Distinguished steamers Waverley, Shieldhall and Kingswear Castle, together with the reincarnated diesel-powered veteran Balmoral, headline most day tripper’s list, but there are many other smaller motor vessels carrying in excess of 100 passengers on coastal and lake trips, including a good number on the English Riviera around the tourist hotspots of Torquay and Brixham.
From Torquay, Western Lady Services (01803 293797) link the resort’s North Quay with Brixham using Western Lady VI (1981/173 pass) and Western Lady VIII (1984/177 pass), which cross Tor Bay operating as frequently as every half hour during the peak season.
The Greenway Ferry fleet (01803 882811) has been reduced to Christie Belle (1979/100 pass) making evening cruises, in addition to Greenway-Dittisham ferry services. A notable fleet departure was The Fairmile (1941/175 pass), the last surviving Royal Navy Fairmile B Launch, which for many years served as Western Lady III and has been acquired for preservation. Former Greenway vessel Clipper (1973/100pass) has gone to Clipper Cruises (01893 559990) to run from Torquay Princess Pier to Brixham.
Paignton Pleasure Cruises (01803 529147) link the resort with Brixham and Torquay using their largest vessels, Dart Princess (2003) and Liberty Lass (1978), both taking up to 100 passengers.
J. & M. Rackley (01626 774770) run the Starcross-Exmouth ferry plus coastal cruises from Starcross and Dawlish with Dunkirk veteran My Queen (1929/127pass), which crossed the Channel in late May 1940 as Gondolier King.
The river Dart
Now in her element back on the picturesque Dart, the river she was built to serve in 1924, Kingswear Castle offers daily sailings carrying up to 250 passengers between Dartmouth and Totnes that can also form part of a ‘Round Robin’ Tour, with river cruise, coach connection to Paignton and steam railway journey to Kingswear before a final river crossing back to Dartmouth.
Seven other vessels figure in River Boat Company trips from Dartmouth and to the town from Teignmouth and Torquay. Cardiff Castle (1964/397pass) and Dart Venturer (1982/320pass) offer the greatest capacity.
Cowes-based Solent and Wightline Cruises (01983 564602) introduce a new catamaran during June when the 300-passenger Ali Cat, built of aluminium by Manor Marine at Portland, enters service after fitting-out at the Thetis Wharf in Cowes. The earlier Ali Cat (1999/250 pass) continues on the Clyde, running between Gourock and Dunoon operating for Argyll Ferries.
Other fleet vessels heading to Yarmouth and the Needles, Hamble River, Southampton and Portsmouth are Wight Scene (1992/500 pass), Solent Cat (2000/250 pass) and Jenny M of Medina (1988/116 pass).
Full details of excursion vessels can be found in the July 2016 and August 2016 issues of Ships Monthly, covering Scotland, England’s east coast as well as the Lakes and rivers. Thanks to Russell Plummer, Ships Monthly ferry correspondent, for compiling the information.