Balmoral Sails to Sharpness 9 January 2004
by Ashley Gill
Balmoral is now at Sharpness dry-dock having been moved from her berth at
Princess Wharf, Bristol over the last weekend. On Friday 9th January Balmoral
set sail from Princes Wharf at around 7pm to travel the short distance through
the floating harbour to Cumberland Basin in order to be in position for the
following morning's tide. On the Saturday morning Captain Kit Lee inched the
Balmoral out of the floating harbour and into the Avon. The mist hung low
amongst the trees and a steady drizzle created a dreary scene. Those volunteers
not involved directly as crew were allowed to enjoy the voyage to the mouth of
the Avon. Repairs to the lock gates into the floating harbour are currently
restricting entry and exit to the very top of the tide which necessitated a two
stage journey to Sharpness. Therefore, by 9 am Balmoral was safely anchored well
off Portishead to await the evening high tide. Fortunately, conditions were calm
and work began in earnest preparing various bilge spaces for inspection and
survey. Most effort concentrated on the lower bar bilge and steering flat.
Captain Lee demonstrated his culinary skills as we enjoyed some welcome bacon
rolls for breakfast followed by soup for lunch and roast beef for dinner all
washed down with copious quantities of tea and coffee.
Just after 6.30pm on the rising tide the anchors were hauled in and we made for Avonmouth to collect the Sharpness pilot. On leaving Avonmouth we were treated to a high-speed run demonstrating the power of the new Grenaa engines. With the assistance of a strong tide our speed must have been approaching 20 knots. At Sharpness the tide was still ripping across the lock entrance but some skilful handing, which necessitated approaching initially at right angles, brought us safely in. After locking into the basin Balmoral berthed by the grain terminal and it was Finished with Engines, at about 9pm. The final stage was, early on Sunday morning, to enter the dry-dock which was completed with ease and by lunchtime Balmoral was high and dry. Work finished at about 4pm on Sunday and it was a group of weary souls who headed home that day.
Balmoral is expected to stay for about 10 days where work will concentrate on minor replating under the galley storeroom, some shot blasting, hull survey and then painting of the hull with anti-foul.
Aboard, the dining saloon has been gutted with all fixtures and fittings disposed of. The galley store has been similarly treated with the lower bar stripped of all seating for re-covering. The new dining saloon windows, actually made some years ago are now aboard and have received further coats of varnish. The dining saloon refurbishment is to be completed once Balmoral returns to Bristol.
At the weekend the Bristol Evening News ran a centre-spread featuring the Balmoral which brought a welcome splash of publicity. A request for volunteers and old tools resulted in a number of calls.
A special thank-you to PSPS Vice President Nigel Coombes who gave a number of us a lift back to Bristol to rescue our cars!
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