The SS Shieldhall – the oldest passenger cargo steamship still active in Europe – has announced her cruise programme for 2014. The ship will shortly be journeying to Dry Dock in Falmouth for hull repairs, part of a £1.4 million HLF grant project ‘Saving
Shieldhall: Learning Through Conservation in Action.’ On her return to Southampton and with MCA approval Shieldhall will commence her 2014 programme on 31 May with a 2 hour Vikings! Cruise, remembering the 1000th anniversary of Canute being crowned King of England in Southampton. Other cruise highlights include a number of ‘Leisurely Lunch Cruises’ (1 June, 22 June, 27 July & 7 September); a Father’s Day Sea Angling Trip (15 June) a cruise to see yachts participating in the Round the Island Yacht Race (21 June); the ever popular Cowes Fireworks Cruise (8 August) and a Merchant Navy Day Cruise (6 Sept), remembering merchant seamen who lost their lives in World War 1 and World War 2. Most significantly though, Shieldhall is set to resume her annual visits to Poole in August, from where she will make three trips to visit the Bournemouth Air Festival.
Shieldhall HLF Project Director Graham Mackenzie is looking forward to an exciting year. ‘We’ve designed our cruise programme to offer something for everyone, from family friendly 2 hour cruises, to fine dining and specialist interest trips. This year we will be offering commentary on most trips, so our guests can learn about the history of the docks and the sights and sounds of Southampton Water and the Solent. Our lottery grant has also seen us introduce a deck awning during the winter, providing more cover from the elements. Above all, I’m delighted Shieldhall will be returning to Dorset for the first time in a number of years – it is a real sign of progress and we are always made very welcome there.’
Guests on Shieldhall get a lot more than a conventional cruise along Southampton Water. The ship is manned and run entirely by volunteers, who actively encourage visits to the Engine and Boiler Rooms and also the Bridge. ‘We are told that the interaction with our volunteers is a highlight of everyone’s time on board’ said Graham. ‘On a warm summer’s day the role of engineer must be one of the hottest jobs in the country, as temperatures in the Boiler Room can reach 125 degrees Fahrenheit. Visitors love to see the engines in operation and whilst they can sympathise about the heat, they should know our volunteers love their work!’
Learning and participation activities are being developed for the 2014 season by Bristol-based Culture Force. New family activities are being introduced together with interpretation, which will recall Shieldhall’s early dual role as a sludge carrier and passenger boat, carrying Glasgow residents ‘Doon the Watter’ during the summer months. Youth groups are not forgotten and are encouraged to visit the Shieldhall to experience a Training Day at Sea on Sat 5 July.
‘Shieldhall is an excellent resource for local residents and enthusiasts’ said Graham. ‘With the ongoing lottery work we are opening up Shieldhall to new audiences with a diverse cruise programme and also through her setting for ‘alongside functions’ where the ship hosts theatre, quiz and film nights. Last year Shieldhall celebrated her 25th anniversary ‘In Preservation’ – we are now entering a new and exciting era. It’s full steam ahead.’