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Climb inside the Spirit of Sheppey ferry to Southend

By John Nurden

Ferryman Dave Wilcock was celebrating this week after putting down a £20,000 deposit on a boat to run trips from Sheppey to Southend.

He travelled to Wales on Friday to view the 192-seat Dame Shirley and ended up clinching the deal after getting the thumbs-up from a ship surveyor.

Mr Wilcock, 52, from Blue Town, said: “The boat is in excellent condition but there are a few cosmetic jobs which need doing.

The Dame Shirley from Cardiff Bay is to be renamed the Spirit of Sheppey and will start ferry trips from Sheppey to Southend in May 2018. It has been bought by Blue Town entrepreneur Dave Wilcock of Island Cruises Ltd.

“I will leave it in Cardiff Bay over the winter where it will be sheltered from the elements.

“In January, it will sail to a dry dock in Gloucester where it will get its licences to operate across the Thames Estuary.”

The 72ft-long 46-tonne steel-hulled twin-engine vessel is to be renamed the Spirit of Sheppey and is expected to begin trips from Kent to Essex from the May bank holiday.

Dave Wilcock, the man behind the first ferry from Sheppey to Southend Pier for more than 20 years.

The rest of its £130,000 price is due in the new year.

Mr Wilcock added: “The Southend trips are just the start.

“During the week I would like to run excursions to Whitstable, Herne Bay the Red Sands Forts and around the wreck of the SS Richard Montgomery.

“Hopefully, this will encourage people from Essex to come over and explore Kent.”

He said: “I have already had a request to hire the boat for a 70th birthday party.

“It is fully equipped with a sound system, disco lights and karaoke screen.

The sound system inside Sheppey's new ferry to Southend

“I’d like to involve the community and encourage schools to hire it so Sheppey children can see their Island from the sea.”

He is hoping holiday parks will use the ferry for their visitors and is planning a minibus service to collect day-trippers.

It is hoped the service will run from Queenborough.

The bar inside inside the Spirit of Sheppey

His newly-formed company, Island Cruises, will operate a travel club with discounts for members and special deals on attractions across the water in Southend.

For more details, see www.islandcruisesuk.com or visit the Island Cruises Facebook page.

The Dame Ferry moored in Wales

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