19th February 1966:

19th February 1966:
Westward Ho ex Vecta alongside Cardiff.

After a refit by Cosens, Vecta left Weymouth around 10am on Thursday 17th February 1966 bound for Cardiff where she arrived around 8am on Saturday 19th. It had been a windy passage taking 46 hours where in fine weather it could have been done in just 24 hours.

On Monday 28th February she moved to the Mountstuart dry-dock for underwater survey and bottom painting. On 6th March Vecta was painted out on the bow and stern and her new name with Bristol Channel associations Westward Ho painted in. However an industrial dispute at the yard did not help expedite her refit and she emerged from the dry-dock on Monday 21st March before there had been time to cut new windows into the ship’s sides in the way of the new plating around her former car deck. These were subsequently cut in and the windows fitted alongside.

As it happens KC’s engineering trustee for many years Alan Beavan OBE had been Project Manager at the Mountstuart Shipyard in the early 1960s although I don’t believe that he was involved in this particular project.

Vecta started the season running on the Cardiff/Weston ferry under the command of Captain Hardcastle on Maundy Thursday 7th April so getting her turned out in time had been a close run thing. She was joined by Bristol Queen on Wednesday 25th May and Cardiff Queen on Saturday 11th June. 1966 was the only season when these three ships ran together on the Bristol Channel.

Cardiff Queen. // Keith Abraham

Cardiff Queen was withdrawn on Wednesday 24th September 1966 and put up for sale.

Bristol Queen. // Keith Abraham

In 1967 Bristol Queen was dogged by paddle wheel trouble and other mechanical issues and in the end only sailed until 26th August when she too was withdrawn never to steam again.

Balmoral Weymouth 1969. // John Megoran

In 1969 Red Funnel’s Balmoral joined Westward Ho and this two ship service continued for three more summers until the end of the 1971 season. After that Westward Ho was withdrawn leaving Balmoral to sail on for P & A Campbell up to October 1980.

Westward Ho then became a static floating restaurant for Compass Caterers in Manchester. Incidentally we used one of their regional catering arms occasionally to provide buffets for our more up market charters of KC in the Medway years and very fine buffets they were too.

Westward Ho West India Docks London 1986. // Stafford Ellerman

In 1985 she was sold and moved to the Thames and then the Medway where she was laid up in roughly the same place as the paddle tug John H Amos resides today. I remember her as one of the talking points in KC‘s commentary in those Medway years.

Then in 1991 she was towed to Torpoint in Devon with the aim of becoming a base for a yacht club. This did not materialise and she was broken up close by in 1997.

After KC‘s 1997 season, in which I had also sailed briefly as master of both Balmoral and Waverley, I had a little tour of the West County including checking out the boats on the River Dart, at Plymouth and Falmouth. I didn’t know at that stage that her yacht club future had fallen flat so was surprised to come across a half demolished Westward Ho lying at Torpoint. A sad and sorry sight.

Kingswear Castle returned to service in 2023 after the first part of a major rebuild which is designed to set her up for the next 25 years running on the River Dart. The Paddle Steamer Kingswear Castle Trust is now fund raising for the second phase of the rebuild. You can read more about the rebuilds and how you can help if you can here.

John Megoran

John Megoran

This article was first published on 19th February 2021.