The car ferry port of Ramsgate first saw operation in 1980 when a new company, Dunkerque-Ramsgate Ferries, backed by the founder of Olau Line Ole Lauritzen, operated the former CGT/SNCM ferry Fred Scamaroni as the Nuits Saint Georges.
As can be seen in the brochure for that one-off season, DRF offerred a variety of special offers to entice passengers on board, with ‘Gourmet trips’ including lunch at a “gourmet restaurant in a French village” (Â£12), Disco Trips on Thursday afternoons (non-landing, Â£8 including Â£5 onboard voucher) and
‘Sunday Tea-Dance Trips’ (Â£8 again). However, with Ramsgate not entirely ready for such an operation at that stage and the ship not entirely suitable, the service ended in failure with the Nuits Saint Georges ultimately arrested due to unpaid debts.
Despite this failure, Ramsgate’s potential was recognised by Finnish shipowners Rederi AB Sally, the most expansion-minded of Viking Line’s three founder companies. With spare tonnage available from their core operations, the Viking 5, last of the Viking Line ‘Papenburgers’, was renamed The Viking and deployed on the same route which operated under the brand name Sally The Viking Line. Shown here is the French brochure for that initial season, which was interrupted by a serious engine room explosion on board the ship in August. That did not prevent the service’s success however and Sally would become a familiar name on the English Channel for the next 17 years.
The two ships shown have met with different fates – the Nuits Saint Georges never sailed for another European operator and was sold to Egyptian owners. Operating under the name Salem Express she was lost when sailing between Jeddah and Suez in 1991 with the loss of, officially, 470 lives. The wreck today remains, and a video of a dive on it can be seen here.
Sally’s first The Viking ultimately passed to COMARIT in 1988 and has sailed for the company ever since between Algeciras in Spain and Tangier in Morocco as the Boughaz.