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A Very Warm Welcome to MV Balmoral!

Substantial and costly improvements need to be made to the crew accommodation before the 2019 season and we have more recently been advised that the long accepted practice of using doubled plates to repair the hull was no longer acceptable for anything other than emergency repairs. This means that previous repairs need to be removed and re-done. The cost of this work is included in our £3.75 million bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund. If the bid is successful we would expect to have to raise £375,000 in match funding.

  • We expect some indication from HLF by March 2018 whether our bid can be progressed and if so would be required to develop this into a “second stage bid” by August 2018.We had expected to be required to deal with the “Doubled Plates” issue immediately before the 2019 season but in the last few weeks the MCA have advised that they will not issue a passenger certificate until the work has been done. We do not have the funds to undertake this work in time for the 2018 season, and until HLF funding becomes available (hopefully later next year) the work cannot be put in hand.

  • MV Balmoral will therefore unfortunately not be able to sail in 2018.The ship will remain in Bristol in the care of our maintenance volunteer team. Overall she is in much better condition than for many years thanks to the efforts of both the crew and volunteers.The Harbourside Events Team and the MVBFL Trustees will work to develop further ways of raising funds by on board activities in fulfillment of our charitable objective of preserving and exhibiting, in sailing condition, the historic vessel MV Balmoral

Appeal update

  • The £450,000 appeal (details below) has gone out to all our members, supporters and our passenger mailing list.

  • Although we have been overtaken by the events described above, the appeal is still very much open and donations will be used to continue with planned maintenance, to preserve and maintain the ship in operating condition in Bristol in anticipation of her ultimate return to service.

Emergency National Appeal

November 2017

Dear Supporter,
Balmoral is now safely back at her berth in Bristol after a truly rollercoaster Summer. This is a brief description of the season and explains why we are again asking for help to keep the ship in operation and to thank you for your previous support and custom.

At the start of the third season under White Funnel Ltd stewardship, we had a beautifully turned out historic ship, wonderful trips planned, excellent advanced bookings, beautiful weather, a polite and attentive ship's company and the support of our volunteers and enthusiasts.

After an initial hiccup we were on course to put our ship on a sound financial footing, largely due to the generosity of our sponsors and appeal donors. Highlights of the season saw Balmoral perform two worthwhile wind farm charters, filming contracts and sailings in good weather to the Western Isles and the Isle of Man on Tynwald Day.

We ran classic cruises around Anglesey and on the Bristol Channel and River Severn. We had a reliable and happy ship, looking beautiful and running well. Whenever and wherever she sailed the support was there. Passenger bookings were up almost 40% on 2016. At last we appeared to have turned the corner.

Then the British weather took a hand causing a string of cancelled sailings, but we plan for a number of lost trips each season and that was not unforeseen. Sadly other factors combined to cause havoc and they were completely out of our hands. A weeping rivet required a return to Sharpness dry-dock, collapse of the Gravesend landing pontoon scuppered the Thames visit, followed by a summer storm and failure of both engine/gearbox couplings, one of them just a day after an assurance from the manufacturer that it would last the season.

Then at the very last moment we were refused permission to carry passengers to the Isle of Man, although Balmoral has been a regular visitor for three decades and would have been allowed to go to Belfast, almost twice the distance on open water. This disappointed our passengers and supporters and cost us a huge amount of money in advertising, ticket refunds and lost revenue, and with no recompense or chance of making up the deficit.

Back on home waters and with excellent advanced bookings, hopes were high until, on a full to capacity Bristol Channel sailing, a rope was dropped into the water from the quayside, became entangled in a propeller, worked its way under the rope guard and damaged a shaft seal. That required divers, another trip to dry-dock and a further two weeks lost service. After urgent repairs the ship then performed perfectly, visited North Wales, Liverpool and Scotland, and ran into the worst late Summer weather for years, preventing most of the additional sailings planned to recover some of the lost revenue. To have one incident in a season is not unexpected in any operation but these unconnected problems were heart breaking for passengers, crew and staff.

Sadly economic facts can't be avoided. In 2017 Balmoral managed only 55 of her 116 scheduled sailings, fractionally under half. Despite the huge popularity and increased passenger numbers when she did operate, we have a very large deficit and serious doubts about continuing coastal excursions without financial support, - and we need that support urgently.

We need to raise £450,000 and have no more than 8 weeks in which to secure Balmoral's future for a further season. After that time it could be impossible to book harbours, connections and her annual survey. We need funds to settle outstanding accounts from the 2017 season, pay for routine maintenance and to dry-dock and prepare the ship for 2018.

This seems a huge amount. It is, but the response to appeals in the past has been superb and we are making economies and the best use of our volunteers. We intend to use Balmoral as a venue and educational facility in Bristol Harbour to help with winter costs and already have a number of bookings.

Balmoral is unique in that she is a fully functional vessel, the last of her type, and in good condition after all the work and money lavished on her. Goodwill and affection is so obvious wherever she goes. Keeping active is the best way to preserve any ship. We already have charter enquiries for 2018 and there is a provisional outline timetable for next season with this letter. If we are unable to reach our target in the time needed, donations will be used to continue with planned maintenance, preserve and maintain the ship in operating condition in Bristol and settle any remaining accounts with our suppliers on whom we depend to keep Balmoral sailing.

Then as soon as funds permit, she will be back in service. In 2019 some regulations affecting Balmoral change and these will have an impact on many larger historic vessels. We are in longer term discussions about that with the Heritage Lottery Fund.

We are all her custodians for future generations. Balmoral's volunteers and helpers will do all they can, but if she is to remain operational we need your help urgently. Over 2 million passengers have travelled on her since launch in 1949 and we have a saying on board "Everyone loves Balmoral". She is a small ship with a big heart and has been part of so many people's lives for nearly 70 years.

Thank you for what you have already done to support the ship. We will do the work to keep her in operation, but we can't do it without your further help, and we only have 8 weeks to raise the money.

Please give what you can to preserve this historic ship and allow future generations to share the enjoyment that we have all had by being part of the Balmoral Family.

With best wishes,
Dave Bassett, Paul Doubler, Ross Floyd, Andrew Jardine, Richard Mills, Doug Naysmith, John Thomas.


royal yacht brittania

MV Balmoral is one of our greatest national treasures, and during her 65 glorious years as Britain's most travelled excursion ship, this much-loved grand old lady has acted as a royal cruise ship, she has taken part in the Coronation Fleet Review of Queen Elizabeth II and acted as consort to another queen when she accompanied majestic RMS Queen Mary on her final departure from British waters in 1967.

  • In July 2004 HRH The Princess Royal cruised aboard the BALMORAL during a charter for the Mission to Seafarers from Portishead. The royal standard was hoisted from Balmoral's mast for the event

  • Balmoral acted as companion vessel to the QE2 in 1995. She was on charter to the Cunard line to transport passengers anchored in the Forth off Edinburgh. The distinguished passengers on board again included HRH Princess Anne who started that year's Tall Ships Race later in the day

  • HRH The Duke of Edinburgh became a passenger on Balmoral in 1958 when he opened the docks at Shoreham
hrh princess anne the princess royal on board balmoral 2004
Please see the Heritage> and Heritage News> sections for more fascinating facts, photos and ciné film relating to the incredible heritage of this historically significant ship.
balmoral a unique heritage

For many years Britain has lead the way in transport technology. Many famous ships, trains and other forms of transport are either still operational or preserved in England's many transport museums and historic dockyards.

Britain has lead the way in maritime engineering technology ever since Victorian engineering genius Isambard Kingdom Brunel perfected steam engine technology with his SS Great Britain and the SS Great Western. In the early part of the twentieth century cruise liners such as White Star line RMS Titanic, Olympic and Britannic entered service, along with Cunard line RMS Mauritania, Aquitania and Lusitania, which lead the way in ocean-going speed and luxury. Modern liners such as Queen Mary II, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria are currently leading the way in modern ocean-going luxury.

Those who couldn't afford an ocean-going voyage took advantage of day-excursion ships such as PS Consul, PS Embassy, PS Ryde and MV Royal Daffodil. Companies such as Cosens of Weymouth, the Caledonian Steam Packet Company and Red Funnel operated coastal excursions providing happy days out for many people over the years.

MV Balmoral entered service in 1949, she was built to replace the paddle steamer PS Balmoral which was built in 1900 but not reconditioned after World War II. For the past 65 years she has served as an Isle of Wight ferry and provided coastal excursions on the Bristol Channel, South Coast and London/Thames Estuary.

MV Balmoral has become a vessel of national historic significance, and is featured on the National Historic Ships Register>.
This website showcases many famous British steam ships, motor vessels, barges, tugs, clippers and tall ships.

Other British ships of note include:

  • PS Waverley: The world's last remaining seagoing paddle steam ship which is owned by the UK Paddle Steamer Preservation Society (PSPS). The society also owns a coal-fired paddle steamer, PS Kingswear Castle, currently based on the river Dart in Devon.
  • Chatham Historic Dockyard Ships: HMS Gannet • HMS Cavalier • HMS Ocelot
  • Portsmouth Historic Dockyard Ships: HMS Victory • HMS Warrior • HMS Mary Rose
  • Other Historic Ships: SS Great Britain, Bristol • Cutty Sark, Greenwich • HMS Belfast, London • Royal Yacht Britannia, Edinburgh • PS Medway Queen, Gillingham Pier, Kent • SS Shieldhall, Southampton
  • Museums: The National Maritime Museum, Greenwich • The Imperial War Museum London • Museum of London Docklands

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