The newly-painted Fal River Dazzle Ferry set sail on her maiden voyage recently, to mark her 80th birthday.
Built in 1939, the May Queen (commonly known as The St Mawes Ferry) is one of three vessels that sail from Falmouth to St Mawes.
Each year, the entire fleet of classic wooden ferries come out of the water and undergo refit, repair and repainting. Local artist Kleiner Shames was commissioned to transform this 80-year old ferry into an extraordinary floating work of art, which he painted freehand in just five days.
The new paint job, unveiled during The Greenbank Fal River Festival, is inspired by the ‘Dazzle Camouflage ’of the First World War. Unlike other forms of camouflage, ‘dazzle’ is characterised by brilliant, glaring geometric patterns and was used on warships to confuse the enemy, making it difficult to estimate a target’s range, speed and direction.
Original skipper and crew of the May Queen, Pat Longfield and Roger Hardwick, joined guests for the inaugural trip, regaling passengers with stories of the vessel’s colourful past. Also on board was ex-soldier, researcher and writer Roderick de Normann, who described Operation Overlord and the critical role of the River Fal as an embarkation point for thousands of troops, armour and supplies during the lead up to the D-Day Landings of 1944.
Caroline Harvey, general manager of Fal River Cornwall, commented: “This project has brought together people, places, heritage and culture that are connected by our 80-year old ferry. We were delighted to welcome guests from across the country to help mark this fantastic occasion and we look forward to sharing the May Queen’s story with visitors throughout the season.”
Visit Cornwall CEO, Malcolm Bell, added: “The May Queen is an important part of our Cornish history and we are proud that this dazzling ferry has been celebrated in such a wonderful way. It is particularly poignant as we commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day and remember the important part Cornwall played during this time.”
The striking new dazzle ferry will be operating from Falmouth to St Mawes Monday to Friday until the end of October 2019. Hop on board and discover the many surprising layers of wartime history through the on-board exhibition.
The Dazzle Ferry project was supported by FEAST, Arts Council England and Cornwall Council.