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The Isle of Wight can be found off the south coast of Southern England and is linked to the mainland ports of Lymington, Southampton and Portsmouth by vehicle ferries and high speed passenger catamarans. The Isle of Wight has two major ferry operators Red Funnel and Wightlink ferries.
The mainland ferry terminals of Southampton and Portsmouth are both linked to London by fast rail and road services, the journey time taking between one and two hours. The London terminus is Waterloo Station.
Isle of Wight Ferry Routes
Portsmouth to Fishbourne - Wightlink - The 40 minute crossing between Wightlink's Gunwharf terminal in Portsmouth and Fishbourne is served by five purpose built vessels. These ships provide the only 24 hour connection to the Island for cars, passengers, coaches and freight vehicles with sailings every 30 minutes at peak times.
Portsmouth to Ryde - Wightlink - Wightlink's fastest passenger connection is provided by our high speed FastCat catamarans which run the route between Portsmouth Harbour and Ryde Pier Head. The comfortable FastCats connect the railway stations at either end of the service in around 18 minutes.
With direct mainline connections to London Waterloo, Brighton, Bristol and Southampton from Portsmouth and onward Island Line services to Brading, Sandown and Shanklin from Ryde Pier Head this is the best connected service to the Island.
Lymington to Yarmouth - Wightlink - The shortest and fastest vehicle route to the Island is between Lymington, in the New Forest, and Yarmouth in West Wight. This 30 minute route is served by three ferries, Caedmon, Cenwulf and Cenred. You can sit back in the lounges, with bar and café facilities, or relax on the observation decks as you cruise the most picturesque route to the Island. On the mainland there is easy access to Lymington from London, Southampton, Bournemouth and the West Country by road, and by rail, with Lymington Pier station being within our terminal complex.
Southsea to Ryde - Hovertravel - Hovertravel provides the fastest Isle of Wight ferry service across the Solent and is the world’s longest running commercial hovercraft operator. Our passenger ferry service takes you directly to the shore at Southsea or Ryde for easy onward travel by Hoverbus at Southsea, bus and train connections at Ryde and large car parks at both terminals. Hovertravel operate many daily crossings from Ryde to Southsea in Portsmouth with a crossing time of less than 10 minutes.
Southampton to West Cowes - Red Funnel - This route is for foot passengers only as it is onboard high speed catamarans. The crossing time is approximately 23 minutes traveling at 35 knots. Onboard you will find a drinks service. Due to the vessel being smaller than conventional ferries allowing it to travel faster and get you to the Isle of Wight quickly with minimal hassle there are unfortunately no toilets on board and no bicycles are permitted. Wheelchair friendly.
Southampton - East Cowes - Red Funnel - This route offered by Red Funnel is onboard traditional ferries meaning it is suitable for all passengers and all vehicle types including bicycles. The crossing time is around 55 minutes traveling at a speed of 15 knots. There are coffee shops and refreshments available on board as well as a games area. Watch the sea go by on the outside deck. The vessels all have toilet facilities including baby changing. The vessels are all wheelchair friendly with passenger lifts on board.
About Wight Link Ferries
Wightlink is a ferry company operating routes between Hampshire and the Isle of Wight in southern England. Every year, Wightlink carries 5.5 million passengers, over 1.2 million cars, almost 200,000 coaches and freight vehicles and has a annual revenue £51 million
Their core routes are from Lymington to Yarmouth (30 minutes) and Portsmouth to Fishbourne (40 minutes), both of which are car ferry operations. A fast passenger-only catamaran operates between Portsmouth Harbour and Ryde Pier Head (taking 18 minutes), directly linking into the Island Line rail line. In 2005 Wightlink was bought by the Macquarie European Infrastructure Fund for an estimated £240,000,000.
Wightlink and its forerunners have provided ferry services to and from the Isle of Wight for more than 160 years.
In the early nineteenth century, ferries ran to the island from Lymington and Portsmouth. Later, steam ferries operated a circular route around Lymington, Yarmouth, Cowes, Ryde and Portsmouth. When the rail companies became involved they concentrated on two direct routes between Lymington and Yarmouth and Portsmouth and Ryde.
Ownership of the ferries eventually passed from the British Railways Board to Sealink UK Limited. In 1984, when Sealink UK Limited was denationalised, the operating name became Sealink British Ferries and was subsequently bought by the Bermuda based ‘Sea Containers Ltd’. When Stena Line bought Sealink British Ferries in 1990, the Isle of Wight Ferries remained with Sea Containers, renaming the company ‘Wightlink’.
In June 1995 the company was the subject of a management buy-in. In 2005 it was bought by the Macquarie European Infrastructure Fund.
In 2004, Wightlink decided to renew its sponsorship of the Wightlink Raiders ice hockey team
In October 2006 Wightlink announced that it intended to built two new ferries for the Yarmouth to Lymington route. These are going to be slightly bigger than the original and will only hold 360 while the existing ferries hold 500 passengers. The two ferries are not expected to entered service in June 2008. Recently Wightlink announced that a third ferry will be built for the route. This vessel entered service in 2009.
In March 2008 Wightlink also revealed that an order has been placed with FBMA Marine to construct 2 new passenger catamarans for the Portsmouth to Ryde service to replace the three craft currently employed. They vessels started service in 2009.
Wightlink Isle of Wight Ferries Fleet
Fishbourne - The following car ferries are used on the Fishbourne to Portsmouth route:
MV St Catherine - St Catherine was built by Robb Caledon Shipbuilders, of Leith at a cost of £5 million, and entered service with Wightlink on 3 July 1983. She was at the time the biggest ferry ever to serve with Wightlink and the first to be able to carry more than 100 cars. Local papers reported that she made the other Isle of Wight ferries looked like toys in comparison to her. Entering service on the Portsmouth-Fishbourne route, she was the first of the Isle of Wight ferries to use an asymmetric three-propeller layout with a bridge mounted forward. Two decks of passenger accommodation are provided above the car deck, with two bar areas and seating space. Also at the time one of the fastest car ferries in the company, she allowed Wightlink to provide a 35-minute crossing of the Solent. Two older ferries on the route were then withdrawn from service, whilst another, MV Caedmon was transferred to join her sisters on the route between Lymington and Yarmouth. St Catherine remained the largest ship in the Wightlink fleet until her sister, MV St Helen entered service later in 1983, and took the title. St Catherine was present at the International Fleet Review in 2005, representing Wightlink with a number of her sisters.
MV St Helen - She entered service with Sealink on 28 November 1983 shortly after her sister MV St Catherine becoming the largest isle of Wight ferry, a record held until 2001 when MV St Clare entered service.
MV St Clare - Built in Gdansk in 2001, she is currently the newest ship in the fleet operating on the Fishbourne route. As well as being the newest ship in the fleet, St Clare is also the biggest, able to hold 878 passengers and 176 cars compared to all other vessels operating on the Portsmouth to Fishbourne route which carry 771 passengers and 142 cars. Her service speed is 13 knots and weighs 5359 gross tons, with a length of 86 metres, beam of 18 metres and loaded draught of 2.6 metres. Facilities on board include a café, bar, lifts, TVs in seating areas, a shop and toilets.
MV St Faith - MV St Faith is Wightlink Ferries fifth vehicle and passenger ferry operated on their route from Portsmouth to Fishbourne. The ship was built in 1990 for the Portsmouth to Fishbourne route, the route she has taken throughout her life. St Faith is the second youngest of Wightlink's 'St Class' ships, after St Clare.
MV St Cecilia - MV St Cecilia is a vehicle and passenger ferry operated by Wightlink on their route from Portsmouth to Fishbourne on the Isle of Wight, the route she has taken throughout her life. St Cecilia was built in Yorkshire and was first launched sideways into the River Ouse, entering service in March 1987.
Ryde Pier - The following passenger-only catamaran (FastCat) ferries operate on the Ryde Pier head to Portsmouth route:
HSC FastCat Shanklin
HSC FastCat Ryde
HSC Our Lady Pamela
Wightlink have said that two new High speed craft will replace the three vessels currently on the route. These are expected to come into service Autumn 2009. These have been named as Wight Ryder I and Wight Ryder II. In March 2009, the first of the new high speed ferries was launched on schedule in the Philippines. The new vessels will no longer feature the yellow FastCat branding and instead will feature the standard Wightlink car ferry livery.
Yarmouth - Ferries used on the Isle of Wight Yarmouth Route
MV Wight Light - MV Wight Light was designed by naval architects Hart Fenton & Company. She was constructed at the Kraljevica shipyard in Croatia where she was launched on 26 January 2008, the first of three vessels to be completed that were commissioned by Wightlink to replace their aging ferries MV Caedmon, MV Cenred and MV Cenwulf on the Yarmouth to Lymington route.
MV Wight Sky - MV Wight Sky is a new design of Car & Passenger Ferry operating on Wightlink's Lymington to Yarmouth, Isle of Wight route. The MV Wight Sky is a completely new design of vessel for Wightlink, using a more people friendly layout. The design utilises fixed and mobile mezzanine decks, complete disabled access & a larger cafe & sundeck area. The vessel is intended to last as long as the current C class vessels. The MV Wight Sky was designed by naval architects Hart Fenton & Company. The MV Wight Sky was constructed at the Kraljevica shipyard in Croatia where she was launched on 14 April 2008, the second of three new Wightlink vessels to be completed.
MV Wight Sun - MV Wight Sun is Wightlink's newest ferry. The vessel was launched on the 29 June 2008 and entered service with Wightlink in the summer of 2009. MV Wight Sun will join the Wight class fleet on the Yarmouth and Lymington service. Her two sisters, MV Wight Light and MV Wight Sky entered service in February 2009.
About Red Funnel Ferries
Red Funnel is the original Isle of Wight ferry company with a history spanning almost 150 years in its present form but with roots stretching back as far as the 1820's. Much has changed since Red Funnel's paddle steamers ran excursions from Southampton as far as Brighton, Cherbourg and Torquay but we are still just as passionate about delivering great customer service and providing value for money.
Today, Red Funnel operate 24/7, 364 days a year and have the youngest and fastest fleet of passenger and vehicle ferries on the Solent. Their Raptor Class vehicle ferries are also the largest with space for well over 200 cars. Red Funnel staff are chosen carefully before being trained to deliver a level of service that strives to exceed customer's expectations. Onboard there is a wide range of good food, real coffee, a well stocked bar and relaxing lounges with modern facilities. If you love a sea breeze, there is a spacious outer deck with the best views of the Solent!
Southampton is the home port of Red Funnel and their gateway to the Isle of Wight. The city has excellent road, rail and air connections and is easily accessible from all parts of the UK using private or public transport. There is ample parking in close proximity to our terminals for those wishing to travel by foot.
Aim to arrive at the terminal 30-45 minutes prior to departure, show staff your eTicket and they will direct you to the correct lane ready for boarding - real coffee, delicious cakes & pastries, newspapers and magazines are available at the terminal.
Red Funnel Isle of Wight Fleet
Red Jet's - Serving the West Cowes Route
Red Funnel has four Red Jet Hi-Speed catamarans deployed in the UK on its cross-Solent ferry route between Southampton & West Cowes, Isle of Wight. Powered by high-speed diesel engines with waterjet propulsion, the vessels speed, maneuverability, stopping power and low wash characteristics are key design attributes.
Red Jet 1, Red Jet 2 & Red Jet 3 - Built for Red Funnel in 1991 by FBM Marine, Cowes, Isle of Wight.
Red Jet 4 - Built for Red Funnel in 2003 by North West Bay Ships Pty Ltd, Tasmania
Passenger Vehicle Ferries - Serving the East Cowes Route
Red Funnel has three Raptor Class ro-ro ferries deployed in the UK on its cross-Solent route between Southampton & East Cowes, Isle of Wight. Powered by medium-speed diesel engines with Voith Schneider propulsion, the vessels are the largest ever ferries to serve the Isle of Wight.
Red Falcon - Built for Red Funnel in 1994 by Ferguson Shipbuilders, Glasgow. Refitted & extended in 2004 by Remontawa, Gdansk, Poland.
Red Osprey - Built for Red Funnel in 1994 by Ferguson Shipbuilders, Glasgow. Refitted & extended in 2003 by Remontawa, Gdansk, Poland.
Red Eagle - Built for Red Funnel in 1996 by Ferguson Shipbuilders, Glasgow. Refitted & extended in 2005 by Remontawa, Gdansk, Poland.
Hovertravel is a ferry company operating from Southsea, Portsmouth to Ryde, Isle of Wight, UK. They are the only company operating in Britain with passenger hovercraft, after Hoverspeed stopped using their craft in favour of catamarans. Hovertravel are now the world's oldest hovercraft operator.
The company operates between Southsea Common, next to Clarence Pier, and Ryde Transport Interchange. Terminal facilities are provided at both ends, and services run every 30 minutes during daylight hours. However, in high season (generally July and August) the frequency increases to every 15 minutes or less. The crossing time is less than 10 minutes, and is therefore the fastest route across The Solent from land to land. However, the inconvenient site of the Portsmouth terminal means this is not reflected for through journeys.
At Southsea, the terminal is located on Southsea Common, next to Clarence Pier. It is also near to the aquarium, although further from Southsea Castle. It is also a significant distance from Portsmouth Harbour railway station and Portsmouth and Southsea railway station. This is because when the hovercraft started running in the mid 20th century, the area near Harbour station (the ideal location due to its good connections) was a mixture of residential and naval space, with all remaining land occupied by the fishing harbour and Wightlink car ferry terminal.
This problem is solved with a Hoverbus link, operated by Stagecoach, which runs between the Southsea Terminal and Portsmouth & Southsea Station and Portsmouth city centre, it also now serves The Hard Interchange. It is timed to connect with all hovers on the basic 30-minute timetable.
The terminal has recently been refurbished with new lighting and toilets and a general cleaning up. A new wall was built separating the Hoverport and the esplanade complete with viewing windows.
At Ryde, the terminal has recently been rebuilt. The new building was opened by the Duke of Edinburgh in 2004. It is located conveniently near to Ryde Esplanade railway station and Ryde Bus Station, however passengers must cross the railway by means of a footbridge, as they are located on the opposite side of the line. The whole complex is due for rebuilding, commencing in 2007, in order to create a new transport interchange. Also nearby is the Ryde Arena ice rink and LA Bowl.
Most bus services connecting with the hovercraft on the Island are run by Southern Vectis. In addition to these routes, Wightbus, another local operator, run Service 20 that stops nearby. Island Line trains run from there to Brading, Sandown, Lake and Shanklin, where a connecting bus can take you to Ventnor or St Lawrence. By changing trains at Smallbrook Junction, one can also visit the Isle of Wight Steam Railway. Full details of services from near the Ryde terminal can be found at Ryde Transport Interchange.
A recent innovation is the introduction of Hoverliner tickets that allow travel from an origin railway station on the UK mainland, on the Hoverbus, a crossing on the hovercraft and travel on the Island Line, and return journey. These are also available for journeys starting on the Island, the only difference being the name used, which is Hoverline.