One of the Lake District’s most recognisable and majestic passenger vessels is about to celebrate her 85th birthday.

Swan was launched on 10 June 1938 and still sails daily on Windermere, carrying people up and down England’s longest lake on cruises.

When Swan first took to the waters of Windermere, at Lakeside, Neville Chamberlain was the Prime Minister. It was also the year gas masks were issued to the civilian population as the Second World War loomed.

Over the past eight decades, Swan has carried millions of passengers on Windermere and is one of the best loved original “steamers” in the Windermere Lake Cruises’ fleet.

“It gives me a great sense of pride whenever I enter the wheelhouse and prepare to set sail in her,” says skipper Simon Bond who is one of the lucky few who gets the chance to take the helm of MV Swan when her regular skipper Phil Viney isn’t on duty.

“I just think of all the other skippers who have taken charge of her over the years. It’s a big honour.”

The 251-tonne vessel is part of the National Historic Fleet and was built by Vickers Armstrong of Barrow-in-Furness for the London, Midland and Scottish Railway company to improve its Windermere fleet.

The distinctive Lakeland ‘steamer’ has been modernised many times during her lifetime, with the last major refit taking place five years ago. She is a twin screw vessel and bow thrusters were also retrofitted in 2005.

“She was built to last with proper engineering,” says Simon. “Despite her age it is very rare that anything goes wrong with her. That’s partly because we look after her so well but it’s also a testament to her original engineering.”

Subscribe now

Subscribe to Ships Monthly magazine and SAVE 50%!