Balmoral will not sail in 2018 but may do so in 2019 with lottery help

The Balmoral has been a fixture in the Bristol Channel since the 1960s.

The Balmoral has been a fixture in the Bristol Channel since the 1960s. - Credit: Archant

Historic pleasure cruiser The MV Balmoral will not sail in 2018 – but its owners are hopeful a £3.75million lottery funding bid could get it back on the water for 2019.

The charity-owned vessel has been a fixture in South West waters since the 1960s, and regularly stops at Clevedon Pier and Portishead Marina.

However, it has endured a number of financial difficulties in recent years, and its owners warned recently that a summer beset by technical difficulties and poor weather – resulting in half of its scheduled sailing days being scrapped – had put the ship’s future at risk.

Only last month, it was said that Balmoral supporters would need to help raise £450,000 in just two months to get the boat shipshape in time for next year.

That hope has now been dashed, however, after authorities ruled additional repair work must be carried out before the Balmoral can return to the sea.

Owners have now decided to berth the Balmoral for 2018 while they explore funding options, including a major bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), in the hope of being ready in 2019.

They said: “We have been aware for some time from our discussions with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency that substantial and costly improvements would need to be made to the crew accommodation before the 2019 season.

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“We have more recently been advised that the long-accepted practice of using doubled plates to repair the hull was no longer acceptable for anything other than emergency repairs. This not only applies to future repairs but also means previous repairs need to be removed and re-done.

“We do not have the funds to undertake this work in time for the 2018 season, and until HLF funding becomes available (hopefully later next year) the work cannot be put in hand. MV Balmoral will therefore unfortunately not be able to sail in 2018.”

The trust hopes to hear by March whether the HLF will progress the application, but even if it is successful, Balmoral supporters would need to find £375,000 in match-funding.

The trust added: “The last three years have demonstrated the popularity of coastal cruises on MV Balmoral – particularly when the sun shines. We need all the support we can get to build on that for a sustainable future.”