by Rod Main
Official Maiden Voyage
Dieppe to Newhaven, Saturday 4th November 2006
Seven months on from the Côte d’Albâtre’s first crossing and the Seven Sisters goes into service... very quietly. Despite having some contacts on the French side of the channel, I wasn't able to find out exactly which day it was making its maiden voyage otherwise I'd have been on it.
There was no publicity on the English side for the start of the new ferry which I felt was rather disappointing. On the French side, the Conseil General de Seine Maritime had organised a competition the winners of which received a day out in Brighton. The Saturday 4th morning ferry from Dieppe was reserved especially for these people and other invited guests. Strangely, no dignatories from Dieppe itself. No major customers either.
Dieppe, though, had posters around the town in shops and other buildings proclaiming ‘Normandy - Sussex, Bienvenue – Welcome’ with a composite picture background of the coasts of Normandy and Sussex and the ferry in the middle. Dieppe, at least, was making much of the arrival of the new boat.
One could have been forgiven for thinking that the ferry service ran from Dieppe to Dieppe and that it was important to get the people of Normandy excited about this. Forty French journalists and at least one TV crew were on board for this inaugural crossing.
After prodding my contacts in France who wrote some letters to the Conseil General, an invite (one way from Dieppe to Newhaven) eventually arrived for me about a week before the crossing. I understand that Lewes District and East Sussex County councils may also have received some invites at about this time but, unlike myself who had been intending to get on the maiden voyage, it was a little late for representatives from those bodies to join the crossing. Two journalists from the Brighton Argus and the Sussex Express did manage to make the trip.
C'est la vie.
Anyway, my French friends arranged some visits for me and a flight in a light aircraft along the coast. This enabled me to get some pictures of the new boat from the air. I made the trip back on the inaugural crossing with the competition winners and various French officials.
The people from Transmanche seemed pleased I had made the effort to be there and I have to say the new boat is a treat. Its almost identical to the Côte d’Albâtre and will be even more so when the ’Côte’ gets its first refit and it is uprated to match the Seven Sisters. (These differences are behind the scenes in the kitchen areas so not really visible to the customer). The cabins are really quiet and comfortable for those late night crossings where you might want to get some shut-eye for a few hours. The seats are comfortable air-line style and relaxing. Considering what we have been used to on the Dieppe/Newhaven crossing, these boats are a luxury... more a cruise than a ferry.
It is, perhaps, unfortunate that the French have not got a grasp of the way things work on the UK side. Politically and, to a lesser extent, commercially. Transmanche needs to put the crossing on the map for UK customers and its not really doing that so far. Hopefully, I may be able to have some discussions with them to change that.
Transmanche Ferries' brand new Seven Sisters is seen from the air on the eve of her official maiden voyage to Newhaven.
Photograph courtesy of Rod Main