The whole saloon was removed and 75 per cent of her deck replaced. There are new deck shelves, deck beams, deck, floors and two brand new watertight double sheaved bulkheads, plus new seating and two new bars.
Will Ford, director of the Greenway Ferry Company, said: “As she defended our country, we are now defending her from the passage of time through our own financial commitment and with a team of enthusiasts, we know how much this ship is loved in Torbay and have done our bit to ensure that she can be enjoyed by all now and in the future as the bays longest serving passenger ship.”
He added: “We have used local shipwrights, local suppliers and sourced timber from sustainable sources. To see the passion and pure skill that has gone into her new replacement structure is simply wonderful the team which worked on her where committed, professional and worked through one of the harshest winters we have seen in a long time.
“This will be the first time for her to be seen as she would have looked during her operation period in the Royal Navy as much as health and safety will allow. Her newly restored medial bay on the top deck now dispenses alcoholic medicine in the midst of stretchers from the new 1940’s bar and we have reopened the Ward Room on the lower deck which has been completely refurbished with beautiful leather seats housing the ships original blueprints from WWII . This refit has not just been for the ship but also for passenger comfort. The newly commissioned purpose built porthole awning looks fabulous on the deck and passengers can now sit in pure comfort on the top and bottom deck and the seats can be folded away to create a massive dance floor for private charters and party boats. Carrying capacity has been increased and passenger facilities modified even to the point of frothy coffee machines, draught beers and ice cream. Our investment into Fairmile and the bay is proof of our commitment to this wonderful area and tourism as a whole not to mention a ship which is the last remaining type of her kind in passenger service from WWII. ”
In an emotional and befitting return to the water after the refit, the ferry’s first trip was to be used for a family farewell ceremony for Fairmile veteran Eric Schofield. Mr Schofield served on the now revamped Fairmile ferry when it was a wartime rescue motor launch 497 in 1942. He moved to Brixham in 2003 from Cheshire and was a well-known figure in the port. He died, aged 90, last July. Following the ceremony, his ashes were scattered at sea.
Helen Meacock, operations manager of ferry company, said: “We are all really pleased and honoured to have done this for Eric and his family on Fairmile’s first trip of the season. It is what he would have wanted and a large picture of him will be placed in the Medical Bay where he would have served.
Fairmile returned to service on Saturday and saw a full boat on Sunday for her trip from Torquay and Brixham to Dartmouth with a beautiful one hour cruise of the River Dart. In celebration of the time Fairmile spent as the Western Lady III – the main Torquay to Brixham Ferry – she will also be providing two special trips a day from Brixham at 10am and Torquay at 11am between the two towns in addition to the normal regular ferry service provided by the company for just £1 each way with the companies other vessels providing the day service every 30 minutes.
To book a trip, party or to privately hire the newly refurbished Fairmile contact the Greenway Ferry and Pleasure Cruises Company on 01803 882811 firstname.lastname@example.org