Although we are now shore based in the past Erith Yacht Club has been lucky enough to have a Clubship to serve as our headquarters. We have a history of ships. Our first was the Thames barge Garson, sadly her remains now lie somewhere under our hardstanding. She was followed by an Ex Trinity House wooden lightship known as Garson II.

 

Our last ship wa the Norwegian built car Ferry Folgefonn. She was acquired by us in 1981 and was converted to serve as a yacht club. The old wheelhouse and passenger area on the top deck were converted to a bar which gave panoramic views across the river. On fine days we can spill over out into the promenade deck.

The old cardeck has been converted to a function deck with a stage with an adjoining galley. The original lower passenger saloon is available when required a a second bar. The old crew cabins are mainly used for offices and storage but a couple are still available for sleeping if required. The aft steering position is now the race officers hut, it affords a clear view if the river and races are started from here.
Part of the character of the ship is steep stairways but a stair lift has been installed on the after companionway so older members can still enjoy the ship

A landing stage has been mounted alongside so at high water yachts can come alongside to take on water or equipment.

It is lovely to have such a ship but it does mean members have put aside a week end annually and don muddy boots for 'ship painting'

We have had some visitors from Norway to Folgefonn who are interested in her history, she was apparently quite revolutionary when designed. The adjoining photo (Erik Ask, Bergen) shows a model which can be seen in the Bergen Maritime Museum. Folgefonn is quite an important ship in the development of ferries, being we believe the first purpose designed RORO (roll on roll off) ferry in the fjords, Below is a flyer we obtained, produced by the HSD shipping company, probably shortly before she was retired from service.

M / F "FOLGEFONN"


(Translated from HSD's announcement flyer, first quarter 1979.)

HSD is the shipping company, hardanger, Sunnhordlandske Dampskipsselskap


Presently HSD is in a period of "anniversaries". Our 100th anniversary next year is one thing, and there are plenty of others. Thus, 1978 marked the 50th anniversaries of the launching of the express coastal steamer in Sunnhordland and of the first ferry route (Kyrping -Fjaera) and the 40th anniversary of the launching of "Folgefonn", our first specially built automobile carrying ferry with fore-and-aft ramps for entering and departing autos, to travel between Alvik and Kinsarvik.


The idea of starting an auto ferry route across the Hardanger Fjord was conceived along with the Akrafjord route. In the autumn of 1928 KNA (the Royal Norwegian Automobileclub) inquired HSD about starting a regular ferry connection between Eidfjord and Ring0y, which, together with the Kyrping-Fjeera route would make it possible to travel by car from Haugesund to Haugastol. At the same time the idea of offering the Kinsarvik- and Kvamma districts a ferry route was brought up, but this idea was postponed until the road from Tunes to Trengereid was completed. During the summer of 1929 the two leased motor ships, "Varden" and "Olsok" traveled the route between Eidfjord and Ring0y. A total of 250 automobiles were carried that summer - enough for HSD to decide to build the combined freighter/car carrier "Kinsarvik" which was launched in 1930.
In 1932 there was unbroken road connection between Bergen and Kvam, and the same year "Tyssedal" was put to use between Norheimsund -Ring0y - Eidfjord. The following year "Kinsarvik" was transferred to the Akrafjord route, and the motor cutter "Jondal" was leased from Bertin Underhaug to supplement "Tyssedal" on the Hardanger Fjord route. Already when the Hardanger road from Bergen was opened, HSD had talked about building a car carrier for the route across the fjord, but this idea was postponed for several years for various reasons.

A possible car carrier across the Hardanger Fjord would have to be planned in close cooperation with the Highways Department, and in 1936 representatives from HSD and Hordland Highways District went together on a study tour to Denmark - the ferry country above all, to see various types of car carriers. Upon returning home, engineer Daae started pre project work. Other counties were working on new ferry projects as well, also in close cooperation with the Highways Department. "Geiranger" and a couple of smaller ferries were put to use in M0re and Romsdal.
The estimated cost of HSD's projected ferry was approximately 0.3 mill, kroners. The financing of this was in the end arranged in such a way that the State promised a yearly contribution of kr. 30.000,- for five years, toward reduction of loans. HSD would then have to present their accounts books upon request, and the State could at any time during this period buy the ferry at its written down value. In addition to the technical and economical problems one had to consider the competition. The leasing contract for "Jondal" expired in 1936, and the following year the owner put this ship into a competing route between Nordheimsund and Kinsarvik. The large economical burden of building and running a big specially built vessel, required the need to ensure the company against loss bringing competition, if necessary through public regulation efforts. Road traffic had been concession regulated ever since the Motor Vehicle Laws came into effect at the beginning of the century, while traffic at sea remained unregulated. However, HSD succeded in obtaining the necessary guarantee, thanks to a small, but important amendment to paragraph 21 in the Motor Vehicle Laws, which was passed by Parliament in August of 1937: Hereafter concession was obligatory for conveyance of people or goods for payment with a motor vehicle without a route, and also for ferrying of motor vehicles for profit! As soon as this Amendment was made public, HSD decided to go ahead and have the projected ferry built. On September 2, 1937, the intention to build was announced, and several builders showed interest in building the vessel. The proposal presented by Bergen1s Mek. Verk-steder was not the lowest, but the shipyard needed work and employees were in danger of having to be laid off. So in order to maintain employment, Bergen City Council agreed to pay the difference between Bergen's Mek. Verksteder's- and the lowest bid, and Bergen's Mek. Verk-steder won the contract. The cost of building the vessel was 350.000,-kroners, and delivery was to take place on June 1, 1938. This, in fact, was a very short time of delivery, but on June 1, "Folgefonn" was ready to go from Solheimsviken to Alvik, where the ship was to take on board the guests scheduled to travel the maiden voyage to Kinsarvik the following day.


"Folgefonn" weighed 197 tons gross, and had a maximum capacity of 20 automobiles and 300 passengers. Her total length was 119,7 feet (36,5 m) and the width 26,6 feet (8,1 m). The free height for driving between car- and boat decks was 2,95 meters, which in 1938 was considered a good margin for busses and lorries of that period. The engine was a 4 cylinder, 2-beat, single operation, crude oil motor of 300 horsepower, built at Rubbestadneset. One thing some people may remember about "Folgefonn" from earlier years, is that the power generator was connected directly to the main engine, so that the salon lights were dimmed when the engine was running at low speed, and it was pitch dark when the engine was switched from forward to reverse or visa versa. "Folgefonn" was not built to be a shuttle ferry, but even so it had two wheel houses. The aft one was intended for use during backing up the ferry channel, but was not used very much. Even so, the large helm was connected to the rudder wire, and it was always fascinating to watch that invisible man guiding the ship safely to the automobile ramp. June 2, 1938 was a red-letter day for the company, for Hardanger and Hordaland, as a matter of fact for Norwegian communications as a whole. "Folgefonn", nicely decorated with flags, was lying by the pier in Alvik, ready to take on board the 100 or so invited guests for the maiden voyage. Here were representatives from the Highways Department, the railroad, tourist trade, business and the press, in addition to the entire county board. The visitors from Bergen had arrived in chartered buses, and now there was no longer any problems getting the buses on board. They just drove on board across the aft ramp, and had plenty of room alongside the auto deck. While the guests looked around the ship and complimented HSD and especially engineer Daae, for an excellent project, Captain Sivert Bakke guided "Folgefonn" safely from Alvik to Kinsarvik, where the new ferry pier had just barely been completed in time for the arrival. Thereafter the guests boarded the buses again, and travelled to Fossli Hotel, where they celebrated the new vessel. According to the program, they were to be back in Bergen around midnight, but during the festivities at Fossli, there was a rock slide which blocked the road at Mab0dalen. However, with three road engineers among the guests, it did not take long to plan and carry out the removal of the debris, and by morning the participants were back in Bergen.


"Folgefonn" only travelled the route during the summers in the years before the war, and so it had only been in use for two seasons when the Germans invaded the country in 1940. "Folgefonn" was requisitioned for transports in Hardanger, and when the Norwegian troops pulled back from Eidfjord, "Folgefonn" remained there. The Germans wanted the vessel for transport of war supplies etc., but were at the same time interested in keeping her in the increasingly more important communications service between east and west Norway, which this route was becoming a part of. The road north from Alvik was completed to Kvanndal in the autumn of 1940, and at that time the ferry port was moved there. The following year there was a continuous road from Bergen to Granvin. "Folgefonn" started putting in at Utne in 1941 until the Utne quay got a temporary ferry ramp in 1945 and "Folgefonn" was fitted with side gates. The route started running on a year-round basis already in the autumn of 1940, and "Folgefonn" stayed in this route during the whole war.


As previously mentioned, Sivert Bakke was the first captain, but even so most people will probably associate "Folgefonn" with captain Arnfinn Utne. Officially he became captain in 1947, but he had in fact led the vessel since the beginning of the war. To become a fire fighter or a policeman is usually the goal of boys 8-10 years old, but to become the captain of "Folgefonn" ranked almost as high in those days. With arm movements like a French traffic constable, and with his inviting "come on - come on", Utne stood at the ferry ramp directing the cars on board, and the ferry gate was scarcely in place when he was already in the salon or on boad deck with his ticket bag on his stomach - he was busy, but even so he always had time for a word or two with friends and strangers alike. Another busy person was the restaurant keeper, Olav Lysen, in his white apron behind the small counter down in the salon.


"Folgefonn" was designed with the future in mind, something that is proven by the fact that she was the only vessel carrying automobiles between Kinsarvik and Kvanndal up until 1945. The question of an auxiliary ship had been put forth a couple of times, and the company had looked at several used ferries, also in Denmark. But none had been bought, and an English gangwayship which the company aquired in 1948 with the intention of converting it to a car carrier, was sold again shortly afterwards. However, in 1953 "Folgefonn" had a new and larger successor in M/F "Har-dangerfjord" (now named "V0ringen") which was launched on June 21. After this date "Folgefonn" was used partly as an auxiliary on the Kinsarvik-Kvanndal route, partly on the Brimnes-Ulvik route. In the summer of 1957 "Folgefonn" took over the Leirvik-Valevag-Moster-hamn-Halsn0y-Sunde route, and she remained in this route for several years. Even though "Folgefonn" has been used for an auxiliary ship on various routes in the district, she was mostly tied to Sunnhordland during the later years. Around 1960 "Folgefonn" got a more "up-to-date" appearance after the shelter on the boat deck was painted white instead of the earlier brown. The aft wheel house and the railing were made of teak and remained oiled for a few years longer, but were painted white in the end as well. This probably had some practical advantages, but to paint over golden brown teak somehow is not quite "ship-shape and Bristol fashion" as the British would say. Certain modernizations have been made inside as well, in the salon under deck and in the shelter on boat deck, which was fitted with doors and windows on the aft side and thus became much warmer in wintertime. In 1965 the original engine was replaced by a new Wichmann 400 HP. The free height on the auto deck, on the other hand is the same as it was 40 years ago. This, along with the central engine casing and the staircase dividing the auto deck lengthwise, are probably the largest drawbacks "Folgefonn" has at the present time 40 years is a respectable age for a ship of our time.

It does credit to engineer Daae's reputation that the last ship he designed for his company is still running its route and is doing a good job of it. "Folgefonn", being one of the very first tourist ships in this country , is today a piece of living history - in the very best sense of the word. She represents an important chapter in the history of Norwegian communications, and this is something to be considered, by communications- as well as cultural historians, now that she is probably approaching her retirement.

 

   
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