The 2010 Purser's Tale - Part 4

Tony Gamblin's Notes from on board

With high-pressure over the Bristol Channel, September opened with clear, warm and sunny weather conditions as Balmoral cruised from Swansea to Ilfracombe and Lundy Island with a very respectable passenger loading. The next day she operated from Porthcawl to Ilfracombe and after returning her day trip passengers to Swansea operated an evening cruise to Penarth ready for almost a week of sailings starting at up-channel piers. On Friday 3rd a good load was carried through Bristol City Docks in warm and sunny conditions and though the following day was overcast it remained dry and mild with even greater numbers carried on a 'three rivers and five bridges' cruise: after calling at Bristol the ship proceeded to the River Wye, turning upstream of the motorway bridge and then going astern almost to the bridge at Chepstow (does this make it a 'six bridges' cruise?). Sunday 5th September was wet and windy and this was reflected in the rather low passenger numbers and with similar conditions prevailing the next day the return call at Watchet was abandoned - though with minimal inconvenience to passengers. The following day the ship made her final call of the season at Lundy Island - and the sun shone for most of the day. The next day was also bright and sunny for the vessel's final trips from Porthcawl and Swansea to North Devon's premier resort.

Very high spring tides on Thursday 9th allowed Balmoral to make calls at both Lydney and Sharpness on the River Severn - with well over 400 passengers being embarked for either Clevedon or Ilfracombe on what turned out to be a beautiful late summer day. Unfavourable wind conditions, however, caused some disruption to the schedule over the next few days. On the Friday her evening calls at both Weston and Clevedon were abandoned and passengers for these piers were coached to and from Portishead. The next day conditions were considerably worse and the vessel did not make Ilfracombe - particularly disappointing as she was due to host an 'open ship' event as part of the resort's annual maritime festival. Newport passengers heading for the Somerset CAMRA beer festival at Minehead station were carried to Portishead and then onwards by coach and steam train - Balmoral sailing lightship to Minehead to pick them up in the evening. On the Sunday the weather had settled somewhat and Ilfracombe was reached - with the final trip of the season from here being achieved in bright and sunny conditions. Portishead was once again substituted for Clevedon in the evening, however.

Early the next morning the ship proceeded up the River Parrett to operate a trip from Bridgwater but on reaching Penarth the weather had deteriorated once again. All Clevedon calls for that day were abandoned and the vessel was only able to make a one hour cruise from the Welsh resort in very windy conditions, Bridgwater passengers being carried to Portishead that evening for their homeward connection. With the wild conditions continuing unabated the final trip of the season to Ilfracombe the next day was cancelled. On Wednesday 15th September Balmoral made her last trip of the 2010 season: this was from Penarth and Portishead (substituted for Clevedon) to Bristol, terminating at Cumberland Basin as there was a problem with using the lock gates. The next day she made her way through the City Docks to her winter lay-up berth at Princes Wharf.

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