Noah was a brave man to sail in a wooden boat with two termites. - Unknown

Celebrating Ireland's Floating Heritage

Celebrating Ireland's Floating Heritage

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Ferry King - Passenger Steam Boat - Gosport 1918 PDF Print E-mail
13 September 2010

U.K. Registration No. 135947/6 in 1918
Irish Registration No. 402333/7 in 1986
National Historic Ships No. 2317
Length: 71 feet
Draft: 6.5 feet
Displacement: 48.87 tons
Builder: Camper & Nicholson 1782 to 2005
Yard No: 222
Date Keel Laid: 1916

Ferry King is not a well known name on Irish waters. But if you ask any Waterford person in their mid-forties about the Clonmel Bar on board the Crystal Rose, you will get a response! The Crystal Rose was the last barge to be brought onto the Irish river system. However she didn’t have the stamina to stay working for very long and as a result she lay hidden from the public view for nearly twenty years.
Ferry King’s keel was laid in 1916 by Messrs Camper and Nicholson in their Gosport Yard No 222. She was launched in 1918 nearly two years later, due to a shortage of steel because of the war, and went to work for the Gosport and Portsea Steam Launch Association, known in Gosport as the “Old Company”. She saw reasonable service with the “Old Company” and was pressed into service during the Second World War, when she took part in “Operation Dynamo”. [Still waiting to find out how many lives she saved]. However, she is listed with “The Association of Dunkirk Little Ships”, and is entitled to fly the St George Cross, which is an honour indeed.
In 1955 she was sold to the Solent Boating Company who changed her name to “Solent Queen”. [The second ship to receive this name]. They replaced her reciprocating steam engine with a Gardner 6lx diesel, which produces 127 bhp at 1500 rpm enabling her to exceed 9 knots. It is this engine that still fills her engine room. This conversion work was done at the River Ichen Engineering Works. Solent Boating was revamped and re named Blue Funnel Cruises in 1957; it continues to operate cruises in and around Southampton and Poole today.
Solent Queen was sold in 1985 to Messrs L. Hayden and P Scott of Waterford. They renamed her Crystal Rose and operated a cruising Disco and Bar along the Rivers Barrow, Nore and Suir. In a recent conversation Mr Hayden recalled her busiest weekend, when she operated for three days and nights during the celebrations to open the John Redmond Bridge over the Suir in Waterford in 1986. On the third night the crew eventually retired to a local bar themselves!
Sometime later she was chartered to bring a group to New Ross and then to proceed up the Nore, where the plan was to overnight at anchor opposite her owner’s cottage. Unfortunately as the wind rose, on a falling tide she swung to the river bank and as the tide fell below her she was not to rise again. It was three weeks before her decks were dried out. It was then I made my first attempt to buy her, but it wasn’t to be. However I revisited her almost every year making another attempt to buy her a few years later. Eventually, the stars lined up in June 2005, and on my third attempt her owners were persuaded to part with her.
While removing the garden from her decks, and washing away twenty years of grime I came upon a bronze casting upon her stern. It had at some stage been plastered over with what I can only believe, was car filler. I poked, prodded and eventually her true identity shone through “Ferry King of Portsmouth”. After ninety years and several name changes she had retained her original breast plate. Who am I to force a false name on her!!!
Her restoration continues as slowly as her original build. However, I have recently discovered that all her original drawings and plans have been preserved by the British National Maritime Museum. Also in a recent communication, I discovered that Ferry King was one of just eighteen passenger boats built by Camper and Nicholson alongside their more famous sailing, steam and motor yachts (including the later ‘J Class’) and all sorts of military vessels. The first of their passenger boats was launched in 1872 and the last in 1959. The Ferry King was in fact the first of two seventy foot designs built; the second being “Princessa” which was built in 1921. Several of these boats survive to this day, in fact one, Venus, was re-rigged as a schooner in the Canaries whilst on her way to Brisbane; where she currently operates as a cruise boat.
This is further proof that these old boats don’t die, instead they transform into people’s dreams to survive. Therefore it would be wrong of me to claim ownership of the Ferry King, I am merely the custodian of this ship for as long as she needs me.
© Mick Byrne
Ferry King 1918 to 1962 – Gosport & Portsea Waterman’s Steam Launch Company
Solent Queen 1962 to 1984 - Solent Boating Company (later Blue Funnel Cruises)
Crystal Rose 1985 to 2005 – Hayden & Scott, Waterford
Ferry King 2005 to date – M Byrne, Wexford

Solent and Wight Line Cruises - Vessels 1952 to 1973 History of Blue Funnel Cruises. Both Ferry King/Solent Queen and her sister ship Princessa are featured on this site.

Old Ship Picture Gallery at Ferry King 01

Last Updated ( 29 October 2010 )
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