25% on top of your donation through the Gift Aid scheme.

Mike can be contacted at:

Shop online and help raise funds for the Trust
Please click on the link below for details