The Least Familiar Ship


M.S. Oldenburg at Ilfracombe's new pier Of the three main passenger ships plying the Bristol Channel, M.S. "Oldenburg" will be least familiar to most of us -  but very familiar to anyone taking a holiday on Lundy Island. Built at Bremen, Germany, in 1952,  with a capacity for 267 passengers, "Oldenburg" can usually be found at Bideford or Ilfracombe, operating a service to the island, as well as trips along the coastal cliffs of North Devon. When seen here alongside Ilfracombe's brand new part lottery-funded pier on 29th July 2001, it was about to operate a round trip to Lynmouth. 
Piers are making a comeback in the Bristol Channel. Once a year, "Oldenburg" abandons it's comfort zone to operate a private charter in support of Clevedon Pier, which famously enjoyed support, in his lifetime, from the celebrated poet John Betjeman.
From Clevedon, the vessel will go up the Severn Estuary, under both Severn Bridges, then make for Gloucester - a rare opportunity for most of us - on the Gloucester & Sharpness canal. This ship canal was cut to avoid treacherous sandbanks and drifting shoals where the river narrows sharply (causing the famous Severn Bore). The canal enjoys the distinction of supplying - after a whole range of treatments - drinking water to Bristol. Speaking from experience, the flavour is distinctly different from fresh spring water. Anyway, come join us today:- Just the ticket!
Clevedon Pier - at 6 am
The pier's pagoda (above left), has recently been restored. "Oldenburg" can just be seen already, through an arch of the pier (above right), at anchor off Clevedon - the wind being southerly (i.e. off the English shore), as you can see from the pagoda's ornate weather vane. Which way the wind..... It comes in against the tide about half an hour later. Before long, the ship, crowded with 222 passengers, is passing Portishead, Avonmouth, distant industry on Severnside, and then "Oldenburg" closes on the Second Severn Crossing.
Oldenburg alongside at Clevedon pier
Closing on the second Severn Crossing

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