Branch Meeting Reports for 2009


December 2009

Our winter meetings are largely “home grown” and our new secretary David Brown gave us a slide show from his collection covering the years 1980 to 1999 aptly entitled “A Miscellany of Ships”.

 The show started with ferries and ex ferries to be found on the Thames with TATTERSHAL CASTLE still operating today as a bar/restaurant on the Embankment. At the other end of the county, some of the ferries to be found at Harwich at that time, were shown.

 During the early 1980s ships were laid up in the Blackwater estuary and two trips were organised from Mersea Island to view these courtesy of a local fisherman. Of those in the river in 1982 the majority were soon scrapped but those present in 1984 fared a little better with some still trading today such as Elder Dempster’s SAPELE, and Shell’s EULIMA and EULOTA. Other ships were taken whilst on trips on the Waverley in the Thames Estuary and others at the favourite haunts of Southampton and Portsmouth, including the iconic Ocean Terminal being demolished, only to be replaced 25 years later by a glorified “corrugated iron cycle shed”. There were also pictures of some old favourites, CANBERRA, the ferry SOUTHSEA and the tug FENMAN owned locally at Maldon for some 10 years. On the naval front there were pictures of USS IOWA in Portsmouth in 1986, HMS BRISTOL in 1987 and USS FORRESTAL in 1989. The diversity of this set of slides was emphasised with pictures of Thames barges, box boats, chemical tankers, cruise ships, cable ships, dredgers and tugs. Our thanks go to David for compiling a true “miscellany” of ships from around our south and east coast.


 November 2009

 The meeting was pleased to hear of our success at the Leslie Sergeant Memorial Quiz held at neighbouring Southend Branch in October. We had difficulty raising all members of our usual team due to other commitments, but our scratch team of John Harrison, John Raven, Andrew Smith and Ian Wells were successful in achieving 1st place. With a larger than usual number of Naval questions our regular quiz member Andrew Smith was in his element, so our thanks to Andrew. We welcomed our speaker Mike Jackson from Dover who presented “The Ferryman’s Photos”. He gave us a fascinating presentation of ships encountered whilst he served on the Dover to Calais ferries in the 1980s and 90s. The main focus was on ships visiting the port of Dover during this period and not solely of ferries. The refrigerated ship deliveries of fruit were carried out initially using ships gear or port cranes to unload pallets of goods straight into refrigerated lorries on the quayside. Gradually this developed with the building of a cold store and now can handle the inevitable refrigerated container. Ships shown were from “Cool Carriers”, “Lauritzen”, and “Horn” Lines. One ship to draw comment was Blue Star’s Scottish Star. Bulk cargos included grain also initially loaded straight from lorries on the quayside. Another ship to draw comment was the little coaster Locator that was the last regular trading ship to our local port of Maldon. Also still in use were the Granville and Wellington docks now either partially reclaimed or used as a marina. The Eastern arm of the docks is also used for layups and repairs. One photo showed the Shell tanker Norrisia (127540 dwt) alongside the eastern arm for a promotional visit highlighting the deficiencies of the port control office necessitating it’s subsequent increase in size and height! The white cliffs of Dover form a grand backdrop to pictures taken of ships on the eastern arm. Ships were also seen at the old railway jetty then coming to the end of its life.

A good number of cruise ships were pictured in the Western docks as the ports cruise terminal began to grow with visitors such as Vistafjord, Maasdam, World Renaissance, and Amerikanis. The ferries of that time were beginning to rapidly increase in size and new terminals at the Eastern Docks were coming into use. It was also good to see some of the unusual ferries in the docks such as those entering to shelter from bad weather and those temporarily on service to replace those under maintenance. Some of the “old timers” included the coaster Auguste from 1914 and a lovely picture of the 1932 built Danish Royal Yacht Dannebrog. We thank Mike for a splendid evening of nostalgia and well-researched commentary.



Locator alongside Green's Wharf at Maldon



Part of the winning team with the Trophy


October 2009

On Monday 5th October we held the branch AGM. The minutes of the previous AGM held in December 2008 were read and approved and the chairman, secretary and treasurer gave their reports. During his report the chairman announced his decision to retire from the post after 21 years, although he was prepared to stand for election to other positions on committee. He also announced that Secretary Ian Wells, for personal reasons, would also be stepping down from his post as Secretary and Treasurer. Following nominations and voting the 2009/2010 committee is as follows:

Chairman: Robin Butcher;

Secretary: David Brown;

Treasurer: (Position not filled);

Vice Chairman: Jerzy Swieszkowski.

Committee: Roy Leach, Andrew Smith, John Raven, Ray Smith.

Honorary Auditors Ray Smith, Michael Vincent.


Ian Wells said that he would be prepared to carry on his treasurer’s duties until December 2009 when hopefully a new treasurer could be found. All present wished to record their huge appreciation of the great commitment Ian Wells has made over the 35years (+) as our secretary. His dedication has made the branch the sucess it is today.

In “Any Other Business”, the continued use of the current meeting room was discussed. Its amenities cost and location was vital to the continued existence of the branch. Should our present meeting place be denied us it would have drastic repercussions to our existence as a branch. The possibility of closure of the Chatham archive was also discussed and we were led to believe that news of its continued existence might soon be announced.

 After the break we were shown some short films on the development of Southampton Port and a good selection of the trans-Atlantic liners that have used it.


September 2009

At our September meeting we welcomed back Peter & Christine Ives. Their show this year was from their visit over Christmas 2008 to the Panama Canal. Peter first showed us a commercial film on the history of the canal. Construction of the canal was began by France in 1889. However, the French encountered many problems that led to financial ruin and they had to abandon the project at the end of the 19th century. In 1904, the United States bought the partially completed project from the French and changed the engineering of the project from a sea-level canal to a series of locks that slowly adjust the water level as boats pass between the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean. It was not until August 15, 1914 that the Canal was officially opened with the SS Ancon being the first ship to commercially pass through the canal. The canal has been run completely by the Panamanians since 2000 and is a great source of income. In fiscal year 2008, 14,702 vessels passed through the 80 km (50 mile) long canal. Fees are based on their weight with the average being $30,000 one-way. The most ever paid to traverse the canal was $184,114.80 by a US container ship and the least was paid by adventurer Richard Halliburton who swam the canal in the 1920s and paid $0.36 based on his weight of 140 pounds. 

Peter then went on to show some of the many films he had taken during his stay. These were mainly from the viewing galleries of the three main lock systems, Gatun, Miraflores and Pedro Miguel. The ships use their engines during the lock transfer with the trains or mules maintaining the ships position through the lock. These films showed how skilful the navigation has to be with such a small clearance between shipside and dock wall with a Panamax size ship. Other vantage points were from points alongside the canal. Some were taken through the links of chain link fencing and others after walking through the undergrowth to the canal edge. Others were taken from their hotel close to the Americas Bridge. The majority of the daytime traffic was container ships with a few tankers, car carriers and bulk carriers. Peter thought that due to the convoy systems in operation most of the more interesting ships passed through under the “cover of darkness”.

 Our thanks to Peter and Christine for once again giving us an absorbing and entertaining evening.


August 2009 

Not many ships that pass Erith escape the camera lens of Alan Chapman and we were treated to his presentation “Sugar Boats, Tankers & Liners” at our August meeting. These were taken between Autumn 2007 and Spring 2009 mainly from Erith and some from other vantage points and some from a trip on Waverley. The best vantage point in Erith is Erith Deep Wharf which is very close to Morrisons car park (and convenient for a coffee in their cafe). The vista on the opposite shore was originally a photographers dream, low and flat. For the sake of good photography Alan has now three wishes; the disappearance of a couple of wind turbines, a power station chimney and the new warehouse for sorting London's waste! He has managed to juggle these well and none of the ships appeared to have a wind turbine attached. The sugar boats were destined for Tate & Lyles refinery at Silvertown either bringing worldwide supplies of raw sugar or loading refined products for Europe. The smaller ships were from the Carribean, the larger from further afield. These were often Friendship/Freedom types, a favourite of Alan. Tankers were mainly to and from the Thunderer Jetty at Dagenham, handling a variety of oils and chemicals with a variety of at least 22 types of cargo. Some ships were arriving with one cargo and departing loaded with another. Others served the Jurgens Jetty at Purfleet, and EDM at Erith both handling vegetable oils. The pictures of liners were bound for the various cruise terminals nearer the capital and, with some licence, included visiting sailing ships and yachts. It was not unusual to see the same ship at Erith passing upstream and later downstream the following day and occasionally underway further upstream, where Alan had jumped on the train and beat the ship to it's next photographic vantage point. That's dedication!

 Following the main show Alan showed us his latest venture, marrying ship photos to music, the ships shown were mainly pleasure boats on the Thames. Our thanks go to Alan and his “minders” for their visit and for the comprehensive commentary.








                   For more of Alan's Erith & Thames pictures visit 'Photobucket'


July 2009

 On July 6th we welcomed the Society’s General Secretary Jimmy Poole who gave us an illustrated in-depth study of Croatia’s ferry line Jadrolinija from 1947 to the present day.



The local link is TROGIR built in 1891 as BONANZA at Wivenhoe Shipyard near Colchester.
She was of 75 grt and carried 122 passengers and was broken up at Split in 1958
When the shipping line was created just after the formation of the communist state of the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia it had a rather aged collection of craft some being over 60 years old. These were mainly local built (Mali Losinj) or Italian built, although there were a few built in German, Dutch and UK yards (Cowes IOW, Newcastle and Aberdeen). The majority were under 400 grt.
DALMACIJA (built 1902)

One exception was the Wigham Richards (Tyne) built ferry Dalmacija of 866 grt. She was sunk by the Yugoslavs early in World War 2 to prevent her use by the Italians. The Italians raised her and refitted her for war service but was again sunk by the Yugoslav partisans to prevent it falling into German hands. Raised once more and refitted she became a unit of the Jadrolinija fleet. After the mid 1950s these early ships were gradually being pensioned off, most going to the local breakers in Split. They were replaced by newer second hand tonnage from Europe largely from Scandinavia with others coming from Germany, Japan, Greece and local Yugoslav yards. Some long-lived vessels have had a reprieve going on to become luxury yachts or floating restaurants. The 70s & 80s saw further additionsto the fleet with landing craft type car ferries becoming numerous. We were pleased to see a profile that was familiar. In the 1990s, Netley Castle, and the sisters Norris Castle, and Cowes Castle, were purchased from Southampton’s “Red Funnel” to become Sis, Lovrjenac and Nehaj respectively.

Jimmy’s talk also covered the larger passenger vessels such as Marko Polo, and the sisters Istra and Dalmaycia. Jadrolinija is now equipping with twin hulled fast ferries with a general capacity of 300+ passengers.

Many thanks to Jimmy for making the journey from Kent to show his meticulously researched presentation. 


 June 2009  

 On Monday 1st June we were entertained by the experiences and anecdotes of Captain Chris Abbott who started his sea going life in the closing months of the war in Silver Line’s SILVER OAK. Engaged in general tramping and being away from home for up to two years, he was pleased to move to the shorter “liner” voyages offered by Clan Line. He moved through the ranks to become master of ROCHESTER CASTLE. Chris told us of pre air travel crew changes, swinging in the anchorages for weeks waiting for a berth in Chittagong and pre SatNav navigation. We would like to thank Chris for a very entertaining and informative evening.



 SILVEROAK at Tacoma








May 2009

At our May meeting on 4th we staged our long awaited digital photo competition. The projection ran smoothly and marking was carried out. In comparison to slides our general opinion was that whilst, the picture on the “small screen” was very acceptable a certain amount of quality was lost in the projection, giving a bit of a flat appearance. However, we are confident enough to stage a competition again next year. The over-all winner was Ray Smith, who, with his picture of a pilot cutter in heavy weather, also won “best photograph”.
Overall Position
Position Entrant


Ray Smith


David Berg


Tony Hogwood


David Brown
Best Photograph
Position Entrant Photo No.


Ray Smith



Ray Smith



David Berg



David Berg



David Berg



Tony Hogwood



Tony Hogwood



Ray Smith



Ray Smith



Ray Smith



The rest of the evening was given over to a set of pictures taken by Paul Sivertsen of Mumbles, Swansea, whilst on a voyage on ICE MUSIC from the East coast of USA to the west coast of South America for a consignment of bananas. This showed ICE MUSIC departing from the Delaware River, transiting the Panama Canal and the loading of bananas from barges whilst at anchor. Pictures included ships seen during the voyage, transiting the canal locks and some pictures of Chilean warships. Thank you Paul for this interesting set of pictures.


April 2009

At our April meeting we were once again pleased to welcome Ken Larwood from Whitstable. Ken has a large collection of slides that he has taken over the years and he has compiled a range of shows. Our chosen presentation this time was “Ferries of the 1980s”.

The show featured ferries from ports still very much in use today and those that Ken reminded us of, which have declined in trade over the years. Just in our corner of the UK these include Ipswich, Sheerness, Ramsgate, Folkestone, and Newhaven, all with now much reduced or no ferry trade at all. At that time one of the largest operators was the Sealink consortium, which ran ferry services within the UK, and between the UK to France, to Belgium and to Holland and incorporated Sealink UK, the French SNCF, the Belgian RMT/RTM, the Dutch Zeeland Steamship Company and the Isle of Man Steamship Company. Other large players were Viking Sally, Townsend Thoresen which became P&O European Feries in 1987, Brittany Ferries (including Truckline), DFDS, and Tor Line. A good representation of the ferries from these lines and others made up the show with names to jog the memory such as Senlac, Vortigern, Spirit of Free Enterprise, St Columba, Olau Holandia, Tor Britannia, Prinz Hamlet, Dana Anglia, Koningen Beatrix and Norsky. Also shown were vessels such as the Boing jetfoil, the twin hull ferries such as Lady Patricia on the IOW service from Portsmouth and the large and small Hovercraft to be seen on local and cross channel services at that time. The rail Ferries were still operational, just, and it was interesting to see Essex Ferry, Cambridge Ferry Saint Eloi and Saint Germaine. Ken was obviously well travelled having pictures of frerries from all around the UK, and gave away his holiday destinations by having pictures of ferries at Santa Cruz in Tenerriffe, and San Sebastian in the Canaries.One rare picture showed Dover harbour lined with ferries on the one day a year they are not operational, Christmas day!

Our thanks to Ken for the memories, a grand selection of photographs and a well researched commentary which showed how many ferries end up with many years of life under different colours and flags.


 March 2009

Our first digital photographic competition arranged for February 2nd was called off due to the snow and rescheduled for March 2nd. This was the first time a meeting had to be cancelled for many years. However, the competition was not possible at the March meeting either, due to a mismatch of computer and projection equipment. Robin Butcher stepped into the breach and showed us a new film of the work of the RNLI, complete with some up to date information and comment. Thanks for saving the day Robin. Gremlins sorted, we hope to have our competition at our April 6th meeting.


 February 2009

 Our meeting on 2nd February was cancelled due to the snowy weather and poor road conditions.

 All being well the Photo Competition wil be held at the next meetimg on 2nd March


January 2009

At our meeting on 5th January we were pleased to see so many members that had turned out on a very cold and wintry evening. We watched a video of days gone by on the river Thames with a journey from the Pool of London down to Tilbury calling in at all the docks that lined the banks of the river. A nostalgic trip that reminded us of the PLA dock tours and those once familiar ships and shipping lines that visited London’s river in such large numbers in the 1950s and 60s.