A new venture from the Wharf at Rye Harbour proved to be an outstanding success. The Historic Passenger Ship Balmoral, loaded with hundreds of passengers from Rye and district, sailed on the morning tide of Thursday 8 June.
Escorted by the Harbour Master’s launch and the Rye Harbour Life Boat, the majestic old ship that has been fitted out as a mini liner with all the services and facilities needed for a luxury trips from many Ports in the British Isles, moved down the river and made her way out to sea for an exciting trip round the South East Coast and up the Thames to Tower Bridge.
The weather was beautiful and the sea flat calm, no cases of sea sickness were reported. Views of Dungeness Lighthouse, Folkestone, the White Cliffs of Dover and North Foreland were followed by a cruise up the Thames where all the great landmarks were photographed by many of the passengers.
Balmoral glided through the Thames Flood Barrier and passed by the magnificent Greenwich Waterfront and famous Clipper Ship Cutty Sark. The Millennium Dome came into view, then Canary Wharf and finally it was on to Tower Bridge where passengers watched as the famous old London River Crossing opened to let their ship pass through and anchor at Tower Pier where the passengers disembarked and boarded buses for their trip home to Rye.
“Rye’s Own” had two photographers aboard Balmoral. Martin Carter and Malcolm Turk took a great series of photographs, some of which are featured in this issue and others that will be published in the August magazine.
Balmoral was built in Southampton in 1949 and operated under the Southampton Red Funnel Fleet for 20 years. She then moved round to the Bristol Channel where she became the last member of P&A Campbell’s famous White Funnel Fleet. When they ceased operation in 1980, Balmoral moved to Dundee to become a floating restaurant, and there she stood, unsuccessful & gradually falling into disrepair, until she was rescued by the friends & supporters of the Waverley.
She returned to service in 1986 and to this day operates her main summer season in the Bristol Channel, offering day excursions to popular Coastal Resorts, as well as making visits to other ports & piers throughout the UK in Spring & Autumn. Coastal cruising, once a great British tradition, remains alive & well in the care of Waverley Excursions and the operation of the Balmoral and their other ship, the Paddle Steamer Waverley.
In Winter 2002, Balmoral was fitted with new engines. The Project was dependent on nearly £150k being raised through the help of the Public Sector & local Councils, Supporter Societies and on-board Fund raising Activities which in turn secured a further £3/4m contribution from the Heritage Lottery Fund. This money has now been used to replace the engines but has also helped carry out additional improvements to enhance passenger comfort.
Balmoral can comfortably accommodate up to 750 passengers and has a self-serve restaurant on-board along with two licensed bars, heated observation lounge and the souvenir shop.
“Rye’s Own” July 2006
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