A 100-year-old former tugboat built at Middlesbrough’s famous Smiths Dock has sailed up from London to join in the Tees Transporter Bridge centenary celebrations this weekend.
Owner James Muggoch and crew have brought the ‘Cob’ on a 350-mile sea and river trip from its normal mooring on the Thames, near London’s Kew Bridge for an emotional return to the place it was built in November 1911.
James, 62, has made the testing journey with son, James Jnr, and fellow crew members Dave Hardy and Brian Everest.
“It’s my privilege to bring it back to its birthplace and a lovely surprise too to be involved in the Transporter Bridge celebrations. I had no idea about the structure’s centenary when I first decided to bring the Cob back and had no idea what the Transporter Bridge looked like. It’s a lot bigger than I imagined!”
The 100-tonne Cob was derelict when antique dealer and boat enthusiast James bought it for £6,000 24 years ago but he has returned it to its former glory with much time, effort and cash.
“I daren’t tell you what I’ve spent on it!” laughs her owner. “I’ve spent a lot of time and money painting it and getting it ready to bring it back ‘home’ for its centenary.
“I believe it to be the oldest surviving Smiths Dock vessel that is still sea-worthy. It’s my pride and joy but a trial too. I’ve fitted new decks, wheel house, day cabins, hull and rebuilt the engines and bulkheads. Some of the old hull still remains but it’s much changed.”
Originally named Smiths Dock No 3, the boat saw service with the Royal Navy as 'Mary' at Scapa Flow during the First World War, then as the 'Cob' was with Swan Hunter until sold to Micky Devlin of Tyne Towage Co. for £1 and finally to James.
She spent 18 years in Brentford, London and more recently - as a family 'yacht' - spent her time in Cowes, Isle of Wight before recent work on the Thames to get her ready to celebrate a century.
James hopes to make take members of the public on free river trips over the forthcoming weekend and will also be back for Cob’s own centenary on the weekend of November 5-6.
First on board this Saturday will be the Middlesbrough Sea Cadets, led by officer in charge John Reilly. The cadets will be given a talk and tour of the boat before enjoying a 20-minute trip along the river from the Transporter to Smiths Dock.
The Cob will also make a special sailing to celebrate her own centenary near to the site of the original Smith’s Dock on November 5 and 6. For further information contact James Muggoch on 07507 844898.
For more details about the Transporter Bridge centenary celebrations, see http://www.lovemiddlesbrough.com/transporter100