Portwey's Post War History


9th Oct. The owners G.H. Collins sold Portwey to Falmouth Dock & Engineering Go. Ltd and Registration transferred to them on the 24 Dec.


Falmouth 31 Jan The new manager was Mr A.E Underwood of Falmouth Dock and Engineering Go. Ltd. Portwey was used for moving various barges known as Lump; D15; Unibag and Mixtow which was a floating steam crane built onto the end of a barge, also “Shell Mex” which was a floating Tank barge used in the pumping out of oil when tankers which had called in to Falmouth Docks for repair required tanks to be cleaned. She also moved the 50ton Floating crane “Titania”, and the Admiralty Floating Dock No.5. There were various harbour duties such as supplying fresh water to vessels out in the roadstead.

The Switchboard and Dynamo (1918) was on board when she arrived at Falmouth. The Dock Co. fit the Steam Steering engine when they acquired her. The 2nd Dock master was Capt. Gelling who steamed Portwey around from Dartmouth with Edward (Eddie) Pasco. Eddie was then appointed as skipper .

The following are selected brief extracts are taken from Portwey’s Log book 1952 to 1954, and give some indication of the day-to day working carried out by Portwey.

Shell Mex to Eastern from moorings
Assisting SS Solbritt alongside Western
Assisting SS Solbritt from Western for sea
Giving Naninia 40 tons waterGiving Naninia 40 tons water
Shell Mex to moorings from SS Naninia
Giving Naninia 40 tons water
Giving Naninia 40 tons water
Giving Naninia 20 tons water
Crane Titania to No.1 Dock Head from moorings
Crane Titania from No.1 Dock Head to No.3 Dock
Head Crane Titania to moorings from Shell Mex to British Patriot from Eastern
Assisting SS British Knight up No.3 dock
Shell Mex to SS Frey from Patriot
To Prince of Wales Pier with Capt Carlson (Captain of Flying Enterprise) & K. Dancy (Mate) & others from Tug Turmoil
Shell Mex from SS British Might to Eastern
Shell Mex to British Commodore from Eastern
Shell Mex from British Bugler to Eastern D15 to No.4 Dock Head from moorings
Crane Barge to British Valour from moorings
Crane Barge to Western from British Valour
D15 to moorings from No.4 Dock Head
Crane Barge to British Valour from Western
Barge 8 to British Valour from Eastern
Shell Mex to moorings British Justice
Shell Mex to Eastern from moorings
Hopper 2 & Barge 8 to No.1 Dock from moorings
Crane Barge to No.1 Dock from moorings
Assisting Dredger to No.1 Dock from moorings
Shell Mex to Cable ship SS Mirror from Eastern
Shell Mex to moorings from SS Mirror


July/Aug - the contractors Conialys used Portwey during the construction of the new Lizard Lifeboat Station at Kilcobben Cove.


Portwey was towed to Holyhead by the tug “ St Mawes “ to assist the dredger “Briton” with dredging for new car ferry terminal being built at the Admiralty Pier. During the tow back, Portwey hit a rock, causing a dent in the forward water tank, port side. When Portwey was built she had a water tank that was on top of the Heads (which is now the paint locker), and the original galley was where our electrical locker is now sited.

July Portwey was some times used to push the ferry” Normannia “ along side the pier in breezy conditions.

Portwey was sold as scrap to Richard Dobson of Stoke Gabriel, Totnes, who moved her to Stoke Gabriel and with colleagues maintained and restored her to a steaming condition.

Attended the Fleet review at Torbay.

Steamed to Brixham for Trawler race.

Used by Dart Harbour & Navigation Authority, to inspect the River.

Beating the Bounds on the River Dart with guests of the Council on board.

For Richard and his crew it was now becoming difficult to maintain Portwey and he decided to donate Portwey to the Maritime Trust.

May 1982 - Portwey steamed to St Katharine Dock, London, via Weymouth. Took on board 16ton’s of Coal at Weymouth. Left Weymouth for London.

7 June 1982 - Handed over to the Maritime Trust.

3 Dec 1982 - “Friends of Portwey” formed, who continued the restoration and steaming of the tug.

1 Sep 1994 - S. T.Portwey Association created. Association obtains charitable status.

19 July 1995 - Long-term charter granted to S. T Portwey Association by Maritime Trust.

June 1996 An application to the Heritage Lottery Fund was successful. £82,000 was awarded to the Association and this together £ 10,000 raised by the Association enabled severely corroded steelwork under the boiler to be replaced. Portwey spent eight weeks at Denton’ s Ship repairers, Gravesend, having the work done.


20 April  2000 the S. T. Portwey Trust Company Limited by Guarantee created. 

2 June 2000 Charitable status granted to the Trust.

7 June 2000 Portwey purchased by S. T.Portwey Trust from the Maritime Trust.

Lifeboat restoration. Heritage Lottery Fund awarded a restoration grant of £10,200. In August 2002 the lifeboat was removed to the yard of David Patient, Shipwright of Maldon, Essex, for complete restoration. In August 2003 the boat returned to Portwey fully restored with new mast, sail, oars and cover. The lifeboat is unusual in being double ended and the Trustees were most anxious to keep the original boat.

January 2005 Portwey visited the London Boat Show. She was in steam for 12 days, the longest period since the tug came to London from Dartmouth in 1982.

August 2010 Portwey steamed to Ramsgate to be slipped for hull inspection and repainting. On the return voyage the starboard condenser end casing started bulging alarmingly and had to be quickly reinforced. Once back at South Quay new end casings were cast and fitted.

June 2012 Portwey was part of the static collection of historic ships taking part in the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Pageant

July 2012 Portwey made a 14 hour voyage from Canary Wharf to Harwich to take part in the Harwich Festival of the Sea.

July 2013 Portwey spent over three weeks on the slip at Ramsgate while a full hull survey was carried out and the hull stripped down to bare metal, repainted and re-antifouled. A grant from National Historic Ships covered most of the survey costs.

August 2017 Portwey's 90th birthday celebrations. Portwey was saluted by the commodore of HMS President, just below Tower Bridge, in recognition of her wartime service.

September 2018 After close inspection of the starboard furnace it was obvious that it had been overheating with badly distorted fire bars. The brick arch support plate at the back of the furnace was found to be bent.

2019 A no steaming year. The opportunity was taken to dry dock Portwey so that the propellor shafts could be removed for refurbishment along with the associated glands and bearings. During the year the windlass and wheelhouse steering engine were also overhauled and the starboard furnace rebuilt with a new brick arch support plate.

To be continued!



This new and revised 44 page edition of the history of the Steam Tug Portwey also includes a full tour guide and description of this amazing survivor from the age of the steam ship. Read about the vessels and seafarers that Portwey rescued during her working life, her Second World War service and her preservation by a dedicated band of volunteers.

Costing £5.00, plus £1.20 postage, the booklet is available from the Chairman, Steve Page. Email him at speedbirdsteve@gmail.com with your request for a booklet and use the donate page to donate £6.20 via InvestMyCommunity.