After over 20 years service to Brittany Ferries the Quiberon stood down from service on the 20th December 2002. She was sold 'Lauro Line' on February 20th, 2003 and was been renamed 'Guilia D'Abundo' during August 2003, sailing for Med Mar. Her new route is between Sete-Palma de Mallorca. She commenced sailing in June 2003 following a refit and repaint in Brest. During her 20 years of service she was based in Plymouth and will always be fondly remembered by all.
Farewell Old Friend
The Quiberon began life as the Nils Dake, built at the Rendsburg Werft Nobiskrug yard Germany in 1975. She was originally built for 'Lion Ferry', before being re-assigned before completion to 'Svenska Rederi Oresund' (trading name 'Svelast') which was a Swedish Railways subsidiary company. She was almost a smaller sister ship to the 1973 built 'Gustav Vasa', which we know today as the 'Norröna' which operates for 'Smyril Line'. She operated between Malmo-Travemunde offering twice daily departures from the two ports. In 1967 'Svelast' merged with 'Trave Line' following strong competition on the route, and the company began trading as 'Saga Line'. The 'Nils Dake', along with her partner ship 'Gustav Vasa', continued unaffected, although the former 'Trave Line' routes closed.
Fierce competition continued to grip the surrounding routes, which finally led to 'Svelast' merging with rival operator 'TT Line'. Following the merger the Malmo-Travemunde route suffered from over-capacity and as a result the decision was taken to charter out the 'Nils Dake' in 1982, which was when she began operating for Brittany Ferries. At the end of 1982 the route closed completely.Prior to her entry into service for Brittany Ferries she underwent a major refit at the Jos L Meyer's Papenburg shipyard, Germany. The most noticeable change was the conversation of the aft end of deck 5 from an upper car deck to create extra cabins and two cinemas. The ship was re-named Quiberon for her new role for Brittany Ferries. She immediately became the companies flagship and was placed on the Plymouth/Santander/Roscoff/Cork route upon her entry into service. She replaced the smaller Amorique which had operated on the route since its opening on 17th April 1978. The Quiberons maiden voyage was in April 1982.
Following a successful two years of service Brittany Ferries decided to purchase the Quiberon from TT-Line in 1983. She was appropriately re-registered in Morlaix. In 1984 the Quiberon received the new company livery which made her look even more impressive and suited her more than the former. The Santander route continued to experience rapid growth, and in the late 80's it was proposed to cut the Quiberon in two horizontally and add two new decks. Similar work was proposed for the Duc de Normandie which was operating between Portsmouth - Caen. It was finally decided that the preferred option was for a newbuild, to replace the Quiberon completely. This new 'superferry' was the Bretagne and she entered service in July 1989 following delivery delays. The Bretagne was over twice the size of the Quiberon and brought a new standard to ferries operating out of the UK.
With the arrival of the new Bretagne the Quiberon was transferred to year round operation on the premier Plymouth-Roscoff service. The Tregastel was then transferred to Brittany Ferries Truckline operations out of Cherbourg before later being sold to P&O Scottish Ferries where she was re-named St.Clair. During her dry dock in 1990 the Quiberon was given a major refurbishment, ensuring her continuation on the route for another decade. In 1996 the she was sold to French banking interests for FFr100m as part of a re-structuring of the Breton company. She was immediately leased back to Brittany Ferries, with no disruption to operations - the Quiberon remaining very much a Brittany Ferries vessel.
The Quiberon made international headlines in July 1992 when she suffered an engine room fire whilst en route with the 0800 Plymouth - Roscoff sailing. 1,034 passengers were onboard when the mayday was declared. British and French rescue services attended the scene, but the fire was extinguished by the ships fire teams before they arrived. Sadly the fire claimed the life of one crew member. All passengers were mustered on deck and the lifeboats prepared. Evacuation was not necessary and the Quiberon limped to Roscoff under her own power later that day with a tug in attendance. She was immediately withdrawn from service for major repairs, and did not return until late August, having missed the summer season. Passengers were diverted to other routes during her absence with no cover vessel available.
Another embarrassing incident for the Quiberon occurred on the 17th March 1999 when she ran aground on Melamphus Shoal just outside Millbay Docks in Plymouth. She was only aground for a few hours before returning to port. Following a diver inspection she re-entered service later that day with no damage - apart from a slight dent in her reputation. Other notable incidents during her life included:
She has been subjected to numerous fishing blockades on both sides of the channel. She was even 'stormed' by French farmers once in Roscoff who refused to let her disembark passengers on arrival. The Quiberon has also been used for numerous coastguard rescue exercises in Plymouth, simulating evacuation with volunteers following fire etc. She once suffered a power failure on arrival in Plymouth where she hit the link span at considerable speed. She has also been involved in countless bad storms, both whilst at sea and trapped in port - one time slipping her moorings in Plymouth during a storm by ripping off the shore bollards.
Since 1989 the Quiberon has remained on the Roscoff run, with a winter transfer to the Caen and St.Malo routes. On the 10th July 2002 the Quiberon operated her final sailing from Plymouth, as she was transferred to the Portsmouth/Caen route until the arrival of the new Mont St Michel. The Plymouth/Roscoff service was immediately taken over by the Duc de Normandie. Following severe delays to the Mont St Michel the Quiberon was given an unexpected reprieve into service as the company were forced to operate her out of Portsmouth for the entire summer season, instead of standing down in early August as expected. As a result of her service being extended it was necessary to reduce her passenger certificate to 500 passengers to enable her to remain in service past the SOLAS deadline until the arrival of the delayed Mont St Michel. As a result a large number of passengers had to be rebooked onto alternative sailings and routes.
The Final Months
It was revealed in March 2002, by BFE, that the Quiberon had been purchased by 'Linie-Lauro' for services between Palma de Mallorca and Sete, France. She was to be renamed Guilia d'Abundo for her new role.
The Mont St Michel was finally handed over to Brittany Ferries on the 12th December 2002, entering service on the 20th December with the 1630 (revised to 1545) departure from Caen-Portsmouth - in thick fog. The Quiberon's final sailing for Brittany Ferries was the 0800 Portsmouth-Caen on 20th December. The only indication that it was her final sailing was the farewell messages exchanged between the inward bound Bretagne upon departure. At approx 1500 the Quiberon passed the awaiting Mont St Michel in Caen, and following a final lively whistle salute between the two vessels she docked astern of the MSM. A quiet, and sad end to over 20 years sterling service with Brittany Ferries.
Upon completion of service the Quiberon remained laid up in Caen, having sailed through the locks up river, and paid a day visit to Le Havre for supplies and stores to be loaded/unloaded. She finally departed the English Channel for what will probably be the final time on the 20th February sailing to Brest where she received a major refit and repaint into the Euro Mer livery. She departed the yard on 14th May and commenced operations out of Sete on 4th June 2003 whilst still named Quiberon.
Although the Quiberon did not offer the facilities of the mighty Val de Loire she has a comfortable feel of her own. I can remember when she was 'the' big ship operating out of Plymouth alongside the Tregastel - how times change. She had a fond following of admirers and regular passengers - transporting hundreds of thousands of holidaymakers to France and Spain during her lifetime. She will be fondly missed.
Life after Brittany Ferries
On the 27th September 2003 I found myself in a hot and sunny Palma de Mallorca whilst working onboard the msy Wind Surf. The port was already playing host to a number of cruise ships and large ferries when we finally berthed alongside the outer harbour wall. It was unfortunately a Friday, and as a result any hope of catching a glimpse of the old Quiberon had long faded when I was informed of her sailing schedule. However, whilst making small talk with the pilot I was told that she was due in at around 10am!
Just before 10 o'clock a familiar sight was on the horizon, it was the Quiberon, but somewhat darker looking in colour. She slowly made her way into the port passing the outer harbour walls before making her turn to bring her alongside what was the Euro-Mer terminal. Externally, aside from her imposing new colours, she was the same ship. She had only a few weeks earlier finally been re-named 'Guilia D'Abundo' and re-registered in Madeira much to the companies delight after 3 months in service. Whilst she was registered in France she was forced to carry a French master and Chief Officer, which had now been replaced by an entirely Italian bridge team. The familiar black smoke was still there, and I was later to learn one of her engines had been out of action for some weeks, resulting in sailing delays and hence her late arrival into Palma. Her engine room was apparently in a considerable amount of work. It can be remembered that in her last weeks in service for Brittany Ferries she experienced engine problems, something which had been rare during her career.
Later in the afternoon I made my way over to the ferry terminal for a closer look. After finally finding the correct ferry terminal (which makes our UK efforts look poor) I was greeted by large check-in desks for every ferry operator under the sun, apart from Euro-Mer whose desk was the size of a phone booth! It was obvious this was a new company in its beginnings but this was ridiculous, the whole thing must have been 4m square. Never the less there was a charming young lady behind the desk who was most keen to help.
It was quite a long walk through the glass covered walkway to the gangway, but as soon as I saw the door I knew it had been worth it. The reception area had not changed at all. Same carpet, same chairs, and same colours. The old 'Kiosque' was empty, with just boxes on the floor but all the fittings remaining, and the same went for the old perfumery on the starboard side. The old Beureau de Change has been turned into a small tourist office, which I imagine just consisted of the leaflets left on the counter! The deck plans were the same, with cheap stickers covering the name Quiberon, Brittany Ferries and even the funnel flag! Throughout the ship the large light up advert boards were empty, showing only their 'insides'. The cabins were still the same too, I popped my head in a few, including the cabin I had on her last sailing for Brittany Ferries on the 20th December 2002. The only difference was that Brittany Ferries had removed all of their artwork, so a dark patch was left on the wall! This was to be something I noticed throughout the ship.
One deck up there were some changes. Most notably the main restaurant had been removed and the bar extended, the buffet bar and galley having disappeared and a poor attempt at a stage being constructed in its place where I was told 'live entertainment' took place. hmm! It certainly made the area look different, but it had clearly been constructed on a budget! The main duty free shop was closed and its glass now frosted, allowing for storage. The small boutique at the top of the stairs remained, being one of the last areas of the ship to be refitted by Brittany Ferries and still looking smart. The games machines remained, the slot machines had gone. The self service restaurant was identical, and the salon du the also remained, although the large wooded sculpture had gone. The children's playroom and reclining seats lounges also remained intact.
The last place to visit was the bridge which again was the same aside from some new deck plans and emergency information. Her Italian crew was, a far cry from the days of Brittany Ferries! As I made my way back down to reception I heard that familiar 'ding dong' of the PA system. It was a brief look around but both myself and my guide (as if I needed one!) were pushed for time. Walking away from the Guilia you could clearly see her BF markings still showing through the black paint, failing to hind 20 years worth of BF paint! The bow looked slightly damaged too, I decided not to ask how though. After thanking my guide and leaving the terminal I took some close up photographs of her new profile. Unfortunately I had not been permitted to take any onboard photographs, being told that the Captain had to authorise this and he wasn't onboard. I was left wondering if all her passengers had to gain the same permission! However, their was relatively little new to take photographs of so I want too bothered. Her new name had been painted on both the bow and stern extremely poorly, all slanted, not very professional. That was something I am afraid I noticed throughout, it was obvious she was not being cared for in the same way that Brittany Ferries treated her, I just hope I am proved wrong. Unfortunately, as I watched her as we set sail from Palma later that evening this fear was confirmed as I saw her switch on her newly installed dress lights (one of the new additions from the days as the Quiberon but which all the Mediterranean ferries have) and I counted no less than 6 bulbs working!