A Purser's Tale - Part 3

Tony Gamblin's Notes from on board

After seeking shelter at Swansea on Monday 27th July 2009, Balmoral did not emerge until Thursday 30th – and then only to offer a single trip from Porthcawl to Penarth, with a coach return.   The following day’s programme then ran as scheduled in bright, clear and sunny conditions – with a calm sea (at last!).   However, on the first day of August swell conditions ruled out a run across to Ilfracombe, so the ship sailed direct from Swansea to Penarth for her afternoon cruise – which carried mayors (real) and pirates (pretend) and then returned light to Swansea.

From this time weather conditions improved considerably, with only minor disruptions to the schedule.   On Sunday 2nd over 500 passengers were carried; on Monday 3rd the second call at Watchet was omitted, as was the final one at Penarth (coaches from Clevedon); on Tuesday 4th Balmoral made her first call of the season at Lundy, with a repeat call at the Island on the following day; and on Thursday the 6th over 500 passengers were carried.

The ship was unable to make her evening calls at Clevedon or Weston on Friday 7th August due to strong winds and a choppy sea; a substitute call at Portishead with coach connection was hastily arranged.   There followed an excellent weekend in terms of both weather and passenger loadings, though on Monday 10th the vessel had to turn back to Ilfracombe en route to Lundy owing to sea conditions.   After a superb day on Tuesday the ship was again forced to turn back to Swansea en route to Ilfracombe (the Lundy sector had already been cancelled owing to deteriorating conditions).

That evening Balmoral set off for Northern Ireland to take up her series of cruises in connection with the Tall Ships Atlantic Challenge event in Belfast.   Unfortunately the weather again intervened and forced several amendments to the programme.   The ship arrived into Bangor early on the afternoon of Thursday 14th August and on the following morning passengers were conveyed by coach from Ballycastle and Red Bay to join her here in the very wet and windy conditions – which persisted for the three cruises that day.   Then on the Saturday Balmoral left Portaferry in heavy rain and sailed direct to Belfast with all calls at both Donaghadee and Bangor that day abandoned – though passengers from these places were invited to travel to Belfast to join a cruise from there – by which time the sun was shining!   On the Sunday the ship set off for Peel, but with a gale forecast and increasingly heavy seas she was forced to seek shelter here on the Isle of Man – with a complete cancellation of her potentially lucrative programme.   By the next day conditions had improved considerably – she sailed early for Menai Bridge and completed her circumnavigation of Anglesey in beautiful summer weather.  Almost 600 passengers were conveyed that day bringing the total for this short Irish Sea programme to over 2,000.

After over-nighting in Menai, Balmoral sailed for Swansea, arriving late on Tuesday night ready to resume her Bristol Channel programme the next day – with trips to Lundy on Wednesday and Ilfracombe on Thursday.   With further unfavourable weather on Friday 21st ruling out calls at both Weston and Clevedon, the opportunity was taken to go into Avonmouth to attend to a problem with the anchor chain.   The next three days saw sailings run as scheduled, with good loadings in rather mixed but generally dry weather conditions.

En route to Porthcawl on Tuesday 25th August it became clear that swell conditions would not allow a public sailing to be achieved so the vessel set course for Swansea and a sheltered berth, where she remained for the next two days.   She resumed sailing on Thursday 27th August with a very successful trip to Lundy Island, but then, with a full gale forecast, havoc was caused to the Bank Holiday schedule but that’s another story (to be continued!).

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