MV BALMORAL in happier times approaching Sharpness in 2007. Creative commons license
Waverley Steam Navigation Company’s 1949 built MV BALMORAL is undergoing a dry docking at Sharpness, an English port in Gloucestershire on the River Severn.
BALMORAL has been laid up in Bristol for almost two years while work to raise £350,000 for its full restoration took place. The fund was set up by owners, Waverley Steam Navigation Company. With about £90,000 raised, the ship left Bristol on May 13, 2014 to sail for Sharpness Docks, Gloucestershire.
BALMORAL is undergoing her five-yearly assessment to remain seaworthy. Part of the UK’s National Historic Fleet, she is normally based at Bristol City Docks where she makes cruises along the UK Coastline. While in dry dock, BALMORAL will undergoing welding, refitting and refurbishing, as well as ultrasound scans to check the thickness of the hull in order to retain her her passenger certificates for continued operation.
Dave Bassett, Chairman of the Balmoral Fund, said the ship had been receiving good treatment at the dry dock. “Sharpness Docks is really accommodating. They do the best they can for you. They have been really good to us because they recognise that we are in difficulties and want to help us,” he said.
“It’s a huge task. We’re a bit concerned but the more money we get, the better we will be to put it back in shape.
“There’s a massive upwelling of love for this ship. The more we do, the more support we generate.”
The urgent work is mostly being carried out by volunteers, many holding expertise in maritime engineering and others with an interest in British maritime history.
BALMORAL was built at John I. Thornycroft & Company, Woolston, Southampton and launched on June 27, 1949 for the Southampton, Isle of Wight and South of England Royal Mail Steam Packet Co. Limited, (known as the Red Funnel line). As built, she could carry up to 10 cars on her aft car deck and she normally operated a ferry service from Southampton to Cowes on the Isle of Wight but also occasionally performed excursion cruises.
Red Funnel ceased operating excursions in 1968 and BALMORAL was acquired by P&A Campbell, moved to the Bristol Channel and became part of P&A Campbell’s White Funnel Fleet until 1980. The ship was next moved to Dundee, Scotland to become a floating restaurant. However, this venture was unsuccessful and the BALMORAL was put up for sale, once more.
The Waverley Steam Navigation Co. Ltd had been looking for an additional vessel to operate alongside the seagoing paddle steamer, PS WAVERLEY. BALMORAL was bought and refitted with her car deck enclosed to form a dining saloon.
Returning to the Bristol Channel in 1986, the ship has operated a summer season of excursions around the Bristol Channel, with voyages to most areas of the UK. BALMORAL received new engines in 2002, and can accommodate up to 800 passengers with a self-service restaurant, two licensed bars, a heated observation lounge and a souvenir shop. The work was partially funded by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
MV BALMORAL in Bristol docks. Creative commons license.
A fundraising site has been in operation to help complete the refitting work and return the BALMORAL for the 2015 season:
MARTIN COX - Founder and publisher of MaritimeMatters, inspired by maritime culture and technology growing up in the port of Southampton. He works as a photographer in Los Angeles, and his works has been exhibited in LA, San Francisco, New York, London and Iceland.Martin is the co-writer of the book “Hollywood to Honolulu; the story of the Los Angeles Steamship Company” published by the Steam Ship Historical Society of America. The Los Angeles Maritime Museum has commissioned artworks and collected his photographs.
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