Sailing ship inspires ferry plan
BBC News ~ 7th September 2001
An historic voyage by a newly-restored sailing ship has inspired a proposal for a car ferry link between Devon and Ireland. The 100-year-old Kathleen and May sailed from Bideford to the Irish port of Youghal last month after businessman Steve Clarke spent £750,000 restoring her. The voyage re-established a traditional maritime trading link between the two ports. Now Mr Clarke says business leaders in Youghal want to revive the link with a regular ferry service.
He said: "If you have ever tried to go to southern Ireland from southern England, it's terrible. You can go to the Canary Islands quicker. You have to drive to Swansea, then you have a long ferry trip to Dublin, then a 140-mile drive down the coast on the other side. The Irish see this as a way of attracting more tourists."
Visitors to Youghal's historic walled port and ancient fortifications are following in the trail of Sir Walter Raleigh and Edmund Spenser. Mr Clarke, chairman of Bideford's chamber of commerce, wants to boost tourism in his home town too.
It already benefits from trippers boarding the Oldenberg ferry, which carries foot passengers to Lundy island in the Bristol Channel. He began restoring Kathleen and May as a static tourist attraction for Bideford, then realised she could be fitted for sea. But now he has been told that it may be impossible to provide the vessel with a permanent home in the port.
There is no suitable quayside mooring, and a £20,000 consultant's report commissioned by councillors said it would not be possible to attract funding to build one.
But Mr Clarke said there was interest in providing her with a base in Youghal for some of the year. He was presented with two cheques for £10,000 towards the restoration when Kathleen and May arrived in port.
He said: "Within days of being there I had a couple of business meetings and they are talking about building a wet dock for keeping the Kathleen and May out of season. It would double as a dry dock for maintaining Youghal's fishing fleet," said Mr Clarke.
"There are European funds available for linking communities," he said.
"The old trade route between Bideford and Youghal makes them an obvious candidate."