A Purser's Tale - Part 4

Tony Gamblin's Notes from on board

Balmoral began her Bank Holiday weekend of sailings with a very successful trip to Lundy Island on Friday 28th August 2009 (not Thursday 27th as stated in the last report – my apologies!), but wind and sea conditions meant that Clevedon pier could not be used on the Saturday: the only viable part of the schedule was the afternoon ‘Holms’ cruise with Clevedon passengers bussed  to Portishead and both Penarth and Clevedon passengers returned home by coach from Avonmouth Docks (a very rare port of call nowadays, especially locking-in).   This allowed an evening charter originally booked from Clevedon to Avonmouth to operate in reverse!   Clevedon calls were again not possible the following day – Swansea passengers were coached to and from Penarth and Clevedon ones to Bristol and home from Portishead (with another call at Avonmouth for the Avon pilot).   Early in the morning of Bank Holiday Monday the ship set sail for Swansea but the swell conditions forced her to turn back and the entire programme for the day was cancelled.   Clevedon pier calls were still not possible the next day, with a repeat performance of Sunday (i.e. Swansea passengers bussed to and from Penarth and those from Clevedon coached to Bristol and home from Portishead – again with an Avonmouth call for the pilot).

With the tail end of Hurricane Danny fast approaching, Balmoral retreated to the safety of Avonmouth docks early in the morning of Wednesday 2 September (but even here the wind was strong enough to wake the hardy sailors in the forecastle during the middle of the night!).   She emerged on Saturday 5 September and was then able to operate the remainder of her 2009 schedule without disruption.   The weather was kind – classic Bristol Channel conditions prevailed on many days – passenger loadings were good and the ship indeed finished on a ‘high.’   Despite doubts, a Lundy landing was achieved on both Sunday 6 and Tuesday 8 – the latter being a sailing from Bridgwater (Dunball Wharf on the River Parrett) and a particular highlight of the season.    The ship was particularly heavily loaded on the final two days (helped by the ‘bring a friend free’ promotion for senior citizens), with nearly 600 passengers being landed in Ilfracombe on both days.   And the weather was stunning.

In summary, overall a rather mixed season.   An excellent start on the Irish Sea, South Coast and Thames and a brilliant final week sandwiched a depressing mid-season on the Bristol Channel.   Passenger numbers were just 9% down on a season that was 36% shorter and revenue was also substantially up when calculated over the number of operating days.   Cause for thought as to the future!   Amen!

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