Woman converts Shields Ferry into floating family home

Carolyn Drake.
Carolyn Drake.

A woman from the south coast of England stepped into a ‘parallel universe’ when she visited the near-mirror image of her own home – the Pride of the Tyne ferry at South Shields.

When The Shieldsman was decommissioned more than five years ago, she was bought by former research scientist Carolyn Drake.

After three decades ferrying a total of 10 million passengers across the river from South to North Shields, the vessel was converted into a family home at Shoreham-by-Sea in West Sussex.

But Carolyn, 53, always wanted to visit the ferry which The Shieldsman served alongside for a time – The Pride of the Tyne – because of the similarities between the two.

And yesterday she was finally given a chance to explore her ‘home away from home’ as she visited South Shields on route to the Edinburgh Fringe festival, where her son Florian, 21, is performing.

She found the experience “quite surreal” as she walked up the ramp and went aboard at Shields Ferry Landing.

Carolyn said: “It feels like coming home – the sign with the emergency instructions to passengers, we have still got that sign. This is very similar, but different. This is a bit surreal and I’m struggling to take it in. It’s a bit like a parallel universe.”

Carolyn’s bedroom is now located on the upper deck of The Shieldsman, daughter Julie, 19, sleeps in what was the engine room and Florian in the former wheelhouse.

She added: “I bought a mooring in Shoreham on the River Adur. It had an old Second World War boat on it, which I broke up.

“So I had a mooring, but no boat, and I wanted to buy a ferry rather than a barge, because on a ferry you live upstairs, while on a barge you live downstairs.

Mrs Carolyn Drake, she lives on the south coast and currently owns the former Shields Ferry, The Shieldsman, which she has now converted into a house boat and is living on board.

Mrs Carolyn Drake, she lives on the south coast and currently owns the former Shields Ferry, The Shieldsman, which she has now converted into a house boat and is living on board.

“I typed ‘ferry for sale’ in Google and The Shieldsman came up. I bought the mooring and the ferry for the price of a two-bedroom flat.

“She was still seaworthy and I brought her round under her own steam from Portsmouth to Southampton, where I got her surveyed. That was five years ago.

“In Shoreham, I lived on board straight away.

“I’ve taken out the engines so it can’t move and it was initially very, very cold.

Carolyn Drake.

Carolyn Drake.

“There was no electricity, there was no plumbing, so it was cold and basic – but now it is a lovely family home.”