Snapshot: The Trinity House Vessel PATRICIA serves as a working ship for Trinity House, the British agency that looks after lighthouses and buoys in the waters around England, Wales and the Channel Islands, but not Scotland. In recent years, 12 passengers have been accepted and occupy very comfortable cabins on working voyages that have you following the course of the ship’s duties. While the length of the voyage (a week) is known upon booking, the exact sailing details are usually sent out about two weeks in advance and that includes the dates, times, and ports of embarkation and (usually different) disembarkation. Last-minute alterations can and do happen. Perhaps not until the sailing commences will you know the exact itinerary, and because of the weather or other circumstances, a complete change of course may be required. Accepting these uncertainties, the passenger response has been very positive. It’s living on a floating English country house at sea where most of the crew is engaged in maritime safety tasks.
Ship, Year Delivered & Passengers: THV PATRICIA (built 1982 & 12 passengers)
Passenger Profile: The dozen passengers are usually older and well-heeled British nationals. While there is no upper age limit, passengers must be able to climb and descend narrow, steep steps into and out of the work boat.
Passenger Decks: The accommodations are arranged on two decks.
Price: $$$. Super Pricey. Rates quoted are for the cabin (not per person) and for one week or two weeks. Passengers traveling alone will pay a single rate for the double cabin.
Included features: Wine with dinner.
Itineraries: The PATRICIA operates passenger-carrying voyages between mid-April and into the first week in October. Port calls will usually occur only at embarkation and disembarkation, and the regions accessed may be the East Coast and the North Sea; the South Coast and the English Channel, including the Channel Islands off the coast of France; the Southwest off Cornwall and in the Bristol Channel, and the West Coast of England and Wales in the Irish Sea. The coastline is often in view as are islands. N.B. The website shows the Draft Itinerary for an entire year. However, this is a guide only and circumstances may require the ship to respond to an urgent need elsewhere.
Why Go? Sailing aboard the PATRICIA is a unique experience that is not available anywhere else in the world, and if you can accept the uncertainties, the voyage could not be more comfortable nor provide a more relaxed social setting shared with fellow passengers and crew.
When to Go? Anytime during the six-month season that passengers are carried. Early and late season voyages are cooler and cold out on the water. Even summer months can be chilly on deck at all hours.
Cabins: The six cabins are all good-sized twin-bedded, windowed outsides with individual décor, lounge area, private facilities, including bath tub and shower, satellite TV, coffee/tea making facilities, Internet connections, and the very British amenity called a trouser press. Stateroom One is officially reserved for the Duke of Edinburgh and Stateroom Two for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
Public Rooms: The main lounge opens to an outside forward viewing deck for watching the ship approach the working locations and then the activities as they unfold. A helicopter landing deck at is the bow.
Dining: The passengers eat at one long table at set times and with a set menu. However, the food is very good British cooking by a chef dedicated to the passengers. Seating changes are encouraged so that everyone gets to meet one another. Service is formal and very attentive. Special dietary requirements are accepted with advance notice. Passengers tend to dress up a bit for dinner.
Activities & Entertainment: They are generally focused on watching the crew lifting and cleaning buoys and attending to and refueling lighthouses, all are now automated and unmanned. Lighthouses mark shoals, dangerous rocks or land masses such as islands and coastlines. Buoys mark safe shipping channels and navigational hazards including shipwrecks. The ship may also respond to emergencies. The bridge has an open policy allowing passengers to learn more about the ship’s activities and navigation in general.
Special Notes: If a change of crew is scheduled at the end of the voyage booked, the ship may arrive at the disembarkation port a day in advance, though you stay aboard until the following day. Be sure you can handle last-minute changes such as the embarking and disembarking ports and even an itinerary that involves working in a completely different region or regions.
If you might be interested in staying at a lighthouse cottage (separate from the lighthouse itself), the Trinity House website lists a dozen locations along the English coast and provides a link to the booking agent.
Along the Same Lines: One of a kind, nothing else like it.
Contacts: Trinity House, The Quay, Essex, Harwich CO 12 3JW England; www.trinityhouse.co.uk then click on Holidays +11 44 1255 245156 if phoning from outside the United Kingdom
Passenger bookings are made through: Wildwings (incorporating Strand Travel), Davis House, Lodge Causeway, Bristol BS16 3JB England; www.wildwings.co.uk 011 44 117 96 58333 (from outside the UK)