THE ST CHRISTOPHER STORY
PART ONE: DOVER, 1980-1990
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The St Christopher was completed in 1981 as one of the two new British ships for the Dover-Calais service of the Sealink pool, operating alongside her sister St Anselm and the French Côte d'Azur. The ‘Christopher’, heavily delayed in construction at the struggling Harland & Wolff shipyard in Belfast, was unexpectedly diverted on her delivery voyage south, with stints of relief work at Holyhead and nearly a month at Fishguard before being finally released to her unimpressed local management at Dover in mid-April 1981. The sisters and the ‘Côte’, later joined by the second French ship, Champs Elysees, remained at the core of Sealink’s operations for the remainder of the decade, through privatisation in 1984, although both British ships were significantly upgraded on seemingly an annual basis to better equip them to meet demand on the fast-developing route for which they were built (but, it seems, for which they were never entirely well-suited for).

The night of the ‘Great Storm’ on 15/16 October 1987 saw the
St Christopher very nearly lost when violent seas broke open her upper vehicle deck door, overturning cargo and water could be found flowing down the passenger stairwells to the lower garage. There were to be no major operations changes however until 1990 when the arrival of the rebuilt Fantasia saw sister St Anselm move over to the Folkestone-Boulogne crossing, with the St Christopher remaining on her original route for one more season. [text continues on page 2]
Above: The four ships of the Saint class being worked on at the Belfast yard of Harland & Wolff during 1980. From top to bottom, St David, St Anselm, St Christopher and Galloway Princess. Click the picture for a larger image. Courtesy Andrew Orr
Above & below: Two images of the launch of the St Christopher on 20 March 1980. As with the launch of the St Anselm four months previously, the launching was postponed by gale force winds: although the naming ceremony, performed by the BBC 'Blue Peter' presenter Tina Heath went ahead on the 18 March, the ship did not actually hit the water until two days later.
Click for larger image
Above: An official Sealink card for new St Christopher showing her during her brief initial operation on the Fishguard-Rosslare run in March/April 1981.
Above: The official Sealink portrait of the newly-delivered St Christopher in April 1981. Picture courtesy Andrew Orr
Above: In preparation for the privatisation of Sealink UK (which eventually happened in June 1984), ships of the fleet lost their BR double arrow logos in the early part of that year. This view of the St Christopher shows her heading towards Dover after this change, and also demonstrates the additional superstructure aft added in the ship's extended refit back at the yard of her builders in 1982/83. It can also be seen how the forward bulwark has been painted monostral blue to distinguish the ship from her sister.
Above: The St Christopher in 1985 or 1986, wearing the new Sealink British Ferries livery, but prior to the infilling of the windows in the stern superstructure extension which happened when the shopping facilities were further extended in the Winter 1986/87 refits.
Above & below: Two views of the St Christopher berthed at Dover in the late 1980s.
Above: The St Christopher and Côte d'Azur at Calais with the Gare Maritime beyond, in a detail from a larger picture also featuring Fiesta and Fantasia (i.e. the complete Sealink Dover-Calais fleet of 1990). The full original can be seen here and graced the cover of the 1991 French Sealink (SNAT) brochure.