The Duchess of Cornwall: Diary Entry 9

10 June — 14 August 2008

Stage 9: The Launch of the new St Mawes Ferry

Champagne corks were popping in Penryn earlier this week when the new St Mawes Ferry was launched from Cockwells Modern and Classic Boatbuilders.

The 60ft wooden ferry, which will have it’s official-naming ceremony in July, Is the result of two and a half year’s work by its owners – Cornwall Ferries Limited – and will carry 100 passengers on the 30 minute crossing from Falmouth to St Mawes 364 days a year.

“We are delighted - firstly that she floats and secondly that all the hard work has resulted in such a beautiful vessel,” said the company’s managing director Tim Light.

“We are extremely grateful to Dave Cockwell and his team for all the effort they have put into this new ferry for us. Unlike a lot of the yachts and boats they build each year, this boat will be on their doorstep for many years to come and I’m sure all the lads who have worked on her will get great satisfaction from seeing her making that crossing each day,” he said.

Dave Cockwell added: “Everyone here is very proud of their achievements and we all think she look lovely.” Before work began on the ferry, many months were spent perfecting the design, taking into account the difficult low tides in St Mawes, the needs of the crew who would work on the ferry and the requirement of the company itself to have a vessel which was in keeping with the other ferries in the fleet.

“We spent months researching the various boat building materials and looked into making her from steel and fibreglass but really had our hearts set on wood,” explained managing director Tim Light.

A night in a pub in Falmouth talking to the crew highlighted the pros and cons of the current fleet. “They all like the way the Queen of Falmouth handles the occasionally rough waters of Carrick Roads,” said Dave Cockwell. “Also, during very low tides, the crew can’t land at the quay in St Mawes and have to put the bow of the boat onto the sand. We looked into bow thrusters to make this easier, but the sand would create high wear and tear on the bow thrusters themselves. The current St Mawes Ferry is twin screwed with a single rudder, but we decided to make the new vessel twin screwed with a dual rudder which will improve manoeuvrability when coming into the quay at low speeds,” he added.

The comfort of passengers was also high on the list of “musts” for the ferry company. During the design process, the size of the windows were increased, the top deck was extended to provide more shelter for passengers on the lower deck and a special gate in the hull was added to allow people in wheelchairs to use the ferry when pontoons are available during bespoke trips.

Oak from Cornwall, larch from Scotland and opepe from Africa have all been used on the new ferry. Several pieces of opepe (African hard wood) were used for the keel; while sixty larch trees hand-picked from a forest near Inverness and measuring up to 40 feet in height were bought for the planking. Both of the current St Mawes Ferries – the Queen of Falmouth and the May Queen - have traditional pine decks which are made from several pine planks, corked and sealed. But for the new ferry, Cockwells decided upon a composite deck - two layers of plywood, cut specifically to fit the deck space with lapped joints and then sheathed in epoxy and glass – to make it more hard-wearing.

The ferry has two 115 horse-powered, four-cylinder turbo Nanni engines from France which will be capable of a cruising speed of eight knots when the ferry is at full capacity. There are three main pumps aboard, along with ten bilge pumps. Two of the main pumps will supply fresh water to the sinks in the toilet and bar areas, and seawater to fill the cystern above the toilet. The third will only be used if there is a fire onboard and will draw seawater directly from the sea to a hose with enough power behind it to send out a six metre jet.

In the wheelhouse, the ferrymen have state of the art navigational aids including radar depth sounder, VHF radio, global positioning satellites (GPS), fire detection system and a PA system which can also be linked to the stereo/radio.

The new ferry will undergo two weeks of comprehensive tests by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency before going into service.