Once a ship had been built and launched she then had to be out-fitted, and then complete sea trials
before being handed over to her new owners, who would look to have that ship at sea, as long as possible to pay for her build costs and of course to make the company good profits.
To this end one company may have had no requirement for a particular ship after a time and would then sell her on just like any other disposable commodity.
Hence a ship may have had a few owners and would go through many changes and names during what was hoped for a long and successful working life.
ST CATHERINE tied up alongside just after her Launching in 1983 in this photograph by ex Henry Robb Shipwright Barry Booth and shown here with permission
At a strangely busy time for the Leith Shipyards of Robb Caledon (Henry Robb) an order had come in for the build of two large ferries for the then called British Rail Sealink Company which was another government controlled shipping line this time.
So while the Rig handling ships were being done the Loft was busy running the lines for these two new ships.
The first ship was given the yard number of 534 with the order for work on an experimental mini submarine being looked at and given a yard number of 533.
So although things were still pretty shaky in the shipyard regarding further ship orders being allocated to the yard by British Shipbuilders the short term order book looked good.
The Ferry was classed as a Ro-Ro Passenger Ferry (Double Ended) and was for use on the ferry route connecting the small Isle of Wight to the mainland south Coast of England, across one of the busiest ship routes in the world that of the "Solent" which leads vessels into the Port of Southampton and into Portsmouth along with other ports in this part of the South Coast of England.
The ships had a skeg at both Bow and Stern to alleviate the need to turn the ship around to continue on a journey.
This of course was nothing new for the shipyard as they had built one of the most famous of all double ended ferries (SOUTH STYNE
) which is still around although not working as a ferry now in Darling Harbour, Sydney, Australia.
The full size lines for the ships were run out in what remained of the old mould loft in Leith (the tenth scale loft having to move due to the condition of the old building) and in preparation for the new CAD system (again to little to late)
I did not know at the time that I would be doing the last ever full size lines to be done in Leith.
The build progressed against a backdrop of increasing industrial strife due to the new management trying to introduce some small changes (Too little to late) and the unions continuing to hold onto outdated modes of working practices, and in a worldwide context of fewer and fewer orders being placed for ships in British yards which could not compete by this time with the modern shipyards and working practises of yards in Japan and Germany. One attempt to try and close the gap was to send the Loftsmen at Leith down to the headquarters of British Shipbuilders to get trained up on the new computer system which was to eventually change the shape literally of shipbuilding and engineering design for ever, but again it turned out to be too little to late as once the lofting for the Ferries was completed there was no further orders in the pipeline so by default no future ships to be lofted on computer.
Despite all, the ferry ST CATHERINE launched into the waters of the Basin of Leith Docks, where she was to be fitted out.
Known as a Saint class ship they just looked right and she was to serve on the route from the Isle of Wight to the mainland for almost 30 years first with Sealink and then with Wightlink British Ferries and she along with her sister ship ST HELEN was a well know and much loved ship crossing the Solent in all weathers. They were at the time the largest ferries serving on this link between the Island (Famous for the Cowes yachting week, and of course the Supermarine Spifire) and the mainland.
The double ended ferry ST CATHERINE at the dockside in the Leith Shipyards of Henry Robb being fitted out in this photograph taken by ex Henry Robb Shipwright Barry Booth and re-produced here by permission.
We try here to give as full an account of her history as time and research permits, if you know of missing info or you have any photographs of her, then please get in touch and we shall update her story as we go along.