Archive for March 27th, 2008
Teeside steam ship awaits Santa Cruz re-birth

You know what it’s like, your 96 years old, weigh 50 tons, you’ve burst your boiler and no one wants you anymore. What you really need is some friends. Thankfully the steam ship La Palma found them in Tenerife in 2003, when a restoration trust was formed to restore the Middlesborough built vessel and repay it for years of service between the 7 Canary Islands.

La Palma

I met some of the trust members last year and was looking forward to the re-launch from it’s Santa Cruz dry dock this year, but it has just been revealed that they need another 3 million euros to give it a 2010 return to the sea.

Launched from the W.Harkess and Son shipyard in 1912, just 4 days before the Titanic sunk, La Palma headed for the Canaries to begin 60 years shuttling between the Canary Islands and Spanish West Africa, delivering mail, provisions and news. Although sturdy and functional, the ship had bags of style inside, including Chippendale style furniture, brass instruments, a sweeping staircase and first class cabins.

It all came to an end in March 1976 when one of the boilers that fired the triple expansion steam engine, blew up, forcing the ship to limp into Las Palmas, Gran Canaria. Years of neglect, rust and looting followed until the trust was formed in 2003, with the aim of restoring La Palma as a floating museum, restaurant and tourist attraction. Governments of all 7 islands chipped in and private benefactors joined the trust. The near 5 million euros raised has paid for a lot of major structural work including parts of the riveted steel hull, but there is still a lot to go.

The trust are working hard to collect more funds and finish the project. The cruel and unpredictable nature of the sea tends to harden seafaring people but when La Palma finally enters the water, with a new life to look forward to, thousands of hearts of oak will swell with pride.