Well, in our case, we are actually more interested in what, not who. The Baron Osy was a luxury paddle-wheel steamer operating in various incarnations between London and Antwerp during the latter half of the 19th century. Of the ships mentioned in the memoirs, it was the only one I could find any information about so I am guessing it was quite well-known. In fact, one newspaper article from the time states “The Baron Osy has become almost a household word in that part of the Continent.” I found a similar sentiment in a free e-book, The Family Guide to Brussels from 1871, which also gives interesting insight into 19th century traveling habits:
There are now many facilities afforded for reaching Brussels from London by the various routes; but at one time this well known Belgian boat was the most popular way of so doing. The travelling public are also apparently less exclusive in their patronage at the present day; and a journey thither no longer means a pleasant sail down the river on a Sunday morning; a capital dinner and a bottle of wine with a “bon vivant” Captain at the head of the table, and merrily reckless of the ” mal de mer” to follow. Passengers now are more chary of their time and stewards’ bills, which it must be remembered on any of the boats occupying much time in the voyage, form no unimportant item in one’s travelling expenses. The Baron Osy, nevertheless, is too comfortable a vessel not to be able to command at all times a full share of patronage from those who choose this route. She leaves St. Katherine’s wharf at 11 o’clock a.m. on Sunday, arriving at Antwerp the next morning, and returns at mid-day on Wednesday.
The original Baron Osy was built in 1840 and ran until 1874, with a short break in 1863 for repairs after it was sunk in the Thames River. A photo of this ship can be viewed here and is the vessel that Onkel Hayn would have taken on his trip to London from Frankfurt in 1868.
It was replaced in 1875 by a completely new ship with the same name (see photo above). A newspaper article from the time describes it thus:
The present vessel has been built and fitted with all the improvements which long experience in the service has suggested. Her principal dimensions are – length, 245 ft. over all, 30 ft. beam, 15 ft. depth. She has a long, full poop* (unusually lofty and well-ventilated), fitted up in a sumptuous manner for first-class passengers, with a large smoking-cabin on deck. She has a bridge-deck extending the full length and width of the wing houses, forming together with the poop (which is connected by a gangway), a splendid promenade for passengers. The whole of the space under the bridge is fitted for the carriage of horses; arrangements are also made for carrying cattle. In the fore part of the vessel very comfortable and airy accommodation is provided for second-class passengers.
* the poop is the cabin at the aft of the ship
Sounds like not a bad way to travel, as long as the horses and cattle don’t smell!
(BTW, in case you were dying to know, the human Baron Osy held various political offices in Antwerp)