The museum minesweeper SAS Durban on the SASDock floating dock in August this year. The ship should return to the museum in the next week or so. Trevor Jones
Durban - Good news for those who follow the progress being made at the Port Natal Maritime Museum, where two of the main exhibits have been missing for several months.

Visitors to the museum would have noticed the magnificent view across the harbour, unobstructed by the mass of two floating exhibits, the former Durban harbour and salvage tug JR More and the former SA Navy minesweeper, SAS Durban.

In mid August, they were taken under tow to SA Shipyards’ repair yard, where they were dry-docked and have undergone much-needed repair and a facelift.

These two ships always prove so popular that the museum took a decision to waive the small entry fee during their absence.

The good news from the shipyard is that work is nearing completion, and the two ships are expected to return to their berths in the next week or two.

Work remaining is mainly paintwork, which doesn’t take long.

The ships have had timber (SAS Durban) and steel (JR More) cut out and replaced and have undergone a thorough inspection and all necessary repairs to their hulls.

When they arrive back on their berths at the museum they should represent a sparkling appearance and something that Durban can not only be proud of, but ought to allocate a top position among the tourism “must see” destinations.

The museum is, of course, not just about these two vessels; a third, the pilot tug Ulundi, is on the “hard”, or exhibited on land.

The round-the-world sailing yacht NSC Challenger has also had a recent facelift, while two other significant wooden harbour boats, Khaya Lethu and Gloworm, are about to undergo full refurbishments.

These latter two boats with interesting histories have sadly deteriorated in the open conditions, where they are not only exposed to rain and sunshine, but also to the occasional vicious “busters” that hammer through from the south-west.

They desperately require shelter, and this is a project that needs urgent attention.

There are many other exhibits available to the visitor, not the least being the ship models and the whaling exhibition. The Friends of the Maritime Museum have been rather at odds and ends while the two ships have been away for repairs, but there will still be things to do once they return.

The money available for their dry-docking could only go so far, and when a ship goes into dry dock other necessary work is often discovered.

One item that will be receiving attention is the recreation of the Pirate Room, which will be an added attraction for children’s parties.

If anyone fancies spending a few hours a week helping out with maintenance and repairs on these and other exhibits, please do come and introduce yourself one Saturday morning.

A small informal team is usually at work on certain weekdays, so if that time suits you better then join the “friends” then.

One other project taking rapid shape is the Resource Centre, a library of books, magazines, newspaper cuttings, photographs and paintings that grows by the day.

In the new year, volunteers are needed to help digitally catalogue this large collection, which already numbers about 800 books and countless shipping magazines. The book collection is less than half of what we know is still to come, but donations of suitable books are always welcome.

The plan for the resource centre facility is to have a reference library of catalogued books and articles available not only to researchers, but also students engaged in the maritime industry.

Contact Zama at the museum (031 322 9598) or Terry (031 466 1683) if you are available to help.

Terry Hutson keeps a beady eye on shipping activities, but particularly those related to Africa and South Africa. For shipping activities, news and schedules please contact him at 082 331 5775, email [email protected] or visit the website www.africaports.co.za for ships in port and other maritime-related data.

The Mercury