About Challenge

Waiting to tow Alpa 1070

History Remembered

Here are some responses to our call for "Your History Wanted". If you have any connection with Challenge, perhaps you were a member of the crew or your father or grandfather remembers her, please lets us know if you have any stories about her or her crew.
Name: Gary Pritchard


Hi all it's great news to hear that the tug has been restored to its former glory my grandad was the skipper of the tug when it was on the Thames it would be great to come and see her. I will talk to my mum and see if she still has his logs from when he was working .

Skipper Jim Payne.


Name: Mary Phillips


Hi to all concerned with the Challenge,

I am so proud of all your efforts and commitments at restoring the Challenge

and I will have the pleasure at being invited to go on board her again, this

Wednesday when she will be returning to her working site of the Royal Pier


I have very fond memories of Challenge from an early age with my father

Captain Cyril Thomas Phillips (Last Captain of her and who skippered her to

her first resting place at St Catherine's Dock), through to her being sold,

bought, attempted restorations and now to her full working order and


I really wish my father could be here to see his favourite Steam tug

restored and in action again for all to enjoy the history of working ships

on the Thames.

I look forward to hopefully meeting with you at the Royal Pier as well as St

Katharine's Dock.

Well done to all!

Mary Phillips


Name: Roger Cole


I was cook of the Challenge for 18 months starting sometime in in early 1961,and later came back on board as one of 2 fireman. She was still burning coal at the rate of 90 tons a week and bunkering was a very dirty job and hard work if the side pockets had to be filled. These were some of the most enjoyable days of my working life, although looking back you were at worked nearly all the time. The basic week was 56 hrs which most of the time was done in the first shift of the week. You would go on board Monday at 6am and work until midday on Wednesday, then start again on Thursday 6am until midday on Saturday. Then with any luck we were back on Sunday ( good old double time ) an so it went on. One of the first thing I remember on starting as cook was the gravy ladle the hung from a short length of chain above the working surface at the back of the small galley.

It had a hole drilled through the centre? which spilled the gravy all over the place as you used it. As time passed I asked why this was, only to be told it stemmed from an incident in the war when the tug was assisting with berthing a tanker at Thames Haven. Dinner time had come and all the crew bar the skipper and engineer had eaten only for them to find all the gravy gone! The hole was drilled to stop this ever happening again!

Is it still there? I would love to have a look around her at some time as the last time I saw here she was In Saint Katherine dock in London and looking very sad.


Name: John Moore


It must be 50 or so years since I was last behind the wheel of this tug. I was quite often let loose by Capt Harry "Blood" Arnold on my not to infrequent trips out with him on a variety tugs from Terrace Pier Gravesend. J Moore ex Thames Waterman & Lighterman.


Name: Guillermo C. Berger


Dear Sirs,

I am a member of the Histarmar Foundation www.histarmar.org, a Buenos

Aires-based non-profit organization dedicated to identifying, locating and

preserving local maritime heritage. Our group started next April exactly a

decade ago, and since 2011 institutionally as an NGO, a move that provided a

strong boost to our efforts. These include the restoration, preservation and

exhibition of the last two steam-powered tugs of a once vast domestic fleet,

which are being donated to us by owning company Marima Maruba. One of them

is the 1933-built TRIUNFADOR, built as NUTRIA by the A. Hall yard at

Aberdeen. While researching info for the preparation of our preservation

proposal I came accross your CHALLENGE and can only be amazed to learn that

both ships (and the long-gone CONTEST) are almost identical vessels. In fact

CONTEST is our ship's previous build by the Hall yard. I invite you to

contact us at my e.mail address to explore in which ways we can cooperate to

our mutual benefit, as it is by no means common to have two 80-year old

sisterships in existence and such a unique opportunity is not to be missed.

In the meantime I also suggest to explore our website and especially the

link pertaining to NUTRIA-TRIUNFADOR at


Once we have made contact I will elaborate further on both the ship and our

preservation project. I'll also forward views taken during January when we

inspected the ship. Although worn-out externally after 20 years in lay-up,

the interiors are remarkably well-preserved.

I'll anxiously await your response.

With very best regards,

Guillermo C. Berger

Buenos Aires

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