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Dorset Belles
J.Bolson & Sons - Croson Ltd - Dorset Cruises
Page 2: 1965-2008
 
 
This page is one of a series devoted to photographs and postcards of Bournemouth-based Dorset Cruises, previously Dorset Belles, Bolsons then Crosons. They operated services from Bournemouth to Swanage, Poole, Yarmouth etc. This page covers the period from 1965-2008. Dorset Belles Page 1 covers the period from 1900-1964. Dorset Belles Page 3 covers publicity material issued by the company (under construction).
 
To sail on these boats contact:- www.dorsetcruises.co.uk
 
The 2005 fleet consisted of Dorset Belle, Poole Belle (2) and Bournemouth Belle, but Poole Belle (2) was sold to Forth Boat Tours before the 2006 season, for cruises from Queensferry. The two remaining boats Dorset Belle and Bournemouth Belle were offered for sale at the end of the 2008 season.
 
 
Brief History of the Dorset Belles
Bournemouth became a fashionable resort in the mid-1800s, and became more popular with the arrival of the railway in 1870. The town had its first jetty in 1856, and the first pleasure steamers called in 1861. Paddle steamers dominated long distance excursions until the 1950s, but there were also smaller local boats running from portable beach jetties, and the provision of these was dominated by the Bolson family and their successors from around the turn of the century.
 
John Henry Bolson first acquired a license to offer rowing boats for hire from the beach in 1900, and was soon joined in the business by his two sons Jake and Charlie. Jake later decided to set up on his own, and soon had a larger fleet than his father.
 
The first recorded motor boat at Bournemouth was in 1907, and Jake Bolson received permission to operate one from the in 1913. This was the Skylark, and commenced trips around the bay carrying 12 passengers in 1914. Skylark resumed service after the war in 1919, and from 1920 she could be operated from beach using a portable landing stage. She was joined by Skylark 2 that year and Skylark was renamed as Skylark 1. Skylark 2 was larger, being 30 feet long and carrying 38 passengers. Two further launches Skylark 3 and Skylark 4 followed in 1921, Skylark 4 being larger again at 40 feet and 68 passengers. Skylark 3 was renamed Skylark 1 in 1922, when a new Skylark 3 and Skylark 5 were delivered. Further vessels were acquired over the years, culminating with Skylark 10 in 1936. From 1928, a series of 12 speedboats were also operated named Speedlark to Speedlark 9 (these had short lives and some numbers were repeated), the last being delivered in 1938.
 
Jake Bolson and Son became a limited company in 1930, as was the associated Skylark Shipyard. Skylark 8, Skylark 9 and Skylark 10 were built by his company, the last of these being their first diesel (which was soon replaced with petrol due to noise problems). The small open Skylarks were unsuited to some of the longer cruises being operated by this time, and so two of the launches were replaced by larger motor vessels with covered accommodation. These arrived in 1936 and 1937 and were named Titlark 1 and Titlark 2. These were 70 feet long and carried 150 passengers. They eventually passed to Thames Launches as Okra and Oleander after the war.
 
During the 1939-45 war, the Bolson shipyard was extremely busy building vessels for the war effort. Trips resumed after war in August 1945. Because of delays in getting the larger competing paddle steamers of Cosens and Red Funnel back into service after war service, and problems with Bournemouth Pier, Bolson converted three landing craft into makeshift excursion boats carrying 271 passengers. These were named Bournemouth Skylark 4, 5 & 6, and were used on longer services to Swanage, Poole etc. They were offered for sale in August 1946 once paddle steamers could again call at the pier.
 
A new jetty was completed in 1948, and two new excursion boats, Bournemouth Belle (1) and Poole Belle (1), joined the fleet. Built at Bolson's yard, they were 72 feet long, carried 150 passengers, and were powered by Gray Marine diesels driving twin screws. They were updated versions of the pre-war Titlarks. In the same year, an ex-Admiralty 112 foot Fairmile 'B' launch was converted to carry 250 passengers as the Channel Belle. She had twin dummy funnels and two masts, but was sold after 2 seasons. By this time, Jake Bolson was being assisted by his son-in-law Richard Crosby. Also in 1948, competition arrived in the form of the Poole and Solent Navigation Company , who ran three Fairmile 'B' motor launches named Anzio, Dunkirk and Matapan from Poole to Swanage and the Isle of Wight. These vessels, Anzio, Dunkirk and Matapan, were acquired by Bolsons in 1952, although Anzio was resold immediately and not used by Bolsons. All the small Skylark launches were withdrawn, leaving Bournemouth Belle (1), Poole Belle (1), Dunkirk and Matapan in the fleet. Dunkirk and Matapan retained their blue hulls, whilst the Bolson boats had white hulls. Their funnels were buff, with the letters 'JB' on a black-bordered white diamond, superimposed on red, white and blue bands.
 
A new company was formed in 1958 to take over the four motor vessels of J.Bolson and Sons. The new company was named Croson Limited, The name being a combination of the names Crosby and Bolson. The initial 'C' replaced the previous 'JB' on funnels, but colours were otherwise unchanged. Dunkirk was sold the same year.
 
The decline in the Cosens fleet of paddle steamers (owned by Red Funnel since 1946) meant that only Embassy survived in 1961, and she concentrated on Bournemouth-Isle of Wight services, rather than the Swanage ferry. Crosons began a joint service with Cosens between Bournemouth and Swanage, with Matapan generally taking trips from Monday to Saturday, and Cosens' Embassy working on Sundays. For the 1962 season, another Fairmile 'B', the Silver Commodore, was acquired from Commodore Shipping of Guernsey. She was renamed Swanage Belle and had a black hull. Competition was faced from the paddle steamers Swanage Queen (ex-Freshwater) in 1961, and Princess Elizabeth in 1962. Poole Belle (1) was sold after the 1963 season, and Bournemouth Belle (1) followed in 1967.
 
Cosens paddle steamer Embassy was withdrawn before the 1967 season, and Crosons acquired the 1948 Bridlington motor vessel Thornwick to replace her. She could carry 305-335 passengers on Class III/Class IV certificates, and operated trips to Totland Bay and Yarmouth in the Isle of Wight. Croson now had a monopoly of Bournemouth pleasure services. Thornwick was extensively refitted before the 1968 season. However, she proved too slow for the Isle of Wight runs, at only 10/11 knots, and Croson acquired the Coronia from Scarborough. She could carry 452 passengers and had a speed of 12 knots. The fleet was renamed with Coronia and Thornwick becoming the Bournemouth Queen and Swanage Queen, and Matapan and Swanage Belle were renamed Poole Belle (2) and Wessex Belle. Also in 1968, the hovercraft HM2 003 competed between Bournemouth and Swanage for two months. Croson ran trials with the Denny sidewall D2 002 but decided she was not suitable for local conditions.
 
The Swanage Queen was laid up for the 1970 season, and was sold in December. Isle of Wight services were concentrated on Yarmouth only. The Fairmile launches covered Swanage Queen's Bournemouth-Swanage trips. Hovercraft again appeared as competition between 1970-1973, with International Hoverservices Ltd running the HM2 craft numbers 012 and 005.
 
In the mid-1970s the fleet was getting old, and three new vessels were built by J.Bolson & Sons: Dorset Belle (1974 - 81 feet - 178 passengers), Bournemouth Belle (1975 - 86 feet - 228 passengers) and Poole Belle (3) (1977 - 93 feet - 250 passengers). Swanage pier was closed in 1983, and Dorset Belle was sold. She was re-acquired in 1997. These three vessels have maintained services since, until Poole Belle (3) was sold in 2006 for services on the  Firth of Forth with Forth Boat Tours where she was renamed Forth Belle. There were reports in 2007 that the company was again available for sale. Services ran in 2008
 
For details of cruises contact the company directly at: www.dorsetcruises.co.uk
 
 
Dorset Belles Pages:-
Dorset Belles Page 1 - Fleet history 1900-1964
Dorset Belles Page 2 - Fleet history 1964-2008
Dorset Belles Page 3 - Publicity Material
 
Boats on this Page:-
Bournemouth Belle (2) (1975-2008)
Bournemouth Queen (1968-1973)
Dorset Belle (1974-1983, 1997-2008)
Poole Belle (3) (1977-2008)
Swanage Queen (1968-1970) - ex-Thornwick
Thornwick (1967-1968) - renamed Swanage Queen
 
Boats on Dorset Belles Page 1:-
Anzio (1952) - not used in service
Bournemouth Belle (1) (1948-1967)
Bournemouth Skylark 4 (1946)
Bournemouth Skylark 5 (1946)
Bournemouth Skylark 6 (1946)
Channel Belle (1948-1949)
HMS Decibel - intended to be Bournemouth Belle - 1951)
Dunkirk (1952-1958)
Matapan (1952-1968) - renamed Poole Belle (2)
Poole Belle (1) (1948-1964)
Poole Belle (2) (1968-1977) - ex-Matapan
Silver Commodore (1962) - renamed Swanage Belle
Skylark 1-9 launches
Skylark 1 (1946-1947)
Skylark 10 (1936)
Speedlark 1-9 speedboats
Swanage Belle (1962-1968) - renamed Wessex Belle
Titlark 1 (1936-1939)
Titlark 2 (1937-1939, 1947-1948)
Wessex Belle (1968-1973) ex-Swanage Belle
 
Dorset Area Pages:-
Poole Header Page
Blue Line Cruises
Brownsea Island Ferries
R.C.Greenslade
Sandbanks Ferry
Solent Steam Packet Ltd - SS Shieldhall
 
Associated Pages:-
www.dorsetcruises.co.uk - Details of cruises
Fairmile 'B' Header Page - List of Fairmile 'B' launches used in the UK
UK Excursion Ships
Ferry Postcards
Cruise Ship Postcards
Ocean Liner Postcards
Simplon Postcards - Recent Updates
Simplon Postcards - Home Page
 
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References:-
Any more for the Skylark? - Written and published by David L.Chalk - 1980 (The Story of Bournemouth's Pleasure Boats)
Trip Out Guides - Written and published by G.P.Hamer - various editions from 1977 to 2008 consulted
Trip Out Guides are available from Geoffrey Hamer, PO Box 485, Southall, UB1 9BH
 
 
 
Table of Ship Histories
Name
Other names
 Built
 Bournemouth Belle  
 1975
 Bournemouth Queen  Coronia (1), Queen of Scots, Rochester Queen (4)
 1935
 Dorset Belle  Island Adventure, Ryde Scene
 1974









Dorset Belles
J.Bolson & Sons - Croson Ltd - Dorset Cruises
Page 2: 1965-2008
 
 
 
Thornwick (1967-1968)
Swanage Queen (1968-1970)
 
Cosens paddle steamer Embassy was withdrawn before the 1967 season, and Crosons acquired the 1948 Bridlington motor vessel Thornwick to replace her. She could carry 305-335 passengers on Class III/Class IV certificates, and operated trips from Bournemouth to Totland Bay and Yarmouth in the Isle of Wight. Thornwick was extensively refitted before the 1968 season. However, she proved too slow for the Isle of Wight runs, at only 10/11 knots, and Crosons acquired the Coronia from Scarborough. Thornwick was renamed Swanage Queen, and was used on ferry runs from Bournemouth to Swanage Pier. She was withdrawn at the end of the 1969 season, replaced by smaller craft in the Croson fleet, and was sold to Meridian Line in December 1970. Meridian Line were based in Greenwich, and Swanage Queen ran charters from Greenwich and Westminster, and was licensed to travel as far as Southend. She was fitted with additional covered accommodation, which spoilt her appearance.
 
 
Thornwick in service at Bridlington, as built with two funnels.
 
 
Thornwick in service at Bridlington, as built with two funnels.
 
 
J.Arthur Dixon card PDO/23994 of Swanage Queen at Bournemouth Pier.
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Swanage Queen in service with Meridian Line at Southend Pier.
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Swanage Queen in use as a houseboat at Hoo Marina, River Medway.
Photo: © Ian Boyle, 10th June 2006
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Swanage Queen in use as a houseboat at Hoo Marina, River Medway.
Photo: © Ian Boyle, 10th June 2006
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Coronia (1968)
Bournemouth Queen (1968-1974)
 
In 1935, a formidable competitor to Royal Lady arrived at Scarborough in the form of the Coronia (1), built by Warren's New Holland Shipyard on the Humber Estuary. Although of similar layout to the 1934 Royal Lady, she only had one funnel, which was positioned too far aft for symmetry. Coronia (1) was owned by Jack Ellis, and her original livery was a yacht-like white, later with a pale yellow funnel. She had a gross tonnage of 227 and an overall length of 130 ft, and carried 475 passengers on a Class 3 Certificate. Her engines were supplied by the National Gas & Oil Company of Ashton-under-Lyme, a company not normally associated with marine installations. She was capable of 13.5 knots, a lot faster than her initial competitor Royal Lady. In 1937, Coronia (1) reappeared with two funnels like her competitor. These were initially pale (yellow?) in colour, but later became red with a black top. In 1938 she had a more equal competitor in the New Royal Lady, which matched her is size and speed. However, in pre-war years there was more than enough custom for two such fine vessels.
 
During the war Coronia (1) served as HMS Coronia, in the Humber, Scotland and on the South Coast, latterly as part of Force Pluto which laid and maintained the cross-channel oil pipelines. She was refitted in 1945, returning to Scarborough in July of that year. The dummy funnel had been removed during the war. Coronia's colours were now modelled on the Union-Castle Line, with a lavender hull and retaining the red and black funnel (although I do not have a card in this condition). The funnel later became a paler colour (yellow?). Her first post-war competition did not arrive until 1951, when the Yorkshire Lady arrived. The same year saw the death of Jack Ellis, and the sale of Coronia (1) to Jack Johnson, who owned her with his son Martin until 1966. She was given an attractive new colour scheme with a pale blue funnel and black top, separated by a broad white band. The hull was white with red boot topping. Further competition arrived in 1952, in the form of the Regency Belle, which had run at Brighton in 1951, and moved to Torquay for the 1955 season. In 1954 the Regal Lady had joined the others at Scarborough, which had four excursion ships for this season only.
 
Coronia was placed on the sales list in 1966, and was sold to Croson Ltd of Bournemouth. She left Scarborough in May 1968, becoming the Bournemouth Queen. She operated cruises from Poole via Bournemouth to the Isle of Wight and occasionally Southampton. Bournemouth Queen was sold again in 1973 to Sir Robert McAlpine, for use as the ferry Queen of Scots between Rothesay and the oil rig construction site at Ardyne Point, work which continued until June 1977. On 15th July 1977, the paddle steamer Waverley ran aground off Dunoon, and was withdrawn for repairs. Queen of Scots was chartered to maintain services for the season. The following years Queen of Scots continued Clyde cruising under the ownership of B&B Cruising, but this company was forced into bankruptcy in 1980.
 
In 1982, the London restaurateur David Law purchased the laid up Queen of Scots and moved under tow to Gravesend where she was refitted as the Rochester Queen (4). Her engines were removed at this time, and are now in the Science Museum in London. The restaurant failed in 1993, and Rochester Queen (4) was sold the following year and moved to the Medway Yacht Club as a floating club house.
 
Bournemouth Queen at Bournemouth Pier
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Bournemouth Queen at Yarmouth Pier
Photo: Terry Creswell - Scan: Chris Wood
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Bournemouth Queen at Swanage Pier
Photo: Chris Phillips - Scan: Chris Wood
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Bournemouth Queen at Totland Pier
Photo: Terry Creswell - Scan: Chris Wood
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Bournemouth Queen at Swanage Pier
Photo: Chris Phillips - Scan: Chris Wood
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Bournemouth Queen
Photo: Chris Phillips - Scan: Chris Wood
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Bournemouth Queen at Swanage
Photo: Chris Phillips - Scan: Chris Wood
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Bournemouth Queen National Oil engines
Photo: Chris Phillips - Scan: Chris Wood
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Dorset Belle (1974-1983, 1997- )
 
In the mid-1970s the fleet was getting old, and three new vessels were built by J.Bolson & Sons, the first being Dorset Belle in 1974. She is 81 feet long and carries 178 passengers. The Dorset Belle was chartered to Mursell & Kemp of Sandown for the 1983 season following the closure of Swanage Pier. She was purchased by them in the autumn and renamed Island Enterprise in January 1984. Mr Kemp retired after the 1994 season (I do not know if the Mursell family was still involved) and she was sold to Wight Line Cruises and renamed Ryde Scene. She was used mainly for Portsmouth Harbour cruises for two seasons, then sold back to Croson and resumed sailing as the Dorset Belle in 1997. Dorset Belle remains in the 2007 fleet.
 
More images of Dorset Belle
 
A.Duncan photographic card of Dorset Belle.
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Island Enterprise (ex-Dorset Belle) when sailing for Mursell & Kemp.
Photo: Ian Boyle
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Island Enterprise


Island Enterprise (ex-Dorset Belle) when sailing for Mursell & Kemp.
Passing the Pride of Bilbao at Portsmouth.
Photo: Ian Boyle
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Island Enterprise (ex-Dorset Belle) when sailing for Mursell & Kemp.
Passing the Pride of Bilbao at Portsmouth.
Photo: Ian Boyle
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The Dorset Belles fleet at Poole in 2006 - from left:Bournemouth Belle, Poole Belle and Dorset Belle
Photo: Peter Lamb, 6th August 2006
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Dorset Belles Fleet - Photo:  Peter Lamb


Dorset Belle at Brownsea Island
Scan: Susan Whitton
 
 
Photos of Dorset Belle at Poole being prepared for the 2006 season.
Photo: © Ian Boyle, 22nd April 2006
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Dorset Belle at Brownsea Island Pier.
Photo: © Ian Boyle, 31st May 2006
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Dorset Belle at Brownsea Island Pier.
Photo: © Ian Boyle, 31st May 2006
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Dorset Belle at Brownsea Island Pier.
Photo: © Ian Boyle, 31st May 2006
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Dorset Belle approaching the Studland-Sandbanks ferry.
Photo: © Ian Boyle, 31st May 2006
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Dorset Belle approaching the Studland terminal of the ferry to Sandbanks.
Photo: © Ian Boyle, 31st May 2006
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Dorset Belle passing Sandbanks.
Photo: © Ian Boyle, 1st June 2006
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Dorset Belle at Poole
Photo: Ian Boyle, 11th July 2009
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Dorset Belle at Poole


Dorset Belle at Poole
Photo: Ian Boyle, 11th July 2009
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Dorset Belle at Poole


The 2009 Dorset Cruises fleet at Poole - Dorset Belle and Bournemouth Belle
Photo: Ian Boyle, 11th July 2009
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Dorset Belles Fleet - Photo:  Ian Boyle, 11th July 2009






Bournemouth Belle (2) (1975- )
 
In the mid-1970s the fleet was getting old, and three new vessels were built by J.Bolson & Sons: Dorset Belle (1974 - 81 feet - 178 passengers), Bournemouth Belle (1975 - 86 feet - 228 passengers) and Poole Belle (3) (1977 - 93 feet - 250 passengers). Bournemouth Belle remains in the 2007 fleet.
 
More images of Bournemouth Belle
 
 
Photo Precision Colourmaster card BOU123/PLX2901 of Bournemouth Belle at Bournemouth Pier.
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J.Arthur Dixon aerial card PDO/23679 of Bournemouth Belle at Bournemouth Pier.
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Bournemourh Belle and QE2 at the 50th D-Day anniversary in June 1994
Photo: Peter Lamb
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Bournemouth Belle & QE2- Photo:  Peter Lamb 1994


The Dorset Belles fleet at Poole in 2006 - from left:Bournemouth Belle, Poole Belle and Dorset Belle
Photo: Peter Lamb, 6th August 2006
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Dorset Belles Fleet - Photo:  Peter Lamb


Bournemouth Belle leaving Bournemouth Pier
Scan: Susan Whitton
 
 
 
Photos of Bournemouth Belle passing Brownsea Island
Photo: © Ian Boyle, 22nd April 2006
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Photos of Bournemouth Belle passing Brownsea Island
Photo: © Ian Boyle, 22nd April 2006
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Bournemouth Belle at Poole
Photo: © Ian Boyle, 1st June 2006
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Bournemouth Belle at Poole
Photo: © Ian Boyle, 1st June 2006
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Bournemouth Belle between Swanage and Poole
Photo: © Ian Boyle, 1st June 2006
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The 2009 Dorset Cruises fleet at Poole - Dorset Belle and Bournemouth Belle
Photo: Ian Boyle, 11th July 2009
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Dorset Belles Fleet - Photo:  Ian Boyle, 11th July 2009






Poole Belle (3) (1977-2006)
 
In the mid-1970s the fleet was getting old, and three new vessels were built by J.Bolson & Sons: Dorset Belle (1974 - 81 feet - 178 passengers), Bournemouth Belle (1975 - 86 feet - 228 passengers) and Poole Belle (3) (1977 - 93 feet - 250 passengers). Swanage pier was closed in 1983, and Dorset Belle was sold. She was re-acquired in 1997. These three vessels have maintained services since, until Poole Belle (3) was sold in 2006 for services on the Firth of Forth with Forth Boat Tours where she was renamed Forth Belle.
 
 
Poole Belle (3) at Bournemouth Pier
Scan: Susan Whitton
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Poole Belle and with the QE2 passing QM2
Photo: Peter Lamb
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Poole Belle, QE2 & QM2 - Photo:  Peter Lamb


The Dorset Belles fleet at Poole in 2006 - from left:Bournemouth Belle, Poole Belle and Dorset Belle
Photo: Peter Lamb, 6th August 2006
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Dorset Belles Fleet - Photo:  Peter Lamb


Forth Belle (ex-Poole Belle) at South Queensferry
Photo: © Peter Lamb, 2nd August 2009
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Forth Belle - Photo:  Peter Lamb, 2nd August 2009






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