A very short-lived service in 1982.

By Andy Gilbert

Our Newhaven was recently reminded of the fact that there was a fast hydrofoil ferry service from Newhaven to Dieppe back in the 1980's. With a little help from Newhaven Museum, I've managed to find the details.

Seajet was an independently run Boeing Jetfoil craft and operated from a specially constructed pontoon on the Railway Quay near the Customs sheds.

Seajet operated its maiden service on Sunday 15th August 1982, albeit 1 1/2 hours late. Alas it proved itself quite unsuitable for the route and the service went under in just three weeks.

Similar attempts to run an identical Jetfoil craft, Normandy Princess, from Brighton Marina to Dieppe lasted somewhat longer, but that service also eventually failed. There was one incident where bad weather (I think) meant that the craft had to come into Newhaven rather than Brighton. Alas the 'politics' between its operators and the port of Newhaven resulted in the passengers having to remain on board for the duration of the vessel's stay!

Photo:Seajet maiden departure

Seajet maiden departure

Kind permission of Peter Bailey, Newhaven Museum

Photo:Seajet arrives

Seajet arrives

Kind permission of Peter Bailey, Newhaven Museum

This page was added by Andy Gilbert on 02/07/2012.
Comments about this page

Although I didn't travel aboard the Seajet from Newhaven, I did do so on the one out of Brighton Marina. One of the problems for these craft was their mechanical unreliability. On one of my crossings we were some half way across the Channel out of Brighton when there came a loud popping noise and the Seajet lost all power. The craft sank down onto the quite choppy sea and was tossed around for some half an hour or so before power was restored. This was something that happened more than once and possibly helped to make the service unpopular.

By Derek Longly
On 06/07/2012

I was extremely interested to read this article and never realised that a brief Boeing Jetfoil service operated in 1982 across the Channel between Newhaven and Dieppe under the Seajet branding: Was this service operated by the original shareholders that were based at Brighton Marina between 1979 and 1980 or had they aqquire the brand name ???? I used the Brighton-based operation several times when they used the Normandy Princess and on one occasion the vessel was unable to make a return journey from Dieppe back to Brighton due to technical problems. The return journey was made by the Newhaven-Dieppe conventional ferry, with the Seajet coach and a couple of other Southdown ones waiting for passengers to take them back to Brighton Marina, Brighton station and onto London Victoria Coach Station. The vessel used for the Newhaven venture was the Flying Princess and was used as a back up vessel to the Normandy Princess when passenger volume was higher than expected and in preparation for the company ordering a second vessel: The Flying Princess was previously used by P&O Jetferries between 1977-78 when the operated an experimental service from London Tower Bridge to Zeebrugge. The also went on to have two new vessels, Jetferry One and Two that operated between 1979 and 1980 from Tower Bridge to Ostend, but this ceased after one of the vessels had to be brought into Ramsgate Harbour by the RNLI when it got stranded on the Goodwin Sands. Jetfoils were always susceptible to the severe weather conditions in both the Channel and North Sea and regularly broke down mid-way or power failure, although Belgian ferries operated two between Ostend and both Ramsgate and Dover for over a decade.

By Warren
On 25/02/2013

The Flying Princess (featured in the above photographs) was also used prior to the Newhaven-Dieppe service as a replacement vessel when one the the Belgian-operated Jetfoils hit a coaster mid-way in the Channel and suffered damage during fog: The Flying Princess had been laid up for over a year previously in Ostend, along with the two other P&O Jetfoils. If on looks at the side of the vessel, their is a gap in the red stripe along the top of the hull as initially it had 'P&O Ferries' originally and when used for the Brighton-based service, 'Seajet'....

By Warren
On 25/02/2013

The pictures show a Jetfoil craft in the old ex P&O Ferries livery colours, it looks like a 929-115 series (Block II) craft, whilst mention is made of Flying Princess this was a 928-110 Series (Block I) Jetfoilft. The latter was between 1st June 1977 to 1978, Chartered to P&O Ferries, and operated on a service across the English Channel from St Katherine’s Dock, London to Zeebrugge. On 25th September 1978, this service was suspended. With the craft idle in 1979 it was leased to Jet Link, for service on the Brighton Marina to Dieppe route in 1979-1980, supporting Normandy Princess a 929-115 series (Block II) craft, (which was beset with a number of technical problems), and it provided additional passenger density for the summer season.

On 1st June 1980, Flying Princess was transferred/chartered to Trasmediterránea for a Canary Islands ferry service between Las Palmas, Gran Canaria and Santa Cruz which started on 7th August 1980, and was renamed Princesa Voladora. On 9th April 1981 Princesa Voladora (ex Flying Princess) was sold to a Hong Kong Operator [FEH] and renamed Urzela.

Speculating the craft could be Jetferry 1 a 929-115 (Block II) series Jetfoil Leased to P & O Jet Ferries for services between London to Ostend operating according to sources from 1980 to 1982, coming off charter when the service was shut down and was available for further use.

If someone can provide a hull number of this craft that would assist in its identification.

By Mike Hearn
On 23/07/2014

My memory may be playing tricks on me but I seem to recall that the vessel on the service running out of Newhaven had a leg/foil that extended horizontally out front when it was just puttering into the harbour to berth. The reason this sticks in my mind is that the lifeboat was called to stand by one time when due to bad weather mid channel the jetferry had to come down off of its legs/foils and complete the journey on its hull like a conventional boat, and they were unsure whether she had sufficient fuel to make it to Newhaven. My father Len, the lifeboat coxswain, was trying to figure out how we would tow this vessel with the large leg protruding out front. I also remember being part of a group of Sea Cadets who went for an afternoon to Brighton Marina to take part in evacuation drills from the 'new' jetfoil service which was setting up there. It involved getting in and out of liferafts and was for crew training.

By Rob Patten
On 25/07/2014

Jetfoils were ideally suited to seas that were flat. Not the short choppy seas within the Channel. Indeed a fore and aft pitching motion of the craft would cause the rear strut to become unwetted i.e. come out of the water. This action has a serious consequence for the jetfoil as the strut contains internal pipes that suck up the sea water into a pump, connected via a gear box powered by two Gas Turbines (GTs); the water is forced out the stern of the craft propelling the craft along. Once sufficient speed is created then the craft will rise out of the water on its struts. The forward strut has a horizontal foil that is used to “fly” or steer the craft.

With the rear strut out of the water propulsion is lost and the GTs trip so the craft looses power and this forces the craft down from foil bourne to hull bourne operation, and in a 2m (6 ft) swell mid channel results in a very unpleasant experience. It is my understanding the Normandy Princess did suffer regularly from this problem in spite of the craft having a Boeing Marine Systems (BMS) maintenance contract. It often bemused passengers arriving at Brighton Marina for a flight to the told that mid-channel sea conditions were such that the craft could not operate and were bussed to Newhaven to catch the ferry!

The struts can retract and certainly in areas where they are operating in confined waters where low tide in harbours may expose underwater obstructions.

It is somewhat surprising that the idea of a Newhaven to Dieppe (if that was the destination) service was considered, as a Jetfoil service from Brighton Marina to Dieppe lasted about 1 year and closed late August 1980, owing to a French fisherman’s strike in Summer 1980 causing a number of ports to be blockaded and the poor summer weather conditions mid channel. Interestingly the Royal Navy’s militarised version of the Jetfoil HMS Speedy (P296) was at Brighton Marina for a period of time in 1983/4 as Speedy Princess. There for reportedly for some 200 hrs of operation by Boeing and rumoured to be for sale.

Lastly, the RMTs Jetfoil service from Dover to Ostend ran from 1981 through to 1997 when the RMT ferry company closed down. This was perhaps the only UK waters Jetfoil service to last as long as it did.

By Mike Hearn
On 28/07/2014

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