Ryde made her first appearance of the 1963 season on the Portsmouth/Ryde ferry service on Saturday 6th July having had a protracted and unexpectedly expensive refit which included replacing several of her hull plates.
With Whippingham having been towed away for scrap in May that left just three diesel vessels Shanklin, Southsea and Brading, plus the two paddle steamers Sandown and Ryde to cope with the peak summer Saturday sailings when more than 15,000 passengers had to be shifted to and from Portsmouth, Southsea and Ryde.
Sandown and Ryde were both in service on summer Saturdays to help cope with this rush and on Sundays one of them ran the tripper service between Clarence Pier, Southsea and Ryde whilst the other provided relief sailings on the main ferry between Portsmouth and Ryde.
During the rest of the week they generally alternated with one lying over as standby vessel at Portsmouth and the other covering the afternoon runs between Clarence Pier and Ryde on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays while one of the three diesel vessels was off running an afternoon excursion to view Southampton Docks.
These two paddle steamers always looked to me to be a bit unloved in the 1960s and lacked the polish and sparkle generally found with, say, the ships of the Cosens’s fleet. The bridge telegraphs were painted grey. The decks were dirty. The engine rooms looked on the wrong side of filthy. You can get an idea of what it was like from this picture of Sandown’s engine. In her last few years Ryde had her connecting rods and other moving parts painted grey but that made for no improvement as a layer of dust and grease soon settled on them to take the edge off any appearance of cleanliness.
By this stage in their careers none of the Portsmouth fleet had sea-going Class III Passenger Certificates but operated instead on Class IV and V PCs for service on “Partially Smooth” and “Smooth Waters” as defined by the Board of Trade within the Solent and Southampton Water. All they did was run between Portsmouth, Southsea and Ryde with the very occasional variation of being rostered for an afternoon cruise to Southampton Docks. And for the two paddlers this was indeed a rare event.
Sandown and Ryde remained coal fired for the whole of their careers and bunkered alongside the coal barge in Portsmouth Harbour.