Having started her 2018 season only a week earlier on 26th May, Kingswear Castle was looking immaculate when we sailed on her over the weekend of 2nd-3rd June.
Friday 1st was her maintenance day and she was to be seen moored to the company's dedicated pontoon in the river. On Saturday morning the river was shrouded in mist and fog banks kept rolling in from the open sea, making one wonder whether the downstream leg of the harbour cruises would be possible at all. However, by mid-morning the sun had burned off the fog to leave Dartmouth bathed in hot sunshine. Right on time Kingswear Castle was seen to leave her overnight mooring and paddle downstream to berth at the Town Pontoon ready to pick up a very large contingent of passengers for her midday sailing. She appeared to be full to capacity.
We joined the 1400 sailing which, due to the very low tide, proceeded a little further out to sea than is usual and then turned below the Anchor Stone on her upstream leg. The scenery was as stunning as ever and the river bustling with boats of every description. The fact that we were travelling as a three-generation family group ranging from 2 years old upwards, led us to consider a couple of aspects of travelling on board KC which might not always spring to mind.
Firstly, she provides an ideal outing for young families. She is packed with fascinating features, is big enough to explore, visually stunning but small enough to feel really welcoming. Our 6 year old grand daughter who is already getting to know the ship well insists on a tour of inspection to gaze down at the engine, view the paddle wheels turning through the portholes in paddleboxes, and descend to the aft deck and thence into the quieter aft saloon in order to gaze at the wake tumbling past the portholes. Her 2 year old sister is catching up fast and was mesmerised by the whole experience.
Secondly, KC's upper deck is very accessible to anyone with mobility issues. Her sponsons sit at precisely the same level as the Dartmouth town Pontoon (itself accessed by ramps) which means that getting on board in a wheelchair or mobility scooter is straightforward. The saloons and KC's famous toilets are not accessible by wheelchair, but the fact that appropriate shoreside facilities are available very close to the berth and that the cruises are relatively short, makes the whole excursion eminently practical. The crew could not be more helpful and welcoming and we'd thoroughly recommend a harbour cruise to other wheelchair users.The ship herself was immaculate. The varnish work was of superyacht standard, the paintwork perfect, every brass fitting glimmered in the sun and the engineer reported that all was running well down below. The hard and detailed work put into her winter refit by the Dartmouth Steam Railway & Riverboat Co really showed, and the pride the crew take in her appearance was clear for all to see. Everyone concerned at Dartmouth deserves our sincere thanks.
Throughout the weekend the historic naval motor launch Medusa, ML1387, was moored on KC's usual berth at the end of the Town Pontoon, so skipper Damien was forced to squeeze the paddler in and out of a tight and rather inconvenient gap between the ML and the other passenger vessels, but did so quietly and without fuss. Excellent ship handling!
The crew were looking forward to her first trip on the season to Totnes on 6th June and hoping for a hot, sunny and successful season. We shall certainly be back again very soon and would urge anyone who has not yet sailed on Kingswear Castle to make it a priority for 2018. You won't be disappointed.
All words and pictures provided by Richard Clammer. Richard is a PSPS Director and also one of two PSPS nominated Directors to the Paddle Steamer Kingswear Castle Trust.