Balmoral was built as a combined car
ferry and a passenger excursion vessel. During the weekend she operated
the Southampton to Cowes Ferry Service for Red Funnel, and in the summer
season she took on passengers and cruised the Isle of Wight
and along the coast to Swanage, Bournemouth and Portsmouth. For this,
she needed her good turn of speed and also lounges and covered
accommodation. She was the flagship of the line for many years, and
was well known and loved by generations of travelers, both on business and
holiday. In total over 2 million people have traveled on her.
were accommodated at the back of the ship. They entered through side doors and were then maneuvered into position.
About ten cars could be carried and it was always a rather fraught time as
vehicles were driven on and off by their owners ! When the ship was
used for cruising, the car deck became an
open space for passengers and was a sun trap on a hot day, sheltered from
the wind and beautifully secluded. This is shown on the left hand
drawing above as the red area.
When Balmoral was used on the Bristol
Channel by P & A Campbell Ltd between 1969 and 1980, the car deck
became known as the 'Sun Deck' , the side doors were welded closed and the
deck provided with a large number of folding aluminum chairs that became
prize possessions of passengers during the voyage. As she was designed
to have the additional weight of vehicles at the stern, when running
unladen, her propellers were slightly too high in the water and tended to
draw in air and spin rapidly without biting into the water. (This is known
as cavitation and can also happen if the propeller spins so fast that it
fails to grip the water.) This resulted in the engines over speeding
and a lot of vibration as well as a loss of efficiency. On the calm
water of the Solent it was not very noticeable, but in a force six coming up
the Bristol Channel from Ilfracombe it certainly was, and she was fitted with
two very large blocks of steel right at the back of the car deck. These
weighed around ten tons and lowered the stern of the ship sufficiently to
ensure that the propellers stayed under water in all but the roughest
Balmoral on the River Avon - the
sun deck full of passengers ... and the
propellers just under the water ! You can see her bow is well down in the
water and the stern high. The car loading doors are marked. There were two doors on each side of the ship.
Looking towards the stern from the
enclosed part of the car deck in 1975 - it is now a comfortable and well
appointed restaurant !
The lady with the yellow top is
standing in what is now the galley !
When the ship was rebuilt by Waverley
Excursions in 1986, it was decided that the car deck could be made into a
large restaurant and
if this was decked over, no passenger space would be
lost. This was done, the galley removed from the front of the
forward lounge and installed at the back of the new restaurant. The
original 'poop' deck which is the rearmost part of the ship was kept as it
was, but the area above the new facility was turned into a wide and spacious
deck with a large amount of space for passengers. This feature is a
superb feature of the ship. At the same time the after deck house was
rebuilt into a larger purser's office and a store for life jackets above.
A rather cluttered upper deck with
one of the lifeboats and a buoyant seat that could be used as a life raft.
This photograph taken at Ilfracombe in 1975 when the ship was operated by
Contrast with this spacious deck
after the rebuild. The ventilators marked with the star are the
same ones !The lifeboats are gone and two emergency dinghies are in their
place. The photographer would have been standing in mid air before the
rebuild - the car deck was below the camera !
At the time the rebuild was
undertaken, the lifeboats were removed and replaced with two inflatable
rescue dinghies. Each has a crane to lower it into the water ( called
a davit )
and while they look identical, the starboard one is made form ordinary steel
but the port one was obtained from a ship breakers and was used on a
minesweeper. It is thus made of non magnetic stainless steel ! You may
be thinking why no lifeboats on a passenger ship? The white
containers on racks above the upper deck hold inflatable life rafts,
while all the free standing bench type seats are actually life rafts that
will float. The two original lifeboats could only hold a small number
of passengers and would have taken a long time to fill and launch.
Those not able to get a seat in a boat would have needed to use the rafts
until help arrived.
Some of the many life rafts fitted
to the ship. ( model shown on right).
As she is today, Balmoral has secure,
safe and modern life saving equipment which is very quick to launch and can
hold everyone on the ship. She also, of course, has lifejackets for everyone.
This is where many passengers like to
be during coastal trips. There is easy access to the lower deck and
plenty of seating. There is also the funnel casing. The engine
room is directly below the funnel and acts like a gigantic central heating
system. The whole structure becomes warm and on a cool day is a very
popular place to be !
engine room casing is always a popular place to sit !
Passengers are not allowed on the navigation bridge
but can visit the area behind the wheel house on some voyages. This is
a superb observation platform as it is the highest point on the ship.
It is accessed by the traditional wooden steps ( companionways ) with brass
treads and steel railings. It is features like this, wooden
windows, specially made seats and brass fittings that make Balmoral unique - the
finishing touches by craftsmen of a bygone age.
This is another vantage point for watching the coast
as the ship cruises along. The view is unimpeded and there are a
number of seats. In this photograph, taken when the ship was
laid up for the winter, you can see the interior of the seats that are
designed to become life rafts in an emergency. The higher steel sides
of the bow section deflect the wind and make the area another sun trap for
The red handles on the ventilators operate a flap
inside the pipe to cut off the air in the event of a fire in the area below.
The brown curved pipes are outlets for the
emergency pumping system.