New for 2020: MV Swift - A timeline of the vessel's construction

Follow the 2 year story around the build of a new boat for Windermere

Work is now complete on assembling Windermere Lake Cruises’ brand-new 300-seat boat, MV Swift, which started service is October 2020.

The story behind the build is almost as fascinating as the vessel itself.

2 images from building site to final boat

This blog lists the construction highlights, with most recent developments and milestones listed first.

Jump to the start of the timeline construction here, and read the page backwards, or jump to:

25th October 2020 - Maiden voyage of MV Swift

On 25th October 2020, our brand-new 300-seat boat MV ‘Swift’ officially came into service, making it the biggest boat to be launched onto England’s longest lake in 80 years.

After being formally handed over to Winander Leisure Limited by Damen Shipyards Gorinchem BV earlier in October, the new vessel, operated by Windermere Lake Cruises Limited, carried her first passengers on Sunday October 25.

Departing from Lakeside at 10.15am on Sunday, MV ‘Swift’ sailed up the lake to Bowness and on to Ambleside. The passengers onboard were taken by surprise at being among the first people to enjoy the milestone cruise while adhering to social distancing rules.

Chairman of Windermere Lake Cruises, Bill Bewley said on the day, “After around 18 months of planning and constructing MV Swift, it was a real thrill to see her finally go into service and a nice distraction from what has without doubt been an extremely challenging year for everyone. We hope local people come along and enjoy Windermere throughout the half term holidays and beyond, and in-turn, support many other businesses and attractions around the lake as we head into autumn and towards the winter. We also welcome visitors from further afield but do ask that the current Tier advice is considered when planning their visits.

“As I have said in the past, while the launch of the vessel has come at a time of significant economic uncertainty due to the Coronavirus pandemic, we are confident that the Lake District’s visitor economy has a bright long term future and continue to believe that MV Swift will have an important role to play in the area’s economic recovery in the weeks, months and years ahead.”

Maiden voyage of MV Swift

MV Swift at Bowness Pier

MV Swift at Bowness Pier

One passenger stated, “To see this boat alongside the older, traditional boats is really great and it can only be a good thing for the area. I’m not an engineer but it’s clear to see that this is a real feat of engineering. It’s awesome and we’ll definitely be coming back in the future to enjoy another cruise on MV Swift.”

Clive Wilson, a Director of the Lakeside Hotel & Spa on the Lakeside pier, commented, At Lakeside Hotel, we were fortunate to watched MV Swift arrive in sections and then gradually come to life in front of eyes. She looked magnificent on the day she made her way onto the water and now appears like she belongs - as if forever been part of the Windermere Lake Cruises fleet.

“We are excited that our guests will have the opportunity to experience the Lake from the water, with this wonderful new vessel, embarking directly from the hotel front door.

The vessel was built at Lakeside by Damen Shipyards Gorinchem BV and has gone into service following the completion of a thorough inspection and survey by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and the granting of the boat’s Passenger Certificate.

Virtual Tour

Use your mouse to navigate around MV Swift on a sunny day just a few days before she entered into service:

Further Reading/Viewing

  • A slideshow/gallery of images of MV Swift can be found here.
  • We invited Ferry View on board for the maiden voyage. View their images/story here.
  • In September 2021, we were asked to do an engineering presentation to Barrow & District Association of Engineers. View it here.


October 2020 - Official handover of the vessel.

Just over two years since the signing of a contract, MV ‘Swift’ was formally handed over to Winander Leisure Limited by Damen Shipyards Gorinchem BV on October 15th 2020.

The construction of the new vessel was completed over the summer/autumn, with delays due to the Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic.

Following successful lake trials in October testing engines, systems and technology on board, MV ‘Swift’ finally becomes the largest new craft to sail on England’s longest lake for more than 80 years. A huge amount of work has been invested into the interiors and has been designed with accessibility and comfort in-mind, complete with heated windows, electric doors and windows, toilets, USB and electrical sockets.

The management team of the build, plus representatives from Damen and Windermere Lake Cruises.

The management team of the build of the ship, plus representatives from Damen, James Fisher and Windermere Lake Cruises at the official handover event.

Chairman of Windermere Lake Cruises, Bill Bewley said at the handover event, “MV Swift is the perfect way to welcome our visitors to Windermere and the wider Lake District. Designed to operate in all seasons, our fantastic new vessel, built by Damen Group, will enhance the quality of our visitors’ experience thanks to 21st century quality, comfort and accessibility.

“It is true that while completion of the vessel came at a time of significant economic uncertainty due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the designation of the Lake District National Park as a World Heritage Site means we are confident that the Lake District’s visitor economy has a bright long term future and we believe that the MV Swift will have an important role to play in the area’s economic recovery.”

Also in October, the five Windermere Lake Cruises Masters who will skipper the MV ‘Swift’ received intensive training under a training package arranged through Damen Group. Due to the vessel having ‘state of the art’ propulsion and steering systems, which give her such superb handling characteristics, the training was delivered by a Captain with years of experience of these type of vessels.

Like Windermere Lake Cruises’ existing flagship ‘steamers’ MV ‘Swan’ and MV ‘Teal’, the new vessel boasts three decks, but is slightly shorter in length to enable her to access smaller jetties around Windermere to help support other businesses in the area.

Damen representatives and new Masters of the vessel

Managing Director of Windermere Lake Cruises, Nigel Wilkinson, said at the handover event, “This has been a very significant investment for our company, with the project taking a little over three years from conception to delivery. It is a credit to Damen Group that they have been able to deliver this vessels notwithstanding the fact that the fitout and completion of the vessel has had to take place during the Covid-19 pandemic we have faced since the start of the year.

“It’s a testament to all involved that we have reached this milestone and we would like to record our appreciation to all those who have played their part in the construction and delivery of this superb vessel. Particular thanks are due to the team at Damen Group, who designed and built the vessel, to James Fisher and Sons plc for their technical input and supervision and to our colleagues at Winander Leisure Limited and Windermere Lake Cruises Limited who have been involved in the project. We would also like to thank our neighbours at Lakeside who have been so supportive during the site assembly of the vessel. We’re all tremendously excited to offer this fantastic new addition to our fleet and are confident that the MV ‘Swift’ will be incredibly popular with passengers, as the best way to experience of England’s longest lake, for many years to come.”

The vessel was handed over by Damen Shipyards Gorinchem BV to Winander Leisure Limited following the completion of a thorough inspection and survey by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and the granting of the boat’s Passenger Certificate. The vessel will be crewed and operated by Windermere Lake Cruises Limited.

Mike Besijn from Damen Group, said at the event, “I am very happy to be delivering this special vessel. Working together on this with Windermere Lake Cruises, we have made the project into a success. This is a very unique way of building a vessel, requiring a lot of flexibility and we could not have done it without the support of our customer. Their operational experience has been priceless to us throughout the construction process. I would particularly like to thank managing director Nigel Wilkinson and operations director John Woodburn for the excellent cooperation. It’s been a pleasure to work with them.”


MV Swift at Bowness Pier

September 2020

MV Swift has now undergone commissioning of all the onboard engineering equipment, including the generators, azimuth thrusters, bow thruster, pumps, safety and navigation systems. Other commissioning work carried out also includes testing the passenger amenities, which include heated windows, electric doors and windows, USB sockets and bar/catering facilities. MV Swift was taken out onto the lake for her ‘sea trials’, or in this case, lake trials, in near-perfect weather conditions. These lake trials included the measurement of the cruising speed, turning circle and included a “crash test”, which demonstrated the vessel’s emergency stop capabilities.

The azimuth thrusters are an electrically driven, steerable propulsion system, which use a submerged pod and propeller outside the ship’s hull. The propellers can be rotated through 360 degrees, thanks to the absence of a traditional propeller shaft. Manoeuvrability is further enhanced by a bow thruster, which allows the bow of the ship to be moved to port or starboard.

Meanwhile, five Windermere Lake Cruises Masters are set to begin their training to skipper the ‘MV Swift’.

With 32 years’ experience of working for Windermere Lake Cruises between them, Rob Beale, Mihai Nichita and James Ellis are undergoing intensive training to enable them to sail as Master of the ‘MV Swift’, after lake trials for the 300 seat new build commenced. Completing the first group of boatmasters to undergo training are Operations Managers Nick Thompson and Tony Stockton.

Some of the new boatmasters for MV Swift

Some of the new boatmasters being trained to serve of MV Swift

Swift tests out its azimuth thrusters, giving it incredible manoevrability.

Swift tests out its azimuth thrusters, giving it incredible manoeuvrability


May 2020

Join John, our Operations Director for a brief behind-the-scenes tour of the partly-constructed vessel.


March 2020

  • All the windows are now fitted. The downstairs windows don’t open but are fitted with electrical wires that heat up and stop the windows from misting up. The upper windows do open by way of the top half drop down behind the bottom half and in affect making the upper deck almost an open deck.
  • The doors have been fitted, the majority of which are on sensors so that when a passenger approaches them they open and then close automatically.
  • The electrical wiring is being fitted and once completed the internal fitting out will begin.

MV Swift build : March update

MV Swift being built at Lakeside in March 2020: Internal wiring

MV Swift being built at Lakeside in March 2020: Glazing being fitted


February 2020

Work is well underway in fitting out the vessel with internal systems and some of the exterior glazing.

*Thanks to Kevin Wilkinson & Justin Barley for the photos

MV Swift at Lakeside Pier

MV Swift at Lakeside Pier

MV Swift at Lakeside Pier

MV Swift at Lakeside Pier


December 2019

Two significant days in the build of the new boat:

  • Tuesday 10 December - MV Swift is successfully maneuvered into position from the build site to the pier
  • Wednesday 11 December - the boat is gently lowered into the water for the first time

MV Swift after being gently lowered into Lake WIndermere for the first time

MV Swift after being gently lowered into Lake Windermere for the first time

And here's how it happened..

Day two timeline blog 01 optimised

Wednesday 11 December - 10am

The team from Mammoet begin to attach the straps around MV Swift in preparation for the lift.

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Wednesday 11 December - 10:20am

The two massive cranes prepare to lift the 150 tonnes of the boat.

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Wednesday 11 December - 11:45am

MV Swift takes to the air, slowly edging out over Lake Windermere.

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Wednesday 11 December - 11:55am

The boat is slowly rotated in preparation for landing in water for the first time.

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Wednesday 11 December - 12 noon

The boat is slowly lowered into Lake Windermere

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Wednesday 11 December - 12 noon

Edging towards the lake.

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Wednesday 11 December - 12:05pm

MV Swift's bow touches Lake Windermere for the first time.

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Wednesday 11 December - 12:15pm

She's afloat! After some quick safety checks, the straps are removed.

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Wednesday 11 December - 12:45pm

Afloat unaided for the first time.

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Wednesday 11 December - 2pm

Finally the wheel-house that was delivered on Tuesday is lifted into position.

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Wednesday 11 December - 2:15pm

The wheel-house is slowly lowered onto the vessel.

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Wednesday 11 December - 3pm

All done. MV Swift is complete with wheel-house safely located.


Tuesday 10 December 2019 - moving the boat from build site to launch position

Mv swift 00

Tuesday 10 December

The wheel-house arrives by road and is unloaded onto Lakeside Pier. This piece will be added to the floating vessel after it is lowered into Lake Windermere on Wednesday 11 December.

Mv swift 01

Tuesday 10 December

MV Swift is lowered onto a moving powered platform and is slowly maneuvered from the build site to the cranes at Lakeside Pier.

Mv swift 02

Tuesday 10 December

It was a tight squeeze between Lakes Aquarium and the woodland, but the ship eventually got through.

Mv swift 03

Tuesday 10 December

The tight squeeze as MV Swift makes her way to the launch position.

Mv swift 04

Tuesday 10 December

The ship edges its way closer to the pier

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Tuesday 10 December

The view from above the maneuvering site. MV Swift half-way to the cranes and launch position.

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Tuesday 10 December

MV Swift in position for launch on Wednesday 11 December

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In preparation for the 'soft launch' of MV Swift into Lake Windermere.

The hull of MV Swift, before being soft-launched into Windermere

Earlier in December:

Two huge cranes have been moved to Lakeside Pier in preparation for moving the partly-finished boat onto the water for the first time. An announcement on the exact date and time of lowering the structure into the water will be made on this page soon.


Match this crane soft launch 03

One of the cranes arriving by road over Newby Bridge.

Match this crane soft launch 02

The cranes will be used to lower the present structure into Lake Windermere for the first time later in December.

Match this crane soft launch 01

Two huge cranes have been manoeuvred to Lakeside Pier.


October & November 2019:

Engineers from boatbuilder, Damen, have provided us with notes on progress on the ongoing construction of MV Swift, with good progress being reported ahead of the winter.

Swift progress 2

Progress in the last eight weeks has been swift (pun very much intended), with recent favourable weather helping the construction crew’s many crane lift operations which continues to see our brand new vessel, MV Swift, take shape.

Diesel gensets are now in position.

Swift progress 9

Transformers, frequency converters, batteries, FM200 bottle and bow thruster motor/tube have all been all lifted onboard and into their respective compartments or on MV Swift’s main deck, awaiting lowering to the vessel’s lower deck.

Swift progress 12

All aluminium upper deck sections have been lifted into place and aligned. Welding is expected to commence in the coming days.

Swift progress 15

Inside the vessel, installation work has continued for pipework.

Swift progress 16

Several floor support structures are almost complete, with interior painting well underway.

Swift progress 19

Engine room hatch fitting has been completed.

• Fair weather has enabled some painting over hull seam welds and scars to progress well.

• Work is continuing on seam welding on MV Swift’s upper deck (main deck saloon) structures.

• Designs for MV Swift’s lifejacket and CCTV arrangements are underway.


September 2019

  • All MV Swift's main hull sections have now been delivered to the construction site at Lakeside, including the vessel's superstructure. Work on welding the main sections together is now well-underway.

The Windermere Lake Cruises management team has also travelled to Damen's steel-cutting facility in Holland, where they were given their first look at MV Swift's bridge.


August 2019

This video was produced by Damen Shipbuilders who are constructing the vessel at Lakeside.

  • A third hull section arrived at the Lakeside construction site in on August 6th and a traditional keel laying ceremony was held. As per tradition in boat-building, a coin was welded to the keel of the new boat, to bless MV Swift as a symbol of good fortune.
  • You can see a short time-lapse video of the work that’s been done so far at Lakeside, below.


July 2019

  • A security company was tasked with maintaining a watchful-eye around the site’s perimeter fence and to look-out for any signs of forced entry or unauthorised activities, while while the first two sections of MV Swift’s hull continued to be fabricated off site in Damen’s shipyard.
  • Preparation work began at Lakeside for the arrival of two of Swift’s hull sections, including laying a steel base on the car park surface and support cradles for the hull sections.
  • As planned, the road from Newby Bridge to Lakeside was closed for one hour whilst the transport company delivered the two sections for alignment.
  • The first two sections of MV Swift’s hull were welded together.

Ground-pressure testing at Lakeside


June 2019

  • Ground Measurements at Lakeside were completed, with further work to ensure the site was suitable for building, transporting and lifting the hull.
  • The southern end of Lakeside car park was cordoned off, to enable the south end to be used for MV Swift’s construction. Access to that part of the site has been restricted to the Damen workforce and inspection teams from Lloyd’s Register and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA).
  • Our Operations Director, John Woodburn visited the Damen Shipyard (pictured below)


May 2019

  • Damen engineers carried out a visit to the Lakeside construction area to design a final layout for the site, in preparation for hull sections’ future arrival.


April 2019

  • The first cutting of the steel for MV Swift took place on 9 April 2019, off-site, at one of Damen’s facilities.

March 2019:

  • Multi-million-pound contract signed by Windermere Lake Cruises and Damen for construction of 300-seat MV Swift. You can read more about that, here.