Some history behind the old boat at Spillers House

History behind the old boat at Spillers House

Some history behind the old boat down at Spillers House: since the mining operation upriver pumping sand discovered the 100-year-old ferry type boat that was buried there since the 1959 floods, a flood of old photographs have all of a sudden started to surface.

This gallery is a collection of as many of those old pics that we could we can find so far. If anybody has pics that are not here, it would be greatly appreciated if you popped them to us at With any information or details.

And many visitors now come to see this magnificently built, and well-preserved relic of the past. Down here at the historical Spiller’s Wharf, in Port Shepstone.

The recovery

With a concerted team effort, the boat was carefully relocated to its new home, at Spillers Wharf, here in Port Shepstone. Where she has been protected and cared for on display. KuluCrete, and Natal Recovery Services supplied the heavy lifting equipment and machinery. And many people pitched in to help. Including the traffic police!

Whilst we were offloading, a lovely older lady told us that she remembered going on that boat, back in the late 50’s. She was a very young girl then, 10 yrs old. But clearly recounted the story of how these boats were all up and down the river. Used as ferries and transport for goods and people non-stop. None of the boats had engines. They were all just pulled along, all tied bow to stern and so on, by a little tug steamer. Imagine driving that lot up and down the rapids!

The steamer would catch the incoming tide, and drag the boats all the way up, through the rapids (navigable at higher tides), to St. Helen’s Rock. Where right now, another of these magnificent Norwegian built, is embedded into the mountainside, at water level. Where it has been since the 59 floods too.

This was the loading area, for mined material, to be hauled back to Durban, to be made into cement. This is also a hundred metres from the confluence of the Umzimkulu and the Umzimkulwana. The current lime works is just about a few kilometres up the Umzimkulwana. There are old rail tracks and sidings still clearly visible. And there are many ruins from the old riverside settlement, that we still need to explore.

This place was trade.

It was the portal to the hinterland. And the supply and trade link with Durban. There were no roads. No railway lines. Just St. Helen’s Rock, connected to Durban, via these barges, that little steamer, and some intrepid ships. Like the Somtseu and The Snipe, that came in through the wild waters of the Umzimkulu Mouth, each spring tide.

St. Helen’s Rock was the source of supplies for settlements like Harding, and Kokstad. And all the growing little towns further into the Transkei. And towards the Drakensberg. Even if you come up there with us now, you can feel it. And you can hear the sounds of people doing their business. Ox carts. Horses. Trade.

The boats were also dressed up and used and ferries. To simply get people over the river to work. From the south bank to the north bank where the very old lime works used to be set up. Just around the corner from St. Helen’s Rock.

So pop on down to Spillers House at Spillers Wharf and check out the old boat. The forged nails, and aluminium cladding, plus huge bolts and fittings, can be clearly seen and examined. Whilst you wait for a meal at one of the many restaurants down here on the south bank of the Umzimkulu River, in good old Port Shepstone.

More fun apps… – inhouse restaurant featuring the famous Garlic n Naan – amazing seafood and views – a lot of fun watery things to do in Port Shepstone – never miss a single sardine – self-catering accommodation right on the Umzimkulu River – BnB and Backpacker Accommodation

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