A Purser's Tale - Part 2

Tony Gamblin's Notes from on board

Cool but bright conditions prevailed on Thursday 9 July 2009 for the outward run to Ipswich and the following day for the return – with good passenger loadings on both days.   The final weekend on London River was a huge success, with over 500 passengers enjoying a trip through Tower Bridge in superb weather on the Sunday.

After taking on fresh water at Southend the ship sailed immediately for Swansea, arriving at breakfast time on Tuesday 14 July after a somewhat lively passage around The Lizard and Land’s End.   The weather then intervened for the start of the main Bristol Channel season – with the first day (Thursday 16 July) cancelled other than a run from Swansea to Penarth with just 14 passengers.   Wind and sea conditions ruled out her Clevedon calls on both Friday and Saturday, but the substitution of Portishead saved the day – with over 500 passengers carried on the Saturday.   Then on the Sunday wind (Clevedon) and torrential rain and low passenger numbers (Penarth) led to complete cancellation.

On Monday 20 July PSPS Bristol Channel Branch – ably led by ‘Lady Moyra’ Denby – hosted the first of a series of civic receptions to celebrate Balmoral’s Diamond Jubilee, with representatives from West Somerset District, Watchet Town and Minehead Town Councils getting together to enjoy a cruise along their coastline.   Similar events were planned for Saturday 25 July but while the Newport dignitaries opted to travel down to Ilfracombe, those from Ilfracombe and North Devon failed to make an appearance.   With a gale warning in place for Sea Area Lundy, the ship failed to reach the island on both Tuesday 21 July (sailing to Ilfracombe only) and Wednesday 22 July (complete cancellation).

Then followed a period of more settled conditions – though there were frequent torrential downpours – with reasonable passenger loadings given the wet conditions; over 150 passengers stood in the pouring rain while the ship berthed at Sharpness on Friday 24 July, while the rain never ceased on Sunday 26th!   The latter was ‘White Funnel Day,’ with former employees of P & A Campbell travelling down to Ilfracombe on what has now been established as an annual event.

On Monday 27 July, Balmoral had to turn back to Minehead due to sea conditions, abandoning her day’s programme and making a dash for Swansea, moving from her usual ‘Ferryport’ berth for the shelter of the docks in the evening - with the next day’s trip cancelled.

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