The 2010 Purser's Tale - Part 3

Tony Gamblin's Notes from on board

The first day of August was a very successful one for Balmoral, with some 550 people cruising up the London River from Southend, Tilbury and Woolwich. The vessel then positioned to Ramsgate for a direct run to the Upper Pool of London the next day, returning downstream to Tilbury for homeward-bound coaches. The excellent weather continued throughout the following day as the ship made an outward run from the Thames to Southwold, continuing light-ship to Great Yarmouth for an overnight berth at the Norfolk resort. A good loading was achieved on the following day's inward run to the Capital, on what was the only really wet day of the whole Thames programme. Thursday 5th August was the ship's final day in the area and she finished on a "high" with over 500 passengers carried on what was another warm and sunny day. The end result was that Balmoral completed her Thames season without a single alteration or amendment to her schedule -is this a record?

After taking on fresh water at Southend the vessel then sailed for Scarborough, anchoring off the Yorkshire resort the following morning . Here she remained until starting her short season in the North East on the following day- a taxi (classic local trip-boat 'Queensferry') - being summoned to take the Boatswain and Purser ashore on urgent business! Almost 400 people were ferried into the Tall Ships event at Hartlepool that Saturday in rather wet weather, though the sun shone for their time ashore. Even more (over 550) were carried in from North Shields and Sunderland on each of the next two days - and the sun continued to shine, though with a cooling breeze. On the Monday evening Balmoral operated a 'Fireworks' cruise and tied up at her berth just as the excellent pyrotechnics display began, with a special cruise to view the Tall Ships Parade being operated on the following day - the length being extended by over two hours to allow the best possible viewing of these magnificent craft. On the Wednesday the final trip of this short visit to the area was similarly extended by two hours to allow for extended viewing of the Farne Islands and Lindisfarne, though the imminent onset of darkness meant that to comply with the conditions of her Class III certificate passengers for Sunderland and Hartlepool were conveyed home by coach from North Shields. This seemed to meet with majority approval and a good day was had by all - the thanks at the gangway said it all. Thus ended an all too short sojurn in the North East- which will be long remembered for the welcome, friendliness and helpfulness of passengers, PSPS volunteers and shore staff alike. After taking on fresh water at Hartlepool (seemingly it was only available during office hours in North Shields!) the ship sailed at midnight for the Bristol Channel, anchoring off Penarth in the early hours of Saturday 14th after a very speedy passage.

Thus began the second part of the Bristol Channel season, with encouraging loadings on the first weekend in generally good weather conditions - though a torrential downpour greeted the revellers boarding at Penarth for the Saturday evening 'showboat' cruise! On the Sunday grateful staying visitors were carried to Lundy - they had missed the Oldenburg the previous day due to road traffic conditions and her next sailing was not until the following Tuesday! Sailings continued much as scheduled during the following week, though Clevedon passengers were coached home from Penarth on the Tuesday because of forecast wind conditions and on the Thursday Swansea passengers were coached up to Penarth to join the ship for her Avon Gorge cruise due to heavy sea conditions down-channel. On Saturday 21st August torrential downpours with thunder and lightning were experienced - passengers waiting to rejoin the ship at Minehead were not amused!!  The following day was a complete contrast, with bright warm and sunny conditions being the order of the day as the vessel made a trip from Penarth and Clevedon to Ilfracombe and the 'Atlantic Coast' of Devon.

It was then that things started to go 'pear-shaped'. On Monday 23rd August Balmoral left Penarth and dropped her passengers at Clevedon for their scheduled coach connection to Weston - however wind conditions dictated that no Clevedon or Weston calls would be possible later that day so arrangements were made to return them by coach. The ship then returned to anchor off Penarth but in the event the afternoon cruise from here was also cancelled due to the deteriorating weather conditions and low numbers wishing to take part in an amended cruise that would call at neither English pier. Most of Tuesday was spent at anchor off Penarth, with calls at the Pier in both the morning and afternoon for water, stores and crew changes. However, after dragging her anchor in the afternoon and an appalling weather forecast the decision was made to sail to Bristol's Cumberland Basin that evening for shelter. Here the vessel remained - with all cruises cancelled- until Friday 27th August when she sailed on the morning tide for Swansea. After taking on stores she anchored overnight in Swansea Bay ready for what turned out to be a hugely successful trip from Briton Ferry - her first for almost a quarter century (albeit from a different berth further down the river). The foul weather returned with a vengeance the following day so that all that could be offered was a short cruise out of Penarth with the wind screaming and a choppy confused sea.

There was a complete contrast as Bank Holiday Monday dawned and the ship was able to make the traditional down-channel voyage from Bristol to Ilfracombe. The warm, clear and sunny conditions continued on the last day of the month for what is your scribe's favourite excursion - from Minehead to Lundy Island via Ilfracombe. Let's hope the settled high-pressure conditions last well into September.

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