The operating season for Steam Yacht Gondola finally came to an end on 31 Oct, after a summer that provided us with amazing weather and more than 20,000 passengers. Gondola is unique in the UK as the only large pleasure cruiser powered entirely by steam, so it's been no surprise that visitors came from as far afield as Australia just to see her and experience the serenity of a cruise aboard this iconic Victorian steam yacht.
The long season takes its toll, however, and once the crowds have departed, the Gondola crew and volunteers face the challenge of hauling her out of the water for the vital winter refit period. In simple terms, this consists of placing a 42 ton vessel securely onto a rolling cradle and dragging the combined weight up an inclined rail track to a final position at the top of the slipway.
With no powered winch available, this called for a team of four to man the double handles of a manual winch.
Each full turn of the massive winch mechanism draws Gondola another inch up the slipway and the winding team can manage just 30 turns before grinding to a halt and putting the brake on.
The next team of four then take up their positions and continue winding - hour after hour.
Fortunately for the Gondola crew, it's a long tradition in this part of the Lakes that our friends from nearby NT properties turn out in force to add their sweat to ours - all for a cup of tea! So, we'd like to thank Craig, Glen, Rob and all the others who willingly lent a hand to this year's hauling out ceremony, in the best spirit of the Trust.
Following on from the day of the long haul, Steam Yacht Gondola has had her own frame and cover erected over her to protect her from the winter weather and she now closely resembles a giant toothpaste tube.
The boat is now ready for the crew to set to and carry out the myriad of refit tasks over the coming winter in reasonable comfort. These jobs range from stripping down the immaculate steam engine for servicing, to painting and varnishing almost every surface on the boat. By next March and the start of the 2015 season she will once again be a vision of perfection and beauty.