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Lady Anne Dodd helps to rescue well known sunken tugboat from Canning Dock

1 year ago

<strong>Lady Anne Dodd helps to rescue well known sunken tugboat from Canning Dock</strong>
France-Hayhurst lies sunken in the water

An 86-year-old tugboat which has sunk in Canning Dock is finally set to be raised in a £13,000 rescue operation.

Ken Dodd’s widow, Lady Anne Dodd, has donated a significant sum to help enable the France-Hayhurst to be lifted from the riverbed on Tuesday in a move which will see the entire dock drained.

Owner of vessel Cathy Roberts – known affectionately as Tugboat Cath – says the donation, made through the Ken Dodd Charitable Foundation, has been fantastic.

“My partner Pete and I were very close friends of Sir Ken and Lady Dodd and whenever we met, Ken would say to me ‘Tugboat, have you had your bottom scraped yet’?,” smiles Cathy. “He loved the whole idea of the boat, and he was fascinated by her.

“When Lady Anne said she was making the donation, she said it was out of admiration for me which is lovely. I burst into tears.”

Cathy adds: “The donation from her is so fantastic, and it’s the difference between saving the boat and not.”

Exterior of the France-Hayhurst docked at the Royal Albert Dock, Liverpool. Photo by James Maloney
Exterior of the France-Hayhurst docked at the Royal Albert Dock, Liverpool. Photo by James Maloney

Rescue work will start just before 7am to lower water out of the dock, and pump water out of the historic vessel. 

The France-Hayhurst sank on January 2 after being moved from the Royal Albert Dock ahead of travelling across the Mersey for a hull inspection. The cause of the sinking remains unknown but Cathy says the focus must now be on raising her and repairing her.

“It is a huge operation.  The contractors, the harbour master and myself will meet before to discuss what will happen. Then the first part is to drain the dock and, once the water gets to a certain level we should see water coming of out of France-Hayhurst’s portholes because they were open. But there will still be a lot of water on board.

“The idea is that as soon as anyone can get on board her they will, and they will put pumps on which will start to pump the water out to take the weight and strain off the lines which will be lifting her.

“Hopefully once as much water is drained out as can be, the contractor who’s overseeing the raising will identify where there might be any leaks and plug them.”

Cathy Roberts
Cathy Roberts

The dock will then slowly be refilled and the wheelhouse will be removed from the vessel so she can be towed through the dock system and under the bridges to hardstanding at Coburg Dock. It’s there where, after cleaning off the barnacles and mussels, the France-Hayhurst will be assessed before restoration can begin – again!

Cathy, whose family has a seafaring history, bought the boat more than 18 years ago. It was built in 1937 and originally used as a River Weaver Navigation service boat but had been left to rot before Cathy found it and fell in love with it.

For a while it even became her home after she spent three and a half years restoring it.

For more than a decade the well-known tugboat has been a much-loved attraction at the Albert Dock, inspiring schools, women’s groups, seafarers, watersport enthusiasts, local and international entertainers.

Most recently, she provided a home base for the Marine Radio Museum Society, who have broadcast across the world, and she was about to be the focal point for a new project to encourage women and girls to engage with opportunities within maritime industries, and overcome any barriers in developing their potential. 

Interior of the France-Hayhurst docked at the Royal Albert Dock, Liverpool. Photo by James Maloney
Interior of the France-Hayhurst docked at the Royal Albert Dock, Liverpool. Photo by James Maloney

Cathy says: “I found this boat as a virtual wreck, and it took a long time to get her right; and it took a leap of faith, taking her all around the coast to bring her home and work on her.

“At the time I was doing it as much for me and my own wellbeing. It was a bad time in my life and she was a turnaround for me. I knew when I was doing it that it was survival thing and if I got the boat to survive, we would come back together. And we did. 

“I will never give up on her.”

Once it’s restored to her former glory, Cathy is determined to see her dream realised for her beloved France-Hayhurst to continue to encourage people with her story.

“I have given so many talks about France-Hayhurst and people have loved her story. So many community groups have benefitted by being inspired by it.

“We are not out of the woods – or the water – yet. There’s a lot of waiting and seeing but I will do everything I can because she’s worth it.”

Cathy has set up a JustGiving page which will hopefully continue to raise money to carry out repairs and restore the France-Hayhurst to her former glory once the rescue operation has been carried out.

Cathy says: “I watched her go down and it was heartbreaking, it was the worst day of my life. It was horrendous, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

“But I’m doing everything I can to bring her up and back to life. I will always do everything until proves to me I can’t. That I can’t do this has never occurred to me.”

To help Cathy and support the France-Hayhurst click here.



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