SHARPNESS Docks is the current home of a rare piece of British history as a 65-year-old ship undergoes vital repair and refurbishment work before, hopefully, setting out to sea again.

The Balmoral is undergoing its five-yearly assessment to see it if it remains seaworthy, essentially an MOT, in order for it to carry on taking tourists along the British Coastline around the country next year.

The cruise ship is part of the National Historic Fleet and is based at Bristol City Docks.

The initial works are set to cost £170,000 and the group will need another £200,000 to put her back into commission ferrying passengers on day trips.

As part of its stay in Gloucestershire the ship is undergoing welding, refitting and refurbishing as well as ultrasound scans to check the hull’s thickness.

If the work is not carried out, the Balmoral’s passenger certificates will be lost and it may never be able to carry passengers again.

Chairman of the Balmoral Fund, Dave Bassett, said the ship had been receiving good treatment at the dry dock.

“Sharpness Docks is really accommodating. They do the best they can for you. They have been really good to us because they recognise that we are in difficulties and want to help us,” he said.

“It’s a huge task. We’re a bit concerned but the more money we get the better we will be to put it back in shape.

“There’s a massive upwelling of love for this ship the more we do the more support we generate.”

The work is mostly being carried out by volunteers in their free time, with many holding expertise in maritime engineering or simply with an interest in Bitish sailing history.

“The people are the ship the ship is the people,” said Dave.

“We want everyone to feel like they own it.”

Since 1986, Balmoral has been based on the Bristol Channel but has regularly cruised across the UK coast, in particular the River Severn, South Coast and North Wales.

To help the group reach their fundraising target in order o get the Balmoral sailing again, email or visit