Do any of you remember the Fleet Tender liberty boats that took us ashore in Plymouth, the Clyde, Rosyth and from the trots in Portsmouth?. Very distinctive in profile and heavy with a thumping big engine and a lovely warm galley where the crew sometimes let you linger on really cold night trips.
There are, I think two remaining in service and based at Falmouth, but the others have all be sold or disposed of. Of those sold, there is one based in Bristol and she was one of 4 commissioned and flew the White Ensign. The remainder were manned by the Port Auxiliary Service (PAS), some of us can remember that!, which then became the Royal Maritime Auxiliary Service (RMAS) and now contracted out to Serco. The vessel in Bristol is the MV Pride of Bristol, once HMS Messina based at Royal Marines Poole. She is run by the Pride of Bristol Trust (facebook or a rather dated www.prideofbristoltrust.org), a charitable Trust whose aims are to provide a seagoing experience to all members of the community in and around Bristol. The vessel is certified under the MCA, so subject to survey etc and also requires certification for key members of the crew.
Two ex RFA Chief Officer Systems Engineers, myself and Mike Austin still get our feet wet as members of the crew and we work with a team to maintain the vessel in every aspect, as well as occasionally sailing on voyages as far as the Isles of Scilly. The main area of operations is the Bristol Channel.
You will probably not be surprised to learn that the Trust is suffering, not only financially, which is an ongoing problem not specifically limited to charities, but also in the age profile of our members. We desperately need younger people to start taking over the reigns. It is a perfect opportunity for newly retired ex seafarers looking for something to do for ten years or so after retirement, or even younger people on their leave periods. Just think of it, come and go when you please, no telephone calls from 74A.
Although the vessel is basic in technological terms, she is well built and equipped but starting to suffer with age related defects. Full training can be given to new members to acclimatise from new technology to old and to allow potential Masters to get used to dropping from 30,000T to 150.
If there is any interest, please contact me through the RFAA