Not only is Red Funnel the original Isle of Wight ferry service, but its roots reach back more than 200 years.

It provides vital transportation links between the Isle of Wight and the mainland, and the distinctive red funnels have become an iconic symbol of the crossing.

Chaos ensued recently as the company experienced technical issues with both Red Jet 7 and 6, the hi-speed passenger services. However, this is a blemish on the long and mostly unwavering service of the last two centuries.

It all began when the Isle of Wight Royal Mail Steam Packet Company was launched in 1820, offering the first steamer service between Cowes and Southampton.

Six years later and Southampton established its own ferry service, the Isle of Wight Steam Packet Company.

The two companies began collaborating and introduced a joint timetable in 1828. They ran together harmoniously without opposition for more than thirty years.

Isle of Wight County Press: Norris Castle for Red Funnel fleet. July 7, 1948.

The emergence of a competitor in 1860, the Southampton, Isle of Wight and Portsmouth Improved Steamboat Company prompted the two existing operators to merge in 1861.

The merger formed The Southampton Isle of Wight and South of England Royal Mail Steam Packet Company Limited, a formal name that held the record for the longest registered company name in the UK.

The trading name Red Funnel Steamers was adopted in 1935, inspired by the red funnels with black tops sported by all their ships at the time. The name was later shortened to Red Funnel, the current name.

The service quickly gained popularity for its efficiency and convenience, revolutionising travel and trade between the Isle of Wight and mainland England.

Over time, the company expanded its routes and modernised its fleet to meet the increasing demand for steamship services.

Isle of Wight County Press: Red Funnel at Royal Pier.

The 20th century saw the introduction of purpose-built car ferries, with the first one being the motor vessel Carisbrooke Castle in 1959.

To counter competition from hovercrafts, Red Funnel introduced high-speed services using hydrofoils in 1969.

Hydrofoils are watercraft that use underwater wings to lift the hull above the water at higher speeds, reducing drag and increasing efficiency.

Isle of Wight County Press: Shearwater 4 - Red Funnell Hydrofoil. February 1985.

This innovative technology allowed Red Funnel to offer faster and more efficient transportation options for passengers travelling between destinations.

The introduction of hydrofoils by Red Funnel marked a significant advancement in maritime transportation, showcasing the company's commitment to staying ahead in the competitive industry.

They ran until 1990 but the route is now served by high-speed, passenger-only catamarans.

The passenger service goes from Cowes to Southampton, while a vehicle ferry service serves from East Cowes.

Red Funnel’s services have constantly evolved to meet the demands of travellers, including freight and passenger transportation.