Ocean Mist; The Cruz

HMS Samuel Green, Ocean Rover, Aries, Ocean Mist, Cruz, Ocean Mist.

Having previously encouraged fishermen to join the new Territorial Army, when WW1 started many immediately commenced mine-sweeping duties, often on the ships they had been fishing on shortly before. The Admiralty in London formed a scheme to build steam armed trawlers for the Great War effort to replace the many trawlers that were lost in action. Our ship was built in Glasgow and named after one of Lord Nelson’s crew at the Battle of Trafalgar: HMS (Her Majesty’s ship) Samuel Green. However, she was too late to see service in the war as her completion finally came in 1919, just after WW1 had ended. Incredibly, HMS Samuel Green is still in existence ~ surviving, as the Cruz ~ the last remaining steam driven trawler of her type.

She was sold immediately to the first of many owners who embarked her on a rich and glamorous life. She was to be boarded by some of the glitterati and aristocracy of the day and who knows what her future holds in store for her yet?

Her illustrious life started when she was snapped up in 1921 and bought by her first private owner, the speed breaking racer millionaire Kenelm Guinness of the Irish brewing company. As for many racing motorists of this era, he had commercial interests in automotive engineering being the inventor of the Spark Plug.  1922 saw Kenelm Guinness facing two important international rally races a week apart with a sea crossing splitting the two venues in Spain and Sicily. Today, to save time, air freight would be standard, but no easy option existed in those days. Being a keen yachtsman Kenelm Guinness renamed the steam trawler the ‘Ocean Rover’, refitted her as a gentleman’s yacht, secured the racing-cars to the floor of the converted fish and ice hold and sailed himself, the factory team and mechanics around the stormy Mediterranean.  This was a sensational solution at the time.

In 1924, Kenelm Guinness used the yacht under the name Aries, for a treasure-hunting trip to the Indian Islands. Adventurous nowadays, but even more so in the days of pirate flotillas. He braved it with his diamond trader friend Sir Malcolm Campbell the Duke of Leeds, knighted for his achievements in breaking eight world speed records on water and land.

With the earlier title Ocean Rover reinstated in 1928, the Guinness family went on to host many parties and trips for the nobility. One in 1929, including guests The King of Greece, Lady Hon Guinness, the Countess of Craven and the Earl of Altamont. Whilst the Ocean Rover never sailed under the White Ensign of the Royal Navy, as a yacht, all the owners up until 1939 were members of the Royal Yacht Squadron.

After a further four years she found yet another new home and owner this time on the the Isle of Wight before passing on once again four years later in 1938 to a berth on the Firth of Clyde. 

After a relatively short period as a Clyde based yacht, due to the out break of WW2 in 1939, along with practically the entire British Fishing Fleet, she was commandeered for the second time by the Admiralty to undertake the duties of mine sweeping and coastal patrol.

However as the Ocean Rover had earlier been converted in order to accommodate luxury passengers and her fishing equipment removed she was initially deemed more suitable for use as a floating HQ. Later being employed as a torpedo recovery vessel on the Clyde and briefly at Leith, before taking up duties on the South Coast. When WW2 was over in 1945, most other vessels of her size were quickly sold out of Admiralty service. But she was not suitable for conversion back to fishing like the others so she was retired (for the first time ! ) and laid up. 

During the immediate post-war years materials for luxurious projects, such as yachting, were very strictly controlled by government edict, coal was even more strictly rationed, which resulted in the Ocean Rover being unused for quite some time. She languished mostly laid-up in a mud berth in Cowes.

By 1949 she had been re-fitted as a yacht but due to post war rationing of coal it took until 1954 and the pockets of another millionaire before she wetted her hull again, this time as the ‘Ocean Mist’. 

By 1954 most of the war time restrictions had been lifted and the new owner an English multi-millionaire yachtsman based on the Isle of Wight. ‘Tiny’ Mitchell, a somewhat larger than life figure, both physically and metaphorically, used it for occasional jaunts across the Channel.  At this point, with smog collecting, her black smoke was now considered filthy and her boilers were converted from coal to oil firing in step with the times.

By 1960 Ocean Mist was purchased by the Anglo-Canadian owner of
the Great Glen Cattle Ranch Fort, whisky trader Joseph Hobbs of Inverlochy Castle, Fort William. He had made his first fortune in shipping and Canadian real estate. Now in Scotland he was doing it again with cattle and whisky, owning seven whisky distilleries. 

Hobbs had the idea of introducing American style cattle ranching to the Highlands of Scotland.A Canadian Daily Tribune reported in 1951 that he was employing “four Gaelic-speaking cattle hands. From dawn to dusk they range this Scottish ranch on horseback and carry 12 foot whips.”

Having had several ships in his private fleet over time, some say his favourite was ’Ocean Mist’. There is tale of Hobbs and his friend John Cobb – who died on Loch Ness trying to break the water speed record, planning to use the boat whilst searching for hidden treasure in Jamaica.

She remained on the Caledonian Canal until the mid 1980s, times having moved on and the taste in yachts having changed she was unsellable.

But again, a lucky reprieve saved her from the salvage yard. In 1984 Joesph Hobb’s son Jo Junior joined forces with two other entrepreneurs under the business title The Leith Steamship Company. The Ocean Mist went first to Inverness where for £1/2million the machinery was overhauled before her journey to Leith Old Harbour. It was to be her last voyage. 

With no concrete bridge to block the way and the Victoria Swing bridge still operating, The Ocean Mist puffed into its new mooring alongside the ‘Kings Wark’ quay in the Old Harbour at Leith Docks in 1987. It was the last time the Victoria bridge was to be used.

‘Kings Wark’ quay has a royal prestigious past. In 1822, George IV, had his tall ship moored there for a meeting at Customs House.

The Ocean Mist had become a yacht to call your own, for lunch at least in the newly regenerated Shore. Later the concrete road bridge would be built and the Victoria Swing bridge would cease to work blocking the Ocean Mist’s water exit. At one point she sported a canary yellow colour considered unsightly by many. With time the numerous eateries out numbered their customers and in 2000 the Ocean Mist closed.

  • 2005 Demolition started then stopped.
  • 2007 It took the foresight of two Iranian engineers Matthew Tabatabaie, the successful Edinburgh restauranteur of De Niro fame; and Sassan Pour, an architectural engineer to re-launch the derelict Ocean Mist as the Cruz, after a £1.1 million refit.  She was stripped down to deck level and machinery removed. They converted her into a smart cocktail bar, nightclub and 90 seat restaurant complex with roof terrace. But the gourmet restaurants all around were booming and also serving Cote d’Azur bouillabaisse and saffron beurre blanc. The competition was stiff. Practicalities were also not favourable as waiting staff tried to run effortlessly up and down the gangplanks with dishes. As the years passed, the mood music for those fine dining and wining upstairs on the deck had to compete at times with the sound of rock music blasting away in the downstairs bar as the former Ocean Mist became a watering hole.
  • 2013 Cruz closed its doors and gangplank.
  • 2019 The Leith Steamship Company, which has now become the Water of Leith 2000 sold the Cruz in 2019. She has been saved from dereliction and is to be restored to her former glory as a luxury floating hotel under her former name Ocean Mist.  More photos to come on completion.

Courtesy of:

Sir Stuart of Allenbank
Lady Hon Guinness
Grand Prix Sunbeams
Captain Walter Hume
The City of Edinburgh Council ~ Art UK Peter Stubbs
Malcom Donnelly
Douglas Brown
Chris Allen
John Cooper
Neil Judson
Martin Third
Leith Podcaster

www.steamboat.org.uk
www.trawlerphotos.co.uk
www.boatdesign.net
www.ship-rex.com
www.clydeships.co.ukwww.exceptthekylesandwesternisles.blogspot.com
www.edinphoto.org.uk
www.nationalgalleries.org
www.leithhistory.co.uk
www.scotland-flavour.co.uk
www.spiritofleithers.com
www.henniker.scot
www.artuk.org
www.gettyimages.co.uk

Please let us know if you can add to or improve this video in any way !

Update on bridge repairs

FOWLb received (15/05/19) a letter from Charles Hammond, CEO of Forth Ports in response to our pressure for answers.

Mr Hammond acknowledged the importance of the bridges to the heritage and cultural identity of Leith. From his letter we understand that Forth Ports had sought to make temporary repairs but were advised by the “statutory bodies” that temporary works would be allowed only if an application for a permanent solution was submitted in parallel. They advise they are currently engaging with specialist engineers and historic building consultants to provide suitable proposals for both of these bridges.

We can therefore take it that there will be no solution in the immediate short-term but when it happens we should expect a comprehensive and high quality outcome that should keep both bridges in use and looking good for many years.

Friends of the Water of Leith Basins will continue to push Forth Ports and find a way to have a voice for the people of Leith to ensure the final outcome satisfies FOWLb members and the local community.

To be kept up regularly updated we suggest you sign-up to become a Friend of The Water of Leith Basins by sending your name and contact details to fowl.basin@gmail.com.

Rennies Isle bridge

The swing bridge and turning platforms and lock gates at former east dock, just by the Teuchters Landing, is local icon of notable national importance. As Historic Environment Scotland note: “The swing bridge is of the John Rennie/Ralph Walker design of circa 1803 and is among the earliest surviving examples of a cast-iron swing bridge in the UK by one of Britain foremost engineers of the 19th century.”

Teuchters Landing, of course, was a port of call for the ferry to Aberdeen, keenly remembered by many in the neighbourhood. One Friend remembers his father describing the drunken scenes aboard the ferry he used to catch from there to Aberdeen with both crew and passengers making the most of being off shore.

As we’ve commented on before, FOWLB was concerned about the steady decay of this locally iconic and national important structure and recently called Historic Environment Scotland to find out what could be done about their state of repair. They cannot confirm ownership of the bridges (which would breach the data protection act), although we have heard that Forth Ports is responsible for them. We’ve had little luck getting a response to ask what the future holds for the bridge. This is unexpected given the company’s pride in winning a prestigious award for community engagement and work across the UK, including Leith.

Since our unanswered requests, the bridge has been closed off completely given safety issues yet there are no obvious efforts to re-open the structure or restore it to an acceptable state. We’d encourage readers to contact Forth Ports themselves to ask what is going on. Their media contact is available via this link. As ever, please also give a nudge to the councillors to ask what it they do to maintain and enhance the bridge to better show pride and responsibility for Leith’s heritage. It might also be useful to highlight this issue to the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs.

Please let us know if you get any responses and let’s work together to improve our neighbourhood!

Bridges

The swing bridge on Dock Place, behind Teuchters Landing, has mysteriously been closed and hopefully for repairs. This is an A-listed structure, which Historic Environment Scotland says is of special interest because designed around 1803, it is one of the oldest examples of a cast-iron swing bridge planned by the best engineers of the age. The Victoria Swing bridge, also an A listed building, is an even grander structure spanning the Water of Leith by the border with Forth Ports. This is of special interest as it is the largest counterweighted bridge in Scotland and the biggest in the world when built between 1871 and 1874.

At FOWLb we have been concerned about the steady decay of these structures and recently called Historic Environment Scotland to find out what could be done about their state of repair. They cannot confirm ownership of the bridges (which would breach the data protection act), although we have heard that Forth Ports is responsible for them. Edinburgh City Council may be able to push for better care to be taken of these important, locally and nationally, features.

We would encourage the Leith community to ask Forth Ports if they are responsible for the bridges, and if so then what plans exist for their repair and upkeep. We also suggest contacting the council to ask what it can do to maintain and enhance the bridges and better take pride and care of Leith’s heritage.

If any of us do have success in finding out what is planned for the bridges, please reply to this post and keep us all up to speed!

Flood risk

SEPA, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, classified the Water of Leith basins as a flood risk in 2016, echoing its comment that “Edinburgh has a long history of flooding from the Water of Leith”. This is affecting residents, who report having difficulty finding affordable, if any, flood insurance for property and goods.

Before Forth Ports installed a shipping lock in the late 1960’s, the basins had a depth of 20’ – 30’, reduced now to a few inches. A 2004 “Leith Dock Study” for the City of Edinburgh Council by ArupWater, noted that “Siltation could result in an increase in flood risk to the downstream reaches of the river. To ensure that flood risk is not increased it is therefore recommended that siltation of this reach of the river be monitored and any excessive (> 250mm) accumulations of silt should be removed”, and that in the event of failure of Forth Ports flood control measures that “…Forth Ports should insure themselves against this eventuality, since they would remain liable for flooding from the dock and over affected reaches of the Water of Leith” unless the cause was a massive tide.

FOWLB recommends residents check their insurance policies, flood insurance availability and excess costs. SEPA’s flood risk classification, unaccountability and a lack of action over increasing siltation, and uncertainty over whether Forth Ports has insured themselves against potential flooding caused by engineering failures, leaves many in the EH6 postcode and beyond financially vulnerable.

We would again encourage all followers to repost this message, write and call councillors and ask for clarification and action.

The state of the water

The state of the Water of Leith Basins continues to make a mockery of efforts by people, businesses and the council to improve our environment. Aside from the eyesore of litter and badly neglected ships, siltation in the basin is causing risk and expense to residents along the water.

Old time residents recall that when Forth Ports stopped the natural flow of the Water of Leith, all the basins were tidal and 20 – 30’ deep. Now siltation has reduced basin depth to a few inches in places. SEPA has classified the area as at risk from flood and now many residents have difficulty finding insurance for property and goods. Residents associations are reporting only being able to find 2 or three agencies willing to consider them.

Flood risk is increasing, and action needs to be taken. The basins are privately owned by Water of Leith 2000, which will not take responsibility for the threat of flooding. Meanwhile, whereas Edinburgh Council has powers under the Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Act 2009 to serve landowners notice to reduce the risk of flooding, it does not have the power to compel them to act.

FOWLB would be interested to hear from residents and businesses on issues they have had getting flood insurance. We would also encourage all followers to repost this message, write and call Water of Leith 2000, councillors and Forth Ports demanding action.