Captain Roberts and his Fund-Raising Team did it! They got the money for dry-dock – just in time! – and they set sail this morning from Berth 29 in Southampton, for their dry-dock appointment in Falmouth. When Peter phoned me about midday, just as they cleared the Needles, he said the ship was just beginning to gently ride the waves – and I have to say he sounded extremely happy!

It’s been a long, hard slog. When Shieldhall’s financial crisis came to light last November, raising £80,000 for the essential dry-dock in May seemed an impossible task. Had this essential maintenance been put back to spring 2012, it would have meant cancelling the summer 2011 sailing season, and a lot of disappointed fans.

BUT, in the spirit of never-say-die, the fund-raising team kept at it – held money-raising events, pestered the media, got coverage on radio, local TV and even (when the situation looked blackest!) the national dailies.

One gentleman was so impressed by the positive atmosphere aboard he gave a cheque for a thousand guineas – legal tender, although I’m not sure the youngsters amongst the crew quite knew what to make of a thousand pounds and a thousand shillings! (When was it shillings went out? 1970?) Another anonymous donor sent a jaw-dropping ten grand – pounds that is! While at the other end of the scale we gained a lot in 50 pence pieces from children who came to our book sale, happy to spend their pocket money for Shieldhall’s benefit. Brilliant.

Thousands of contributions, and the vast majority came in small amounts from friends, relatives, members, past passengers and well-wishers, who kept us optimistic with their £10 and £20 donations. The Just Giving website was a real godsend – reading the messages people left on the site was real lump-in-throat stuff.

So – thank you, everybody – every single person who contributed to saving the Shieldhall!

And as Captain Peter Roberts keeps saying, it’s not just a question of saving the ship, it’s saving the crew’s reason-for-being!

I’m sure they’ll have a great trip to Falmouth – more on this topic when they come back in a week’s time.