Friday, 25 April 2014


By the end of the 1950s, Lady Dixon’s time in Belfast was coming to an end (the ship, not the Commissioner’s wife!). The Minutes reveal (Nov 1959) that “… the Harbour Master had reported that parts of the upper works of the pilot light vessel Lady Dixon, (which is not due for triennial survey until February, 1961) were in a poor state, and that, as it was possible that some of the underparts of the vessel were in similar condition, he had suggested that a thorough inspection of the vessel on station be made by a competent wooden ship surveyor….”.  A report from the Harbour Engineer subsequently reported “…. a certain amount of deterioration of the decking and a small leak on the starboard quarter;  any detailed examination of the vessel would necessitate the removal of a considerable amount of panelling and decking, and suggesting, in the circumstances, that the vessel be dry-docked as soon as is reasonably practicable for the purpose of survey …..”.  It got worse!  In February 1960 the vessel was withdrawn from station and a preliminary survey reported that “The work immediately necessary to make the vessel serviceable for a period of 12 months, i.e., until she is due for triennial survey and overhaul …” was estimated to cost £3,000 (£58,000 today) and take 3 months. The overhaul and work necessary to make the vessel serviceable for a further 3 years would cost at least £20,000 (£390,000 today) and take 4/6 months.
   These costs obviously caused concern and discussions began about whether the pilotage service could be run from a shore station at Carrickfergus (which would require the building of a landing stage and the purchase of two fast motor vessels). After much discussion and detailed estimates of the various options, it was decided (8 March 1960) that Lady Dixon would not be repaired. There was even a suggestion at one stage that the vessel be beached at Carrickfergus to provide accommodation for the pilots, but a building ashore became available.
The final mention was in the minutes of 29 November 1960 when it was agreed that the vessel would be disposed of.  She was advertised in, of all publications, the ‘Yachting World’ and in February 1961 a Belfast businessman, Mr G.A.Lee offered £185 (£2,800 today).  This offer was declined, but when he raised it to £685 (£10,600 today) later that month, his offer was accepted.  That was the end of Lady Dixon’s period in Belfast and within about 12 months she was on her way to a new career as a Pirate Radio Station – which, as we have seen, never got off the ground/water.

Meanwhile, back down on the Medway, Simon is pressing on with the refurbishment. The quaint old stove which he purchased to provide heat downstairs, sorry below deck, (Photo) .....

........ came up very well with a lot of elbow grease (Photo).

The curly silvery trimmings top and bottom and the ash-catcher lids on the sides, are showing their age and no amount of rubbing is going to disguise the corrosion, but he does not want to paint them (Photo).

The next big job is tiling the kitchen floor. This involves a membrane which has to be glued to the deck; then the tiles are glued to the membrane. He has the membrane cut to size and ready to glue (Photo),

 so the tiles should be down this week. After that, now that drier weather is on offer, the main deck will be insulated.

There remains the question of what to do with the old skylight from the kitchen roof, which is in better condition than it looks (Photo).   

Simon is thinking of using it to replace the forward companionway doors, which are not in good shape. One of those port-holes in each door will look good.