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What is a Slip or dock?

28 January 2019

For those that know phrases and names related to Dockyards, the term Slip and Dock will be a common one. But for those that don’t know, here are some facts and history on Slipways and Docks at The Historic Dockyard Chatham.

What is a Slipway?

Also known as a boat ramp, a slipway is a ramp that allows a ship to be moved to and from water. To protect the timbers of ships from weather, an introduction of covering the slips began.

What is a Dock?

A Dock is an enclosed area of water that is used for building/repairing/loading and unloading of ships.

Water is needed in some docks as the ships are made for water and used to this pressure. If they were instead to be on blocks without water, they would start to loose their shape.

The dock that HM Submarine Ocelot is in however does not have water. Submarines were designed to be able to be grounded so they could be quiet to listen in to their surroundings. Therefore Ocelot is able to be without water – it also means you can see what a dock looks like too!

It is noted that in 1771, there were 4 dry docks and 4 slipways here. This then increased to 5 docks and 6 slipways 50 years later. Now, we have 3 docks which are home to our 3 Historic Warships and 5 Slipways. The slips nowadays are used as a variety of things, from an external company using one for boat repair, to one being used as a museum gallery.

No.3 Slip (1838)

As well as seeing the RNLI Collection in No.4 slip, you can also see the Royal Engineers collection in No.3 slip here. No.3 Slip however has an extra special story to it architecturally as in 1904 a mezzanine floor was added for extra storage. It stands at the cusp of technological change, with its amazing cantilever roof which was built to the design of shipwright Sir Robert Seppings. The roof has over 400 windows and on a sunny day is a beautiful picture to see.

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