400 Sail from the Rastrum Wharf at Rye Harbour
About 400 passengers, mostly from the Rye area, sailed from Rye Wharf at Rye Harbour on Wednesday 12 July on the Merchant Vessel Balmoral, bound for the Tower Pier.
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 Paddle Steamer Society.
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 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.
The trip from Rye passed close to the coastal towns of Hythe, Folkstone, Dover, Deal, Ramsgate and Margate, sailing close to the Goodwin Sands before swinging by Reculver and East Kent ports. She strayed briefly up the Medway before turning towards the Thames Estuary. Up the Thames, through the Thames Barrier and on pass the extensive riverside property developments to Tower Bridge which raised gracefully to let her through. The Balmoral dispatched he passengers at Tower Pier and they were transported back to Rye in a fleet of coaches
“Rye’s Own” August 2007
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