With the growing popularity of both MDL’s Shamrock Quay and the Kemps Quay Marina (Southampton’s oldest Marina, dating back to 1913), the upper reaches of the River Itchen are becoming an increasingly popular destination for leisure sailors. However, the next time they visit the skyline will have changed, for as soon as the right weather window opens, one of the most recognisable and asked about landmarks on the river will have vanished.
On the inside of the final bend in the river, before the busy Northam Bridge crossing, is the equally busy Saxon Quay, which until this week had been home to the increasingly sad looking Lady K II luxury yacht. In her heyday, she must have been an arresting sight, with her classic lines speaking of the indulgence of yesteryear. Down below, extensive wooden panelling is just one feature of a wonderful interior that included luxury double cabins for guests, a well-equipped gym and jacuzzi, not to mention a beauty salon to help keep those staying onboard looking their best. With her all-white hull and superstructure and that glorious bow profile, it is not hard to imagine the Lady K II gracing the very best of glamourous locations away in the sun such as Monaco and St. Tropez.
The Lady K II (she has also had a number of other names) dates back to 1961, a time when the UK was still a world leader in this sort of high end marine project, and hails from the design team at Austin&Pickersgill. She was built at Sunderland in the North East of England and at 188ft with twin 830hp Sulzer diesels, the Lady K II can carry her 18 guests and 22 crew at a more modest speed than some of today, cruising at 10kt, with a maximum speed of 13 kt.
Since first being built for a well-known shipping tycoon, the yacht has undergone a number of renovations across her 60 years, but in recent years has fallen on harder times after a further uplift stalled through lack of funding, leaving the yacht sat in a French boatyard for a number of years. She then returned to the UK, where she ended up on the River Itchen and here she has rested ever since, her white lines getting increasingly clouded by the metallic dust that blows from the nearby scrap metal recycling site.
Thankfully, it appears that the long-term future of the Lady K II has now been assured, with the news that in late August she would be freed from her berth before being towed down to a dry dock in Cornwall. This would be a far from straight forward operation as the MCA, concerned as to the unproven state of the hull, have insisted that the fuel tanks be drained and even the oil within the engines be removed. Moreover, it is likely that she will be an uncrewed tow, with nobody allowed back on board until she reaches her destination.
We can but hope that once her restoration is complete, with the Lady K II restored to her former grandeur, that she returns to grace the waters of the Solent. With the exciting and high-profile events that are being talked about for the area, it would be a fitting tribute if she can once again parade us with her glorious lines, a reminder of how a superyacht used to look!