The Ferry service was first started in the late seventies by 'City Dock Venturers', who purchased and refurbished one small open boat; the local boat 'Margaret'; which had been the last operating Lamplighter / Pill ferry (connecting Shirehampton and Pill; either side of the River Avon) until the early 1970s.
'City Dock Venturers' raised the funds after a canny purchase of four cranes (still standing outside the old Industrial Museum now M Shed) to save them from demolition, then sold them back to the Council at a profit on a later date.
At that time the floating harbour had become the backwater of Bristol; no longer seen to be of value and with pollution levels far below par (and a large rat population to boot!). However, passion for the old harbour still ran through the City; feelings that it did have a future, despite no longer being the centre of trade in the city; and that it was a precious resource worth fighting for. In fact, feeling had been so strong in the 1960s that one individual travelled to London to successfully lobby parliament against a scheme to fill in the entire harbour and turn it into a major road scheme!
In 1978 Ian Bungard operated the ferryboat 'Margaret' for CDV and was asked if he would like to buy her. It operated as 'one man and his dog' (the famous 'Jango'; who was a huge character around the docks; even making headlines on the local news 'Points West' on his death!), and of course 'Margaret' too. Ian slowly built up the business and worked through all seasons; running private charters, a ferry service and even started a commuter service. His fleet grew too; collecting various vessels from different parts of the country, and; of course; additional staff. By the end of Ian's time with the company it was based on a dutch barge in the harbour (which he had personally sailed over from Amsterdam), and the ferry fleet had expanded to 5 boats; with Independence in 1981, 'Countess' (now with different owners and being rebuilt at The Underfall Yard, within the Harbour) in 1983, Emily in 1992 and the purpose built Matilda in 1997.
In 2002 the company was bought by Rob and Jane Salvidge. Over the next ten years while Ian and Philippa languished in the Spanish countryside growing olives and drinking wine, the Salvidges developed the business further and built the ferryboat 'Brigantia'
The range of trips has blossomed from the well-established 'Booze Cruise', river trips and Avon Gorge trade to include;a comprehensive curriculum-based educational commentary and interactive tours, wine-tasting cruises, pirate trips and hen dos. In addition the commuter service still delivers workers to and from home, daytime timetabled ferry services have increased dramatically, and the company works closely with many festivals and events that now grace the revitalised harbourside delivering visitors to the door.
In december 2012 unfortunate circumstances led to the Bristol Ferryboat Co going into liquidation and it was only through the determination not to lose Bristols iconic yellow and blue boats that we find ourselves in the situation we are in today.
Currently the boats are owned by a group of people who raised money to buy the boats at auction and who asked Ian and Philippa Bungard to once again take the helm.
The company will be run as a CBS (community benefit society) which will mean that we can continue to run the best ferry service for Bristol, its people and visitors alike.