The Red Funnel ferries have made appearances on the blog after previous UK trips including this one here. While we were on the seafront at Cowes, we saw one of the ferries coming in but it looked pretty odd. It actually looked a lot like the old style of ferries from my youngest days. There was little upper superstructure and it looked like it was designed for trucks only. The name was Red Kestrel so a quick google confirmed that this is exactly what it is. By taking freight traffic, it leaves more space on the main ferries for the car traffic. Apparently, it has space for about 12 passengers so I guess it is not well appointed!
The fastest way to cross the Solent between Cowes and Southampton is the Red Jet. These catamarans have replaced the hydrofoil service that was the quickest way over when I lived in Cowes. The hydrofoils were interesting to ride on, particularly when the weather got a bit rough, and they had a single prop that, if they threw it off, left them bobbing out in the water awaiting a tow. The RedJets are clearly bigger and probably a lot more reliable while still being fast. I have never ridden on them but my family do frequently.
If you want to get to the mainland from the Cowes area, Red Funnel are your main option. They have two services to Southampton. The car ferry operates from East Cowes while a fast catamaran provides a passenger only service from West Cowes. Both types of ferry came by while I was on the seafront. The car ferry headed out while the cat waited outside the harbor. I guess the strong winds meant they were looking for a bit more space. Once the ferry was gone, the cat came in to the harbor.