Our work on Steam Yacht Gondola
While a ride on this rebuilt Victorian steam boat may give off the illusion of calm and splendour, behind the scenes there’s lots that goes into looking after her in the 21st century. Discover how our work on Steam Yacht Gondola helps ensure she can continue to give visitors a glimpse of a time when she was a shining example of innovation, in an age of discovery.
Maintaining and repairing the gondola
At the end of October, after seven months cruising up and down Coniston Water, Steam Yacht Gondola is hauled out of the water and covered up for the winter. We use this time to give the boat a little TLC.
Things are taken off, moved around, polished, varnished and shined, then put back on in the same place to look as good as new again.
This is also the time when bigger projects are tackled – this could mean repairing the deck or hull, installing new window frames, upgrading the ship’s ‘throne’ or fitting an echo-sounder.
The beating heart of Gondola, the steam engine, may be sent off to a trusted local partner for servicing. It’s a huge job, as we have to use a crane to haul out the engine room cabin so that we can get to the boiler.
When the Gondola is back up and running, passengers will be experiencing the sum of 160 years of passion, dedication, sweat and tears – a real showcase of local skilled craftmanship and engineering expertise.
Making the site safe
To make Gondola more accessible, new bridge steps and handrails have also been fitted.
Jetties used by Steam Yacht Gondola are also checked, renovated and cleaned as necessary to ensure safety for customers and crew during the next operating season.
Reupholstering the interiors
You’ll have noticed how plush the two saloons are on this fine vessel. To make sure it stays that way, every few years we have the seat cushions in the aft saloon reupholstered for the start of the new season.
Whenever we outsource repair work, we like to use local artisans, so we were delighted to find some highly talented upholsterers right here in Coniston.
It’s not a small job. Not only did they have to cut out and sew 192 metres of piping – that’s about the length of two football pitches – they also had to make 3,200 buttons.
Flying under the four flags of the Gondola
Unusually, Steam Yacht Gondola cruises around Coniston Water flying a total of four flags.
An international flag
At the bow flies the ‘Pilot Jack’. If you’ve ever travelled by ferry to the continent, you may have noticed the same flag flying at the bow of UK-registered ferries. The white border around the elongated Union Flag traditionally indicates that the Skipper is qualified to navigate the vessel independently without the assistance of a pilot.
National Trust and National Historic Ships flags
Moving further down the boat there are two more flags on the coach roof. The upper flag is the National Trust flag and below it flies the National Historic Ships UK house flag. The roundel design of the National Historic Ships UK house flag represents the bow of a ship cutting through the waves.
A special flag
The final flag is located at the stern. It’s a defaced ensign – ‘defaced’ because it includes the roundel emblem of National Historic Ships UK. As a historic ship, we have a special permit to fly this defaced ensign, a version of the UK national maritime flag, popularly known as the 'Red Duster'.
With your ongoing support, we're able to continue our vital conservation work. Thank you for helping to protect these special places.
Explore the history of this rebuilt Victorian steam yacht, whose story and history blends Italian inspiration with the growth of tourism in the UK during the 19th century.
Soak up the nostalgia of the bygone age of steam with a cruise on the Gondola yacht and choose from three routes around Coniston Water.
We believe that nature, beauty and history are for everyone. That’s why we’re supporting wildlife, protecting historic sites and more. Find out about our work.
Read about our strategy 'For everyone, for ever' here at the National Trust, which will take the organisation through to 2025.