THE TUG MEECHING - A NEW CHAPTER BEGINS

Photo:Nore Crest at Klondyke Wharf, Queenborough

Nore Crest at Klondyke Wharf, Queenborough

Andy Gilbert

Photo:Starboard side of the wheelhouse, showing part of the new 'dashboard', including the radar screen. The ship's wheel and engine telegraphs are original.

Starboard side of the wheelhouse, showing part of the new 'dashboard', including the radar screen. The ship's wheel and engine telegraphs are original.

Andy Gilbert

Photo:The aft starboard corner of the wheelhouse, with all the original light switches from 1960! Almost all the varnished woodwork is original, like the signal flag locker at the left of the photo.

The aft starboard corner of the wheelhouse, with all the original light switches from 1960! Almost all the varnished woodwork is original, like the signal flag locker at the left of the photo.

Andy Gilbert

Photo:The original plaques and new bell in the Officers' Mess.

The original plaques and new bell in the Officers' Mess.

Andy Gilbert

Photo:Refurbished, and almost spotless anchor windlass. The aft capstan is due for the same treatment, back to its original black.

Refurbished, and almost spotless anchor windlass. The aft capstan is due for the same treatment, back to its original black.

Andy Gilbert

Photo:The new crane where the lifeboat used to be.

The new crane where the lifeboat used to be.

Andy Gilbert

Photo:The new after deck layout.

The new after deck layout.

Andy Gilbert

Photo:View from the after deck, showing the crane, Y Boat, towing hook and the salvage and fire pump connections.

View from the after deck, showing the crane, Y Boat, towing hook and the salvage and fire pump connections.

Andy Gilbert

Photo:Port main engine and gearbox.

Port main engine and gearbox.

Andy Gilbert

Photo:Engine start system and duplicate engine controls - starboard main engine.

Engine start system and duplicate engine controls - starboard main engine.

Andy Gilbert

Photo:Nore Crest on the way to Harlingen. Click on the image for a larger version.

Nore Crest on the way to Harlingen. Click on the image for a larger version.

Kind permission of 'Discolo 5'

Photo:Nore Crest at Harlingen

Nore Crest at Harlingen

Andy Gilbert Collection

Photo:The Houseboat under tow

The Houseboat under tow

Andy Gilbert Collection

Photo:Working on the Thames, October 2014. Click on the image for a larger version.

Working on the Thames, October 2014. Click on the image for a larger version.

Kind permission of Mike Robinson

Photo:Nore Crest and tow on the Thames, October 2014. Click on the photo for a larger version.

Nore Crest and tow on the Thames, October 2014. Click on the photo for a larger version.

Kind permission of Mike Robinson

As Nore Crest - she is finally back at work.

By Andy Gilbert

On Thursday 29th August 2013 I went up to see the tug Nore Crest, our former stalwart harbour tug Meeching, at her new home at Queenborough in Kent. As I approached the tug, lying alongside Klondyke Wharf, she looked very smart in her new blue paintwork, with a brand new Red Ensign fluttering proudly in the breeze.

I met up with her owner, Nick Murray, plus her skipper and her engineer, and they are very pleased with the way the 53 year old vessel is turning out. She was 'rescued' just in time, said Nick Murray. Much longer and she would have gone to the scrapyard. As it is, she's still very much a 'work in progress' but she is now officially a working vessel once more. Following her recent MCA (Maritime and Coastguard Agency) Survey at Ramsgate (that's the maritime equivalent of an MOT, but much more thorough) she now has full certification as a tug for the next five years, subject to an annual Load Line Inspection. The MCA inspectors actually said that she was in better condition than some tugs less than half her age!

On August 21st 2013 she carried out her first real job in many years, sailing across to Harlingen in The Netherlands to collect a large houseboat, which she towed back to the UK the following day. Although her skipper described the trip as a 'shakedown cruise', I'm pleased to report that Nore Crest fared well, even though the houseboat, which was not designed for travel on open water, decided to follow the tug at a crazy almost 90 degree angle for most of the time! 

Update: I've just added three photos of this tow, the shot of Nore Crest under way echoes the photo taken of Meeching on her first day at Newhaven.

A lot of vital work has been carried out on Nore Crest since Nick Murray bought her as Meeching in the Spring of 2012. Following Meeching's 'sinking' some years ago, everything in the engine room had to be overhauled. The engine room itself is still rather messy (something Nick Murray vows to change, as his other tugs' engine rooms are spick and span) but the two 1320 bhp Lister Blackstone main engines, gearboxes and generators are now as good as ever. In fact, possibly better than ever as the engines have now been tuned up by experts to deliver more power and speed. On her way across to Holland Nore Crest averaged 10 knots and reached 13 knots at times. And that's on her old cast iron propellers. A set of sharper, shiny bronze ones would add a knot to that speed, as well as increasing her pulling power so they may well be on the owner's shopping list at some point!

Not surprisingly, much of the tug's equipment has been replaced to bring her firmly into the 21st century. In the wheelhouse, there's a new radar, radios, echo sounder, 'marine sat nav' and a bridge computer for example. Much of this is being built into a new 'dashboard' console at the front of the wheelhouse. This will let the skipper have access to everything he needs to without having to leave the wheel or engine controls. Previous crews could have only dreamt about having so much equipment to hand, but it's now considered essential.

Down below, the galley has a new electric range, fridge-freezer and two microwave ovens. These new items, plus the new wheelhouse equipment, run on standard 230 volts AC, of course, so a new generator and full electrical system has been installed for this. The remainder of the tug's equipment, like the lights, capstan, windlass, and salvage pumps are still running on 250 volts DC from the original generators.

The original lifeboat, along with its associated steps and launching davits, has been removed, replaced with two easy to launch liferafts, and sitting in its place is a large new hydraulic crane, something of a 'must have' for a modern tug, which can be called on to do much more than just tow ships around. To enable the crew to get on and off the tug if she's at anchor, there's an inflatable 'Y boat' with an outboard motor, launched and recovered with the main crane.

On the after deck, one of the three large towing horses has been removed, with just the after two remaining to prevent a tow line fouling the capstan or the access to the cable lockers. This gives the deck a much more open feel and makes it easier to work there. The original cluttered after deck layout was often disliked by the deckhands and ABs who had to handle the mooring and tow lines, ducking under the towing horses all the time as they worked.

However, there are still parts of the tug that are still instantly familiar from her  days as Meeching here at Newhaven, such as the big brass 'Bloctube' engine room telegraphs (much Brasso and elbow grease needed here to get them nice and shiny again!), the rudder indicator, main light switches and the twin propeller speed indicators in the wheelhouse. In the Officers' Mess and the Captain's cabin very little has changed, and some of the original 1960 upholstery is still in very good condition! Even the boarding step ladder is still in place on the starboard deck, though there's now a new matching one on the port side.

I'm pleased to say that references to her former life as Meeching are still to be found. There's a photo of Meeching and Senlac together in the Captain's cabin, a letter of commendation from the RNLI to former skipper Captain Bob Domin in the main companionway and, best of all, the original wooden launching plaque and the Newhaven coat of arms are still in pride of place in the Officers' Mess. The oil lamp that hung on the wall alongside them is long gone but there is a small bell next to the plaque bearing her original name. The current owner and crew want these items to stay as a nod to her long history under her former name.

Meeching's original brass bell and her brass builder's plate from P.K Harris and Sons in Appledore, Devon sadly disappeared not long after she was decommissioned at Newhaven but a replacement has been bought to hang in its proper place on the hook at at the front of the wheelhouse. I've sent Nick Murray the details of the builder's plaque just in case he wants to replace that too. There were murmurings that 'Nore Crest - ex Meeching, 1960' might look good on the yet to be engraved bell!

Nore Crest still needs a fair bit of cosmetic work in terms of a few small sections of replacement steelwork and a large lick of paint, but that's all in hand, as is the general tidying up and cleaning. I have an invite to go back in a few months to see her when this has been done.

I did ask Nick Murray about the bright blue hull, and his smiling response was "Well, she was blue when we got her!" We both agreed that black is a better colour and it's quite possible that she'll go back to this at some point. Murray Tugs' funnel colours are red with a black top, so she'd then look pretty much the way she did when she first arrived at Newhaven in 1960.

So, she's set for a new lease of life, at least for another five years, by which time she'll be 58, going on 59! She has now become the longest-lived of any Newhaven-based tug!

This page was added by Andy Gilbert on 01/09/2013.
Comments about this page

Absolutely great Andy !!!!!

By Ian Wallis
On 04/09/2013

Great to read about the Old Lady being given a new lease of life. Thoroughly really enjoyed reading your report, great work.

By john Burgess
On 09/09/2013

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