I have used the chain ferry many time to cross the tidal River Medina which separates Cowes and East Cowes. The ferry crosses the river about every 10 to 15 minutes running from very early in the morning until late at night.
The Chain Ferry operates between the East and West banks of the river by hauling on two chains, each approximately 165m long which span across the estuary and are permanently attached to both river banks.
It is the only way to cross the river without taking a ten mile journey upstream via Newport.
The first floating bridge between East Cowes and Cowes was established in 1859 and has been owned and operated by the Isle of Wight Council since 1909. The vessel in my photograph is the fifth vessel the Council have used and the eighth ferry to be used on this service, she was built in 1975 and can carry up to 20 cars.
Before the chain ferries a rowing boat ferry operated across the river. This service was owned and operated by the Roberton family from 1720 to 1859. From 1842 animals and other large items were transported across using a pontoon which was winched across under horse power.
In 1859 the Floating Bridge Company was formed which bought the ferry rights.
In 1868 the ferry was bought by The Steam Packet Company who put a new ferry into service in 1882. This was used until 1896 when another vessel was acquired.
When the route was taken over by the local authority in 1909 a new ferry was put into service named Bridge No.1, this vessel is noted as being significantly better than its predecessors being constructed from steel with powered ramps and electric lighting.
In 1925 Bridge No.2 was built, this was the the last steam powered vessels and the largest ferry up to that point that had operated on the route being 30m long and able to carry eight cars.
Bridge No.3 was built and arrived in 1936, this was the first diesel-electric powered vessel.
Bridge No.4 entered service in 1952 with a capacity for 12 cars. This was used until 1975 when the current vessel - Bridge No.5 arrived with a capacity of up to 20 cars.