Incredible hull rests in peace

The wrecked wooden hull of the Commodore II was removed from Milnerton Lagoon last Friday and moved to an open patch of land opposite Lagoon Beach Hotel.

It took a monster 130-ton capacity crane to lift the Commodore II shipwreck out of the Milnerton Lagoon last Friday.

The American-built ship was featured in the 1935 movie, Mutiny on the Bounty, starring Clark Gable and Charles Laughton. During World War II, it ferried coal between South Africa and South America.

When she was no longer of use, she was torched and drifted to Cape Town, landing in Paarden Eiland, where she became a floating landmark.

In 2016 a property company, Citylife Trust, applied to the South African Heritage Resource Agency (SAHRA) to move the wreck, which at the time was lying near the mouth of Milnerton Lagoon, to a grassy patch opposite Lagoon Beach Hotel (“Comment to preserve ‘piece of history’,” Tabletalk, November 2, 2016).

While the trust was working its way through “a lot of red tape”, the hull continued to float up and down the lagoon.

At one point, last year, the current swept it against the wooden bridge, and it rested there for a while before someone chained it to the bank of the lagoon.

The hull grabbed the spotlight again on Friday when it was lifted from the water, lashed to a heavy-duty truck and hauled to its new home a few hundred metres away.

It weighed a whopping 21.6 tons. The move was done by Boutrans Construction as well as a team of engineers and a diver.

Citylife Trust representative André Baard said the move cost just under R100 000 and was paid for by the City of Cape Town.

The City did not confirm the amount but said in a statement on Monday that the cost had come out of the budget for the restoration of Milnerton’s historical wooden bridge, because of the wreck’s proximity to the bridge.

Work started a few months ago on renovating the bridge at a cost of R20.5 million, (“Water under the wooden bridge,” Tabletalk, July 4).

Mayco member for transport and urban development Felicity Purchase said the wreck had to be moved not only to protect boaters and others using the lagoon but also to preserve its historical value.

“We do believe this is an important part of history, which is worth preserving for generations to come,” she said.

A sign will be posted next to the wreck, telling the public about the schooner’s story.

Milnerton resident Jason Smith stood by watching the move.

“The fact that it’s being preserved and saved is fantastic,” he said.

“I’ve seen it flipping over in a storm. It used to be south of Leisure Bay then.”

Briege Williams, from the Maritime and Underwater Cultural Heritage Unit, said Sahra would sponsor the information board to be posted in weeks to come.

“There will be historic pictures and information about the ship. I contacted the archives in America, and they sent me pictures.

“I also got some pictures from the Iziko Maritime Museum in the V&A Waterfront,” said Ms Williams.

Andre Turnbull, Lagoon Beach Hotel’s general manager, said the Lagoon Beach body corporate’s security would patrol the site at night, and a maintenance team would keep the site tidy and cut the grass.