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UK The Royal Daffodil, Birkenhead - December 2016

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History

MV Royal Daffodil, formerly known as Overchurch until 1998, was constructed in Birkenhead in 1962 by Cammell Laird (a British shipbuilding company that was founded in 1828) for Birkenhead Corporation. The 751 tonne vessel, which was constructed to be part of a fleet of ferries operating on the River Mersey, was named after one of the town’s post-war overspill housing developments. It was the first of the fleet to be of an all-welded construction and is now last of the Mersey Ferries to be built. Once in service, the ferry was popular with passengers because it was considered to be the warmest vessel of all the Birkenhead ferries; however, it is not actually known why it was warmer. The ship was also popular among its captains as it had a large, modern, navigation bridge which spanned the entire width of the ship, unlike the other more compact and cluttered bridges on Overchurch’s sister ships. 

In terms of her other features, Overchurch was fitted with two main outdoor deck areas, a loudaphone system and an advanced radio system. It was also equipped with two medium speed Crossley diesel engines which were capable of propelling the vessel over 12 knots. Both of the engines were controlled by engine order telegraphs (E.O.T’s) – communications devices used by a navigator to order engineers below deck to power the vessel at a desired speed. Nonetheless, despite being more advanced that her sister vessels, Overchurch could be difficult to control in stormy weather due to a design flaw in the high funnel being attached to the bridge and the flare of the bow being different. These faults meant that in a strong swell bringing the vessel alongside the dock could be troublesome, and that water had a tendency to spill over the bow onto the observation deck. 

In 1998, Overchurch was moved to undergo a major refit. This was completed at Lengthline Ship Repairs in Manchester. The vessel was completely modernised and refurbished over the next year and new engines and navigation equipment were fitted. The original funnel and bridge were retained, but some minor alterations were made. After being refitted, the vessel was renamed The Royal Daffodil and returned back to service. However, the ship was altered again in later years as the lower, main and forward saloons were completely gutted and rebuilt. New catering and bar facilities were fitted, along with dance floors and a new crew area. Following the refurbishment, The Royal Daffodil was used for functions, parties and special cruises along the River Mersey. Although she was converted into a cruising vessel, The Royal Daffodil’s sisters were rebuilt as multi-purpose ferries; they are now known as Royal Iris of the Mersey and Snowdrop.

By December 2012, The Royal Daffodil was withdrawn from service. Reasons for this are linked to persistent engine problems. Since then she was moved to a dock alongside Duke Street in Birkenhead. There are plans to restore the vessel to its full glory, and the engines and generators are still tested periodically; however, she is beginning to show signs of dilapidation (considerable rust, peeling paint and rotten decks). 

Our Version of Events

After a bit of a fail at a nearby brewery which seems to have some sort of vintage shop and a café in it now, we found ourselves over in Birkenhead looking out over the Mersey wondering what the fuck to do next. That was when we spotted a slightly lopsided ship sitting on the horizon. Keen to take a closer look and investigate a little further, we set off towards it to uncover whether or not it was actually abandoned. As it turned out, it looked a bit fucked and dirty, so we guessed it was somewhere on the old abandoned scale, making it nice and ripe and juicy for the picking. 

At first, getting into the site seemed to be a bit of a ball-ache, since there seemed to be a lot of sharpened palisade and many cameras. What is more, Merseyside Police decided to turn up… Typical that they always turn up when you don’t need them. We were forced to wait patiently as the same car passed us several times between two minute intervals. In the end, though, they fucked off, apparently satisfied that we weren’t a group of yobs armed with spray paint and white lightening. There was, however, something to be gained from the local bobbies turning up, and that was that we’d ended up sitting there long enough to figure out how we were going to get onto the site. 

Fifteen minutes later and we were stood on board The Royal Daffodil. In many ways it’s very similar to the Tuxedo Royale over in Middlesbrough, but it has far fewer holes in it. On that note, it was nice to go below decks and not feel as though we were taking a tour around the Titanic. It didn’t take long to work our way around the whole ship in the end mind, not least because the engine room and captain’s cabin doors were tightly locked. We were quite disappointed after making this discovery, but in hindsight they were going to be nothing compared to those we found on the North Sea Producer, so the disappointment has somewhat receded. All in all, then, the explore wasn’t the best we’ve ever done, but it wasn’t a bad way to spend twenty minutes either. After all, it’s always good to get another ship under the belt. 

Explored with Ford Mayhem, Meek-Kune-Do, Box, Husky and Soul. 

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