Steamship Shieldhall has successfully completed her first two weekends of sailings in this her 66th year afloat. Trips which included sailings to see the Round the Island Yacht Race and cruises staged to mark Father’s Day and American Independence Day followed hot foot from Shieldhall returning from her annual dry dock in Falmouth in late June. Looking pristine and ship-shape for the season, 2021 sees Shieldhall mark her 66th birthday on Saturday 17 July with a cruise to the Nab Tower, the eastern point of entry to the Solent. When Shieldhall used to operate for Southern Water, her daily trips to the ‘dumping grounds’ saw Shieldhall pass the Nab, and this will be an opportunity for passengers to get up close and to see if it really does – as local legend has it – lean to one side!
Chief Operations Officer Phil Stephens was delighted with how work had gone in dry dock in June: ‘The team from A&P in Falmouth did Shieldhall proud. A lot of work was undertaken during our six days in dry dock, especially considering it was our first time out of the water in three years! This included water blasting and cleaning of the hull, removing the barnacles and sea creatures that had attached themselves; preparation of steelwork surfaces and painting of the hull. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency conducted inspections, surveying the underside of the ship and the condition of the propeller, propeller shaft and tail shaft, together with other pieces of equipment on board. It was an exciting time to be in Falmouth for our volunteers, where the G7 summit was taking place, and with all the added security measures that that involved. Whilst we were in Falmouth we kept a blog of all that was happening on board, with imagery and video content – this was well received by our members and supporters, and all the work undertaken can be viewed on our website, it gives a real insight into the measures that are needed to keep Shieldhall ‘alive and steaming’.
Our guests for the early season sailings will have noticed that things are a little different on board, with COVID precautions in place. We have undertaken deep cleans; have one-way systems in place on board; sanitiser stations at key touchpoints and have added to our Purser teams to assist on board. We are still encouraging visitors to access our Engine Room, Boiler Room and Bridge, but will be limiting and managing numbers at any one time. We’re proud of all the efforts of our volunteers, who have been rewarded with Shieldhall being accredited with the VisitEngland ‘Good to Go’ accolade.’
Shieldhall’s next sailings will take place over the weekend of Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 July, with regular trips staged thereafter until mid-September. In a weekend of celebrations, following on from Shieldhall’s 66th birthday celebrations on the Saturday, Sunday’s cruise (18 July) will mark 200 years of Steamships operating out of Southampton. Held over from 2020, the trip will mark the 200th anniversary of Steamship the ‘Prince of Cobourg’ commencing her maiden voyages from Southampton to the Isle of Wight. Guests will be entertained by the Selsea Shantymen whilst a number of attendees from local steam punk groups will add colour and spectacle.