View of the SAS Somerset at anchor in the V&A Waterfront

SAS Fleur… a glimpse into her past

View of the SAS Somerset at anchor in the V&A Waterfront
View of the SAS Somerset at anchor in the V&A Waterfront

The sister ship of the SAS Fleur is the SAS Somerset, and she is moored behind the Two Oceans Aquarium at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town. She’s a special vessel, being the only remaining boom defence class ship in the world. She often looks a bit drab and covered in guano, as sea gulls make their nests on her and she is clearly subject to some neglect. But when Tony and I went to the Waterfront for the Cape Town Boat Show on Heritage Day (24 September), she was looking beautifully spruced up, and we were actually able to go on board and explore.

View of the SAS Somerset at anchor in the V&A Waterfront
View of the SAS Somerset at anchor in the V&A Waterfront

She was commissioned in 1941, and has been moored at the Waterfront since 1988. Boom defence vessels were also known as net tenders or net laying vessels. They deployed steel nets to deter submarines and torpedoes. The front of the ship. like the Fleur, has two steel protruding horns, as can be seen from these photos, and resembles that of a cable laying ship. When she was in use by the SA Navy she was used as a salvage vessel.

The SAS Somerset is actually a museum ship. You can find more information about her layout here. According to Iziko, she has been spruced up in order to commence service as a “training centre for safety at sea.”

The steering and navigation equipment on the bridge
The steering and navigation equipment on the bridge

The interior of the ship is replete with beautiful brass and copper fittings, which were wonderful to see. The brass on the SAS Fleur certainly doesn’t shine any more, and is also being removed, so seeing everything shiny and in its correct place was wonderful.

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Clare

Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.

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