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The Medway Queen preservation Society have issued the following press release:
Following the re-dedication of the Medway Queen at the Albion Dockyard in July the workforce there has been busy with completion of the construction and finishing touches to our ship. Apprentices and instructors from the Medway Queen Preservation Society were also in Bristol for a while to complement the Albion workforce. The successful rebuild of Medway Queen’s hull and establishment of the Gillingham Pier base has only been possible because of a substantial grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and considerable financial support from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) via the INTERREG IVA 2 Seas Programme.
The tug Christine, operated by A. J. & A. Pratt of Rainham, has been contracted to tow Medway Queen back to Gillingham and is now on her way to Bristol. When she arrives and all necessary surveys are complete and certificates issued Medway Queen will be towed out of the dry dock, manoeuvred through the locks and onto the river Avon. This and subsequent phases of the operation will be entirely dependent on both weather and tides. These factors are beyond anyone’s control although the tides at least are predictable. You can follow the Christine’s progress back to Gillingham on www.marinetraffic.com. They are expected to take an inshore route along the South Coast and for those who don’t already know, search for the Christine (UK registered tug), not for Medway Queen.
The date and time of arrival in Gillingham are dependent on operational requirements and will only be predictable by following the tug’s progress; it is expected to take an inshore route along the South Coast.
Our estimate is around 5 days after leaving Bristol given good weather. Medway Queen’s arrival at Gillingham Pier will be a major event for the area and we are planning this in three stages: (1) Arrival on the Medway in charge of the tug Christine and mooring up in the river to await a suitable tide. (2) Berthing at Gillingham Pier and, finally, (3) A celebration event for members and guests shortly after Medway Queen has been settled into her home.
When Medway Queen arrives the Visitor Centre will be open, but we anticipate that it will be necessary to exclude the public from the pier itself while the ship is mooring, on safety grounds. The society hopes that an impromptu “escort” of suitable vessels will follow the ship on the final stages of her journey without, of course, impeding the smooth running of the operation.
Please note that visitors will not be able to board Medway Queen at this stage.
Ship restoration is hugely expensive and Medway Queen is no exception. The support received from the HLF and the ERDF and generous grants from many other organisations and individuals have provided us with the means to reach the stage that we have, which is a fantastic achievement in itself, but we still have a long way to go to complete the job and get the ship working again. The fitting out phase of Medway Queen’s restoration will take place at Gillingham Pier but funds are now in extremely short supply and progress will be very slow unless we are successful in raising significant amounts of money. Our current priorities are providing safe access to the vessel for workers and visitors, restoring the aft saloon to enable it to be used for functions to generate revenue towards the restoration and restoring the engine room and machinery to working order as an attraction to encourage visitors
A “Completion Fund” has been set up to encourage donations large and small towards the cost of finishing the job. The speed with which Medway Queen can be returned to working order is entirely dependent on fund raising. We are applying to numerous grant giving bodies for aid but all will require us to provide partnership funding. Please dig deep; look on our website www.medwayqueen.co.uk for details or call at the Visitor Centre on Gillingham Pier.
Financial support is essential, as are new members. Offers of help in kind and volunteers to take on the many organisational roles needed when the ship returns and visitors arrive are also welcome. The society is very conscious that the “game” is about to change. In 2014 and beyond it has to strengthen the volunteer input to the project needing not only craftsmen but also organisers and administrators.