Blast from the past: Sealink’s Hengist & Horsa

29 April 2012 marks 40 years to the day since the launch of Sealink’s Hengist and Horsa, the purpose-built ferries delivered in the summer of 1972 by the naval shipyard in Brest. The sister ships saw service, primarily from their Folkestone home, until the final closure of the Folkestone-Boulogne route at the end of 1991. Thereafter, both forged remarkably successful new careers in the Aegean, where they remain in year-round operation as the Agios Georgios (Ventouris Sea Lines) and Penelope A (Agoudimos Lines).

A third, slightly modified, later sister, the Senlac, was scrapped in 2010.

In this entry we take a look back at the ships’ British careers through Sealink promotional material produced over their near two decades of service.

The building dock in Brest showing the lower hull of the Hengist.

The building dock in Brest showing the lower hull of the Hengist.

One of the SEMT-Pielstick main engines is craned into place.

One of the SEMT-Pielstick main engines is craned into place.

The Horsa and Hengist near to the launch date.

The Horsa (left) and Hengist.

The cover of the shipyard's brochure commemorating the Hengist, Horsa and Senlac.

The cover of the shipyard's brochure commemorating the Hengist, Horsa and Senlac.

Cover of a menu for lunch and dinner as served on the Hengist's three-day trials. Main courses included 'Cabillaud à la portugaise' and 'Jambon braisé à la Florentine'.

Cover of a menu for lunch and dinner as served on the Hengist's three-day trials. Main courses included 'Cabillaud à la Portugaise' and 'Jambon braisé à la Florentine'.

The equivalent for the Horsa: 'Poulet à l'Américaine' and 'Côte de porc sautée' were the highlights.

The equivalent for the Horsa: 'Poulet à l'Américaine' and 'Côte de porc sautée' were the highlights.

The brand-new Hengist.

The brand-new Hengist.

Contemporary coverage of the Hengist's press voyage.

Contemporary coverage of the Hengist's press voyage.

The Horsa arriving at Boulogne.

The Horsa arriving at Boulogne.

An aerial view of the car ferry terminal at Folkestone, with one of the sisters on the berth. This image dates from after the construction of the first section of the Hotel Burstin (the tall white building on the far right) in 1974/75 but before the demolition of the frontage of its predecessor, the old Royal Pavilion hotel, in whose grounds the rather brutal 'Burstin' had been built.

An aerial view of the car ferry terminal at Folkestone, with one of the sisters on the berth. This image dates from after the construction of the first section of the Hotel Burstin (the tall white building on the far right) in 1974/75 but before the demolition of the frontage of its predecessor, the old Royal Pavilion hotel, in whose grounds the rather brutal 'Burstin' had been built.

The introduction of the Hengist and Horsa also saw the start of freight runs from Folkestone to Oostende.

The introduction of the Hengist and Horsa also saw the start of freight runs from Folkestone to Oostende.

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The standard Sealink restaurant menu for continental traffic in 1972 - as served in the A Deck restaurant when the Hengist and Horsa entered service.

The standard Sealink restaurant menu for continental traffic in 1972 - as served in the A Deck restaurant when the Hengist and Horsa entered service.

A photoreport of a trip to Boulogne on the Horsa in the 1975 Sealink brochure.

A photoreport of a trip on the Horsa in the 1975 Sealink brochure.

The ships starred in a spot the difference competition run by Sealink in regional newspapers in 1979 - nearly 30,000 people entered.

The ships starred in a spot the difference competition run by Sealink in regional newspapers in 1979 - nearly 30,000 people entered.

By 1986, the Folkestone-Calais and Folkestone-Oostende sailings had ceased and Folkestone was left with sailings only to Boulogne. The Hengist and Horsa were paired with the Vortigern until that ship's sale in early 1988.

By 1986, the Folkestone-Calais and Folkestone-Oostende links had ceased and Folkestone was left with sailings only to Boulogne. The Hengist and Horsa, now in white Sealink British Ferries livery, were paired with the Vortigern until that ship's sale in early 1988.

One final high profile appearance in marketing material was this image of the Horsa on the cover of early editions of the 1986 Sealink brochure.

One final high profile appearance in marketing material was this image of the Horsa on the cover of early editions of the 1986 Sealink brochure.

1991 Folkestone-Boulogne ferry guide - the route closed at the end of the year.

1991 Folkestone-Boulogne ferry guide - the route closed at the end of the year.

5 Comments

  • By Matt, June 15, 2012 @ 9:15 pm

    Great memories from living in folkestone in the early 80’s
    thanks

  • By Capt N.J Gillibrand MN (Ret'd), September 4, 2012 @ 10:45 am

    I was Master of both the Hengist and Horsa and actually moved the Horsa from Folkestone to the Admiralty Pier after her last official voyage on the Channel service. When Stena took over my crew, my ship and myself were made redundant with 1,500 other employees of Sealink British Ferries.Most of my crew found work on the railways as the Seaman’s Union and the Railway Union had amalgamated a few years before. That I found a great comfort as Kent was in a deep recesion.
    Those were very happy days and quite a challenge in adverse weather conditions.

  • By Jeannette Hellwich, November 19, 2012 @ 6:27 pm

    Good old memories. Me, a Dutch girl working on the horsa, in 1989, got friends with Sara Holmes, still friends with her. Had a great time on the Horsa and a great stay in the UK. Do miss it sometimes!

  • By Paul Armstrong, April 27, 2013 @ 11:59 pm

    Remember the vessels well, my father was a transport policeman based in the harbour, still remember one of my favorite skippers Mike O’burn, big chap, great laugh, miss those times going on board!

  • By Kevin Hopper, May 2, 2013 @ 4:24 pm

    Im now 55 years old i worked for Brian Yeardley Continentel as a driver when i was 21 and we shipped folkestone -Boulogne with Sealink all the time, great memories fantastic friendly crew and shore staff. fond memories of the Hengist sitting it out in bad weather off Folkestone for eight hours one trip!

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