Thursday, 23 April 2015

LIGHTSHIP CORMORANT / LADY DIXON - Chapter 93



Using an 1897 map, I have marked the docks that existed then, on today's Google version.  (Photo 931)  Across the road from the Health Centre on Beach Road  (Dock St in those days) was the 350ft main dry dock. Although not named on the old map, I believe this to be the Victoria Dock as it is the right size and it has a caisson. The later Albert Dock had a sliding gate, but there is no sign of this dock on the 1897 map and the two smaller docks to the north of the Victoria are not named, they are too small and they too have a caisson gate. 
 
So where is/was the Albert Dock? And the question still remains - was there a Victoria Shipbuilding Company in Passage West?

Simon was told that Cormorant is one of only three surviving ‘composite’ ships (ships with teak cladding on iron frames). He knew one of these is the Cutty Sark, but did not know the third. According to National Historic Ships UK, the three are Cutty Sark, The City of Adelaide (another clipper) and HMS Gannet (a sloop).  Cutty Sark is permanently ‘docked’ at Greenwich;  Adelaide has recently gone to Australia to be restored;  and Gannet has been restored and is in Chatham.  In truth these three have actually been described as ‘the only three surviving ocean-going composite ships’ and so Cormorant would not be included – although she did spend most of her working life out on the ‘ocean’ (well the Irish Sea anyway).  Regular readers may remember my discovery of a Trinity House document which queried whether Cormorant, not being used in navigation, could rightly be registered as a ship. Invoking the Merchant Shipping Act of 1894 would classify Cormorant as a lighthouse, not as a ship. If so, she has to be the only composite lighthouse in existence!

    I was wrong to say that Simon has not had time to do any work on the ship.  He has started on the crumbling stern gunwale. The English oak has succumbed to age (and misuse?) in several places and has been patched (in several places) with concrete. So Simon has continued this cheap and cheerful method – erecting temporary shuttering on the outside of the hull and pouring concrete into the gaps (Photo 932).   


Unlike his predecessors, he has had the foresight to insert bolts into the concrete in order to fix whatever rails or seating he decides to install later (Photo 933)


    What spurred him on to do such repairs I can only guess, but the sight of yet another vessel sunk at her moorings may have had something to do with it. You will remember the sad photo of Ena lying under a high tide recently. Well another one has done the same – right next to Simon’s boat (Photo 934). 


   A sad sight and nobody seems to be doing anything about it. I don’t know what the problem is, or where, but she looks a nice little craft, when you can see her! (Photo 935)     

What a sad sight and nobody seems to care.

David