Comet replica badly damaged

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A CONDITION survey on the 1962 replica of Henry Bell's Comet paddle steamer at Port Glasgow has found that it cannot be repaired and that a new hull would need to be built and stored in a climate-controlled building.

The vessel is twisted and 90% of its hull planking is rotten, the survey by a naval architect concluded.

The replica underwent a £180,000, 12-month restoration at Ferguson shipyard that was completed in June 2011.

A new report by Inverclyde Council officials stated: “The replica has been continuously exposed through its history to all elements of the weather and steadily deteriorated.

“A survey and condition report was commissioned to assess the current condition of the replica Comet and to consider feasible options of repair.

“The outcome of the study confirms that the extent of timber decay in the hull is severe to the extent that economic refurbishment of this aspect of the ship is not feasible.

“A restoration would potentially involve significant ‘new build’ utilising components from the current vessel such as the replica engine.

“There are alternatives open to the council in respect of restoration and future display. There is an opportunity to develop a strategy for the long-term to ensure that any actions are future-proofed. This potentially could be through the method of construction of a replica or the  manner of display.”

“It is proposed that officers work with the Port Glasgow Regeneration Forum, potentially through a working group, to explore and cost options for the vessel. This is with a view to reporting back in early 2021.”

The working replica was built for the 150th anniversary of the ship, thanks to sponsorship by Sir William Lithgow, and was sailed to Helensburgh from Port Glasgow in 1962 accompanied by a large flotilla of canoes, sailing dinghies, yachts, and motor boats, achieving the design speed of five knots.