Published: 11:38, 21 September 2021
| Updated: 16:03, 21 September 2021
A large temporary housing boat is setting sail for a new life on the Med after languishing on the River Medway for eight years.
A mystery businessman has bought the accommodation barge moored off Rochester to transform into 400 luxury holiday apartments in Gibraltar.
The barge being towed away to Lower Upnor
The vessel, known as Hillside and originally built for the Dutch navy, was towed away this morning by GPS Marine to its yard at Lower Upnor, where she will be refitted.
Marine construction manager Greg Chalmers said: "It's monumental. It will be completely refurbished. First we will have to strip it and then refit it."
He says a team of between 10 and 20 will be working on the job which he thinks will take about a month.
It will then make the 1,500-mile voyage to the British-run territory in southern Spain which should take around two days.
He added: "The aim is to get it up and running for Christmas. The new owner has lots of plans for the floating hotel, including a revolving roof and is willing to throw money at it."
GPS has been maintaining the boat since it arrived from Portsmouth where it was used by the Royal Navy for crews in the process of changing ships.
It's built on three main floors with air-conditioned residential rooms and ample leisure and communal area, including a bar, dance floor and, at one time, a cinema or lecture theatre.
The sale was originally handled by Merseyside-based Sanderson Maritime, which has been tight-lipped as to what she was doing in the county.
Speculation over the years included Medway Council using it for surplus housing and relief accommodation for the UK's over-crowded prisons.
It was also rumoured to be just temporarily "parked" on the river for use as digs for construction workers employed on major schemes in Europe.
Back in 2015, it was suggested the vessel would be returning to Holland to house refugees.
Either way her appearance in November 2013, which was initially for four weeks, got residents scratching their heads over the years.
And many will be grateful the ship – regarded as an eyesore – is off to sunnier climes.