6 Trewartha Terrace Penzance Cornwall TR18 2HE Tel 01736 368610 Mob 07974 900682



Welcome to my “Launch” page.

The inter island launch service is an important part of the transport package.

Look at my launch pictures

Off islands provide about 1/3rd of the total traffic. Unfortunately some of the St Mary’s based directors tended to regard the launch as a nuisance and a drag on profits. They did not understand the importance of “Feeder services” to a main transport system.

Isambard Kingdom Brunnell DID understand that and built branch lines to feed the main railway but Dr Beeching did not and closed most of them!!!

Luckily My good friend on the Board Mr. Lewis Hicks of St Agnes Island did understand and he was a great support to me in my campaign to get the launch service into the 20th century

It is strange that to day there is no mention of the Launch Service in the paper work and pronouncements by the “Route Partnership” about the new shipping service to the Islands.

Below is an extract from a much larger history of my time in Steamship Co Management originally written nearly twenty years ago.


11.1For many years the Company had operated a freight and passenger launch service between St Mary's and the off islands, Tresco, St. Agnes, Bryher, and St Martins. The service was supported by a subsidy from the Isles of Scilly Council who in turn received a supplementary grant from the Department of the Environment. The subsidy was calculated using a formula worked out by my firm, Whitaker and Redfearn.

11.2The service was operated by two ex admiralty harbour launches both at least forty years old. Heavy freight was carried in four wooden "barges", these were old ship's lifeboats from the nineteen twenties. In about 1980 it was felt that the Company should acquire a new launch. The difficulty was that no-one on the Islands could decide on a design that met all requirements. The crisis came in December 1982 when it was discovered that the licences for both launches were due to expire within a few months. It was too late then to order a new launch and the only option was to refurbish the old ones. I agreed a formula with the Council whereby the subsidy would be increased to cover the overhaul costs spread over eight years.

11.3The first launch was brought to Penzance for repair at Holman's yard and it was left to me to specify and supervise the work. Major rebuilding was required but was completed satisfactorily. This was while I was still engaged only part time with the Company. The total cost was in the region of ,45,000. The next year the second launch was refitted at Mashford's yard at Plymouth, again under my supervision.

11.4In about 1987 the subsidy arrangement was altered because the Government withdrew the transport grants, although the Council still received supplementary funding towards various costs including transport. To cope with the reduced funding I produced an action plan and one launch was sold and the service continued with one only, supplemented when required by a boat run by M.Hicks ( Later a Director of the Company).

11.5One of the initiatives listed in the Graham Moss Report was the purchase of a new launch, and discussions continued from time to time about a suitable design, but no decisions were made. B.C.Ward by now Chairman of the Company always seemed to regard the launch service as a drag on the Company rather than part of the added value service to off island customers. There was always some friction between off islands and the main island.

Graham Moss reported that most customer complaints about the Company were connected with the launch service.

11.6Following the advent of Fairisland Trading, their manager pointed out the dispensations from Dept of Transport regulations that we had for these old craft, and commenced agitation to have them removed. This would have stopped the operation of the launch and the barges. I once again recommended that the Company buy a new launch and it was agreed that this should be done subject to a suitable design being found.

11.7In June 1990 I invited Christopher to join me on a visit to the Southampton Work Boat Show, but he declined and so I went on my own. There I met a Scottish boat builder from Fort William who was displaying a design of craft he had produced for the outer fish farming industry who use a palletised system for handling the feed etc. I brought the drawings back and recommended to Christopher that this was the right type of vessel.

Subsequently Christopher, Hicks (both directors) and the launch skipper accompanied me to Fort William to view the yard and take a voyage on one of the boats. All was favourable and an outline specification agreed to include a passenger cabin and bulk fuel handling facilities for diesel and kerosene. I left it to Christopher to specify the capacity requirements for the fuel handling but I dealt with the rest in consultation with the marine architect, including the fitting of special fendering material to protect the ship while working alongside the stone jetties at the off Islands. An order was placed in the sum of approx ,275,000 and I arranged suitable finance, and dealt with the paper work for registration and load line licensing.

11.8Christopher and Hicks visited the yard twice and I kept in regular touch and made two more visits to authorise progress payments etc. I was able to advise the architect on technical points regarding Dept. of Transport licensing etc. On my final visit prior to launching in about June 1991 I discovered that the yard owner was involved in the arrangements for the Fort William four hundredth anniversary including a visit by the Queen. I suggested to him that as the Royal Family had connections with the Islands via the Duchy of Cornwall we might be able to persuade them to name the launch as part of the ceremonies at Fort William. I got BC Ward as Chairman of the Company to write to the Palace and so it came about that Her Majesty the Queen conducted the naming ceremony of "Lyonesse Lady" in August 1991, see picture.

11.9The new launch was well received with many favourable comments from the cognoscenti. I felt that with the new launch we could make a determined effort to claw back the winter flower traffic from the off islands most of which had gone over to the Helicopter service. Using the new pallet cages that I had introduced on Gry Maritha and offering competitive prices we received firm interest from customers and the service commenced. Unfortunately there was some opposition from Christopher to the point where he was refusing to release pallets to the island of St Agnes thereby jeopardising the whole scheme.

11.10 Once those problems had been ironed out the new launch linking in with the now well established Gry Maritha service provided the best ever flower shipment service for all customers during the 1991/92 winter including shipment in chilled conditions on board. I arranged to vary the sailing times to suit the requirements of the markets including on some days two return trips to Penzance within twenty four hours. The freight manager who was based at Penzance sensed some resistance from Christopher to the new way of things and arranged for all customers with any problems to contact him or me direct. The new system proved its worth and we recaptured the bulk of the flower trade including from Tresco Estates.

11.11 The new launch was designed to link in with the new palletised cargo system and was equipped with her own crane on board and a drive-on drive-off ramp for vehicles. It was my plan to discharge goods direct from the ship to the launch lying alongside and for the launch crew to be responsible for loading any goods from the quay at St Mary's. The object was to reduce double handling there and pave the way for staff reductions in the St.Mary's dock labour force. This would require assertive management which was not forthcoming and I understand that since April 1992 practice has reverted to the old labour intensive ways and the boat is not therefore achieving its full economic potential.

11.12 I mentioned the requirement for the passenger cabin. This cost about ,50,000 extra on the construction price. I felt that the Company should therefore go out of its way to encourage use of the launch by passengers and run it all the time between the Islands for this purpose. There would be opposition from the summer boatmen but we needed to maximise on our investment. Christopher did not agree with me and in fact the launch rarely runs on passenger voyages and when not carrying freight remains at her moorings in St Mary's harbour while the Company still pay to charter hire other passenger boats particularly from Hicks. This makes for an easy life for the Company staff but is not using the launch too its full potential or as intended when ordered


Note August 2009. When the Lyonesse lady came to Holmans for repair in about 2005 she was in a sorry state clearly not cared for by the crew, and that expensive passenegr cabin was like a pigsty.Perhaps to day more assertive management will have made improvements. I would be interested to hear from offislanders about this. 

She was here again in December 2009 and in much better shape with a very caring crew. Thank goodnes The Company is better managed once again and recognise the importance of maintaining their ships in good order.