|Route||Gosport to Portsmouth|
|Operator||Gosport Ferry Ltd|
|Travel time||approx. 5 minutes|
The Gosport Ferry is a ferry service operating between Gosport pontoon and Portsmouth pontoon in Hampshire, southern England. It is currently operated by Gosport Ferry Ltd, a subsidiary of the Portsmouth Harbour Ferry Company plc, itself a wholly owned subsidiary of Falkland Islands Holdings, following a £10 million hostile takeover in 2004.
The company that currently operates the Gosport ferry was created in 1883 as the Port of Portsmouth Steam Launch & Towing Company, making it one of the longest serving ferry services in the UK. In 1963, it took over the Gosport & Portsea Watermen's Steam Launch Company, founded in 1875 by the Watermen, who had operated ferries on the route for centuries. These Watermen had enjoyed protected rights between 1603 and 1840, limiting operation of ferries on the route to Gosport residents.
Upon the takeover in 1963, the company changed its name to the Portsmouth Harbour Ferry Company (plc since 2001). In addition to Gosport Ferries Ltd and other related interests, PHFC also owns Clarence Marine Engineering Ltd, which provides maintenance services for the ferries as well as general marine engineering services. Gosport Ferries Ltd was incorporated in 1988, registered company 2254382; Clarence Marine Engineering was incorporated in 1987, registered company 2139067. Both are non- trading companies whose registered office is located in South Street, Gosport, head offices for the Portsmouth Harbour Ferry Company Ltd plc, registered company 18751.
The company currently operates four vessels: the oldest ferries, Gosport Queen and her sister Portsmouth Queen, and the newest ferries, Spirit of Gosport and Spirit of Portsmouth. All four vessels have doors built to align with the doors on the Gosport pontoon.
- The Spirit of Gosport is the newest vessel of the fleet. It was built in 2001. It is painted in standard Gosport Ferry livery and is of the same design as the Spirit of Portsmouth, but without the covered roof and bar. During its first few months in service it ran alongside the two Queens due to teething problems.
- The Spirit of Portsmouth is the second newest vessel of the fleet. She has a covered top deck and a bar, so it is normally restricted to cruise services. The vessel does, however, like her predecessor the 'Solent Enterprise', also operates on the ferry service, 'Spirit of Portsmouth'is painted in standard Gosport Ferry livery.
- The Gosport Queen and Portsmouth Queen are the oldest ships of the fleet. Originally painted with apple green hulls and funnels, but instead of the dark green band, that the 'Solent Enterprise' had, they had a red logo with white PHF lettering. They were built in 1966 to replace two of the four original, much smaller, Gosport ferries.
Three notable vessels that have previously operated the service since 1966 are as follows;
- Solent Enterprise (formerly Gay Enterprise) was previously the pride of the fleet. Of 275 tons, she was built in 1971 to provide cruise services and standby ferry duties. When on the ferry run she was typically used at rush and peak periods. She looked similar to the other ferries built in 1966, but had a bar, dance floor, restaurant, deck shelter and was painted with an apple green hull and funnels, but instead of the red logo, with white PHF lettering, she had a dark green band, all the way round the white superstructure. This ferry was replaced in 2003 by the Spirit of Portsmouth and was sold in 2005 to Capital Pleasure Boats, who renamed her Sundance for operation on the River Thames. Solent Enterprise is now in Denmark as a house boat having been sold by Capital Pleasure.
- The 'Portsmouth Queen' was built in 1966 of 159 tons and as a sister ship to the Gosport Queen. This vessel replaced the other two original, smaller, Gosport ferries. However three of the original, smaller diesel powered ferries were kept and used for harbour cruises in the summer and standby ferry duties in the winter months, when Gosport Queen or Portsmouth Queen was away for refit. The three original ferries the company kept were Vita, Vesta and Ferry Queen, they were fondly known by retired Captain Albert 'Tiddler' Jessey and his Grandchild as 'The Marjorie Daw boats', (after the nursery rhyme), as they rolled in rough weather like the motion of a seesaw. In 1974 Vita, Vesta and Ferry Queen were sold with the arrival of the 'Southsea Queen'.
- The 'Southsea Queen' was built in 1974 of 119 tons, to replace the three original diesel ferries Vita, Vesta and Ferry Queen. but she was unsuccessful and was sold to White Horse Ferries Ltd just four years later, in 1978. She subsequently operated on the Hythe Ferry service where it was renamed Hythe Hotspur. She was withdrawn from this service in 1995. After a period on charter to Brownsea Island Ferries Ltd in Poole Harbour, she was bought by Clyde Maritime Services Ltd and renamed Cruiser.
The ferry service
The ferry operates from the Gosport pontoon to the Portsmouth pontoon (and return) every 15 minutes from 5.30am to midnight, and more frequently at busy periods. The journey time takes approximately 5 minutes. All tickets are valid for return journeys – no single tickets are sold.
The Gosport Ferry also operates cruises around the Solent. In the early 70's cruises were operated by 'Solent Enterprise' (then 'Gay Enterprise'), 'Vita', 'Vesta' and 'Ferry Queen' (three of the smaller original diesel ferries). The three were sold, (with the arrival of 'Southsea Queen' in 1974), however in 1978 'Southsea Queen' was sold. The cruises after that continued to be operated by just the company's cruise ferry 'Solent Enterprise', however it has been known on the odd occasions, (in the late 80's and early 90's) for one of the 'Queens' to operate on a Harbour or Solent cruise, (when either 'Portsmouth Queen' or 'Gosport Queen' were not operating on their usual work horse ferry duties). In the height of the summer, it was not unusual to see 'Solent Enterprise' (on a day trip to Cowes, Isle of Wight) and 'Portsmouth Queen' (on a cruise around the Solent and Harbour) both passing Clarence Pier, off Southsea. Two days of special evening cruises occurred during The Festival of the Sea, when the 'Solent Enterprise' and 'Gosport Queen' did a special harbour cruise to view the tall ships and fireworks by night. Now cruises are generally operated by the Spirit of Portsmouth, which has moquette seating upstairs (also with seating with tables in the centre section) as well as a bar.
When there are no more cruises for a year, the Spirit of Portsmouth operates on the ferry service alongside the Spirit of Gosport. The latter vessel replaces the former when the former is out of service. Cruises were once the duty of the withdrawn vessels, the Southsea Queen and the Solent Enterprise.
- Second bidder in move for ferry
- South Coast Railways – Portsmouth to Southampton. Vic Mitchell and Keith Smith. ISBN 0-906520-31-2.
- A Brief History of Portsmouth Harbour Ferries
- Gosport Ferries Ltd company information
- Clarence Marine Engineering company information
- Portsmouth Harbour Ferry Company Ltd plc company information
- Postcards of Gay Enterprise, Solent Enterprise and Sundance
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