Caesarea and her sister Sarnia, completed at the J. Samuel White shipyard at East Cowes on the Isle of Wight in 1960 and 1961, were notable 'end of an era' ships in a variety of ways. Not only were they the final passenger ferries to be built for the Channel Islands services, they were the last conventional (ie non-high speed) ferries of any type to be built for that market for 38 years, and most definitely the final steamships; after the rather unique Avalon of Harwich, the pair were the penultimate 'classic' British open sea railway passenger ships. They were by far the largest ferries that had been built at that time for the Islands, although their passenger capacity was just 1,400 in one class accommodation.

Based at Weymouth (rather than the traditional Southampton), the pair had little reason to depart from the route for which they were built, although
Caesarea had a spell running the Golden Arrow from Dover in the winter of 1965/66. The coming of the car ferry to the islands in 1973, albeit with the little converted Falaise, was a clear signal that there was little time left for Caesarea and Sarnia's classic-style of service. The end for Caesarea came in October 1975 when she made her final scheduled sailing to the islands. Sarnia continued until 1977 - replacements for the sisters and the decrepit Falaise came in the form of the car ferries Earl Godwin, Caledonian Princess and finally Earl William (in 1978).

Caesarea was not finished yet though - in an enterprising move, Sealink moved the ship to Dover and Folkestone from early 1976 to operate classic passenger sailings to Calais and Boulogne, in lieu of the retired Maid of Orleans of 1949. Sarnia was not so lucky, and after finishing at Weymouth in 1977, she was sold for ignominious service as Aquamart, a floating duty-free supermarket based at Oostende, a venture soon scuppered by unsympathetic Belgian customs officials. Caesarea meanwhile finally ended operations for Sealink on the Dover Strait after the 1980 season.

The destinies of the sisters after this is disappointingly shrouded in mystery. What is clear is that, despite lingering for some years, they ultimately headed for breakers far away from the English Channel within eight months of each other. It was
Sarnia which lasted slightly longer  - after the failed Aquamart venture, she passed to owners in Jeddah. Following spells as Golden Star and Saudi Golden Star, she was broken up in early 1987 on the beaches of Pakistan, miserable graveyard for hundreds of ships.

After completing her Sealink service
Caesarea was fairly quickly sold to Hong Kong interests, and in December 1980 she sailed to the far east under the name Aesarea. Brief service as a hotel ship appears to have followed and she was later taken to Japan for further use; but the ship was to finally end her days in the hands of Korean breakers, sailing to meet her doom in June 1986.
British Railways/BR-Sealink
ABOVE LEFT: A Sealink postcard of Caesarea again in BR livery.

ABOVE RIGHT: A rather later view of
Caesarea in her final Sealink years, creeping towards Dover harbour's Admiralty Pier stern-first. In the background (left) is the Saint Eloi in the old train ferry berth and (right) the new hoverport with one of the newly-stretched SRN-4s (The Princess Anne or The Princess Margaret) on the pad.
ABOVE: Caesarea berthed at Weymouth in the summer of 1967. In the foreground (right) is the Gipsy Moth, the sail boat in which Sir Francis Chichester had sailed alone around the world, returning to Plymouth in May 1967. The Gipsy Moth is now pemanently berthed in dry dock near Cutty Sark at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, but was then doing a tour around the south coast. Just about visible on the bottom left hand corner are some of the booms built to protect Weymouth Harbour from oil spilt by the Torrey Canyon. (Thanks to David Baker for the picture and the information).
BELOW: The Caesarea seen leaving Boulogne during her final years on the Dover Strait.
ABOVE: An early-1970s scene at Weymouth with the Caesarea alongside.
TOP: Caesarea (left) and Sarnia fitting out at the yard of their builders, J Samuel White in East Cowes.
ABOVE: Caesarea in her very first livery, the black hull and buff funnel colours of the old Southern Railway (the livery inherited and retained for 17 years by British Railways' Southern Region after nationalisation in 1948). The above picture reveals the rather 'heaped up' appearance of this class of ship, and an attempt was made to alleviate the look by stepping the hull paint up a deck level on the superstructure - this amendment to the ship's livery was made after she had carried out trials with this more traditional application.
ABOVE: Caesarea seen in British Rail livery, prior to the application of 'Sealink' titling - the picture therefore dates from the period 1966 to 1973.
Click for larger image
BELOW: Profile General Arrangement plan of Caesarea from the ship's introductory brochure. (Click for larger image)
ABOVE: The ship seen after the early amendment to her livery, but prior to the BR monastral blue hull being introduced in 1965/66.
BELOW: A similar view showing Caesarea and Caledonian Princess (both now in Sealink livery) berthed together at Weymouth in the mid-1970s.
ABOVE: Caesarea or Sarnia at Weymouth, still with the black hull colours.