On the water in Southampton

By | Category: Travel destinations

It took me a while to realise that what made me like or dislike places was he presence of water. I felt happiest where there were rivers, canals, lakes or seas near where I was living and, apart from one out of eighteen places in which I have lived, I have lived near water.

SS Shieldhall

Water-based breaks and holidays near water appeal so news from Southampton caught my attention.

Thought to be the largest working steamship in the UK, a trip on the Southampton based SS Shieldhall will confer on passengers a rather unusual claim. Un like those people who can claim to have been on the largest, fastest or newest cruise ship, this boat’s passengers can claim to have sailed on a sewage transport ship. Except that it doesn’t do that anymore.

Glasgow Authority, for whom the SS Shieldhall, was built has a rather unusual policy. It was that the vessels that moved treated sewage sludge into the ocean would also operate to take day trippers at other times. As such she was designed in such a way that day trippers could clearly see the engines at work as well as easily move throughout the ship to see how it worked. That approach proved useful 26 years ago when the ship retired and was bought by a charity that uses her for excursions, training and private charters from Southampton.

Trips start again in two months’ time – June 26th – from Southampton and include a special anniversary cruise celebrating 200 years of Steam in the Solent.’

Apart from engine driven ships, many would claim that sail is the only way to travel and, for this year, there is a new sailing vessel that visitors can enjoy to Southampton can enjoy. First Class Sailing is offering novice sailors the chance to sail on a restored traditional, wooden gaff cutter, the Golden Vanity which was originally built  in 1908. Design as a fishing smack to trawl a net along the sea bed and then return to port with their catch as quickly as possible, it seems it was never used for this purpose but as a private yacht for an artist.

Golden Vanity

The company that now owns it offers a hands-on introduction to traditional sailing under the direction of the on-board skipper and mate. No winches or modern labour-saving devices here; muscle power is what is needed! Up to six participants become the working crew for a weekend sailing in and around the Solent, with several stopovers including Beaulieu, Cowes and Yarmouth. 

The cutter is rather larger than the seven-foot “Pelican” class single-masted novice entry boat on which  I learnt to sail. It also seems a lot more fun for a short break than some of the cryise ship three-day breaks on offer this summer!

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