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
- 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.
SMALL SHIP WITH THE BIG HEART.
A LETTER FROM BALMORAL'S TRUSTEES
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
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
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
With best wishes,
Dave Bassett, Paul Doubler, Ross Floyd, Andrew Jardine, Richard
Mills, Doug Naysmith, John Thomas.