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HM Customs Cruiser VIGILANT

The 2006 Rescue

Model detail

Rescue 1


Vigilant had been sunk for some time at Harry Pound's Shipbreakers in Portsmouth. People were saying "Why doesn't somebody do something"? Perhaps the obvious answer is that most people who would be inclined to do something were already involved in their own historic ship projects.



Rescue 2


Medway Maritime Trust investigates

The Medway Maritime Trust didn't exactly have time on their hands, but while they were waiting for a giant crane to lift their paddle tug John H Amos onto a pontoon, they at least had time to investigate. (Visit
It was reported that Pounds were willing to sell the Vigilant. Further enquiries revealed that they did not own her. The vessel was still owned by the Vigilant Trust.


Rescue 3


The Vigilant Trust had been set up so that trustees were responsible for everything as individuals. Many trustees were willing to cut their losses in such a difficult situation. Having agreed free moorings, Pounds now required £3400 for mooring and "safe-keeping". There were sufficient funds in the bank for the Vigilant Trust to pay for a rescue. A safe haven was needed. A company to effect the rescue was needed. The Medway Maritime Trust concluded that all that was required was to make it happen.


Rescue 4



Faversham Historic Ships Trust (in formation)

Martin Stevens, Chairman of the Medway Maritime Trust, had been working on a scheme to make Faversham in Kent a safe haven for Historic Ships. This seemed to be an ideal opportunity to kick-start the scheme.

Martin arranged for the Vigilant Trust to pay Pounds the £3400.
Included in this amount was the pumping out of Vigilant and towing her to the shore. Pounds never did this. Some time passed while they argued the point until Pounds required more money. If the money was not forthcoming they would claim Vigilant as their property.


Rescue 5


On one of many visits to Portsmouth, Martin Stevens learned that Vigilant was due to be cut up "within days." Pounds required instructions in writing to prevent this action. With no authority to issue such instructions Martin wrote on Medway Maritime Trust notepaper and told Pounds to desist from their action and that Vigilant would be removed. This worked.

He contacted GPS Marine Contractors and asked for an inclusive quote to tow Vigilant to Faversham. This was to include everything from removal and transportation of loose artefacts to waterproofing the temporary deck, insurance, surveys, obtaining load-line exemption, and the tow itself. The Vigilant Trust agreed to pay GPS.


Rescue 6


The dispute which centred on the pumping out of Vigilant was solved by Martin and his brother who deployed two 2 inch Honda pumps and managed to make Vigilant float on a rising tide. He used his van to pull her to the shore. When the clutch started to smell he persuaded a man with a crawler digger to complete the pull. Before the tow departed Martin made two more visits. It was important that the people of Faversham should not be put off by "a wreck" arriving in their creek, so Vigilant received a coat of shiny black paint.


Rescue 7


The Tow to Faversham

A small tug removed Vigilant from Pounds Yard and the GPS tug Alexandra did the main tow. Because of the "one way system" in the Channel, the Vigilant was towed towards Boulogne before crossing back again. For Faversham Creek, which is seriously silted, a smaller GPS tug Felucca was assisted by the Faversham Iron Wharf tug Pet.

Rescue 8
Unbeknown to others, even as Vigilant was being towed to the "safe haven" of Faversham, the choice of three possible berths which Martin had arranged had be reduced to one unconfirmed berth, albeit the most suitable. So Vigilant remained on the Town Quay visitors berth until it was confirmed that she could go to the old Frank and Whittome berth just downstream from the bridge.
Rescue 9

The press was called in for the arrival and both BBC South East and Meridian ITV covered the event well in their local news programmes. Photographs were also publshed in the Faversham Times and Faversham News.

Rescue 10
The Chairman of the Advisory Committee to National Historic Ships, Dr Robert Prescott, travelled to Faversham to see significant progress in one of the projects he has been closely involved with.
Rescue 11

New Trust, New Ownership

The next stage is to set up a new Trust.
The Vigilant Trust had been formed with full responsibility resting on the individual trustees. The new "Vigilant Restoration Trust" will be formed as a company limited by guarantee and then given charitable status.

Click here for an album of rescue photos (opens a new window)


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