From the Purser's Office - June 2012

Tony Gamblin's Notes from on board

After dry-docking on the Clyde Balmoral berthed in Glasgow close to P.S. Waverley and after the paddler had departed for her Western Isles cruises she moved to the Science Centre berth as preparations for the 2012 season continued. On Monday 11th June she returned to the adjacent berth to make way for Waverley at 22.00 and the following day Waverley’s Master put the whole of his crew at her disposal to help get the ship ready. She left Glasgow at 09.00 on Wednesday 13th with Capt. Clark providing a photo opportunity by going astern up-river past Waverley. She called at Greenock at 10.45 to pick up the compass adjuster, returning at 13.00 and finally left at 15.00 –anchoring off Garlieston at around 01.00 the following morning.

The first cruise of the season was in the event cancelled due to severe weather conditions and Balmoral sailed light to Douglas, IOM for shelter-being escorted along the Galloway coast by a school of dolphins. Here she remained amid gales and incessant rain until Sunday 17th June when she returned to Garlieston to pick up her scheduled sailing to the Isle of Man - which included a cruise to the Calf of Man and a call at Port St. Mary in cool but bright conditions. After returning her passengers to Garlieston the ship then sailed overnight to North Wales and after picking up the Straits pilot early in the morning operated a cruise around Anglesey from both Menai Bridge and Caernarfon, again in bright and cool conditions. After taking on fresh water the ship again sailed overnight - this time to the Bristol Channel for the first of two much shorter than usual programmes of sailings. Balmoral anchored off Clevedon the next morning and locked into Avonmouth in the evening.  


Balmoral alongside at Lydney (Dave Bassett)

The first trip on the Channel was from Lydney and Sharpness down to Ilfracombe, when it remained warm and sunny for most of the day. This cannot be said for the Thursday (Midsummer’s Day!!) when there was heavy rain throughout and the increasing wind in the evening made for a challenging berthing at Clevedon on the vessel’s return from Ilfracombe and Penarth. With gales forecast for the weekend Balmoral retreated to the safety of Avonmouth docks - with the complete cancellation of the next three days of sailings. Torrential rain and severe winds buffeted the area and Clevedon Pier (already damaged in an earlier storm) became a further casualty. Fortunately it was not too serious and temporary repairs were carried out on the Monday.

Balmoral emerged from Avonmouth on the evening of Sunday 24th June and made her way to Penarth Roads for an overnight anchorage and after taking on fresh water at the Welsh pier the next day operated a cruise from Minehead and Ilfracombe to Lundy Island in warm and sunny conditions but with disappointing passenger numbers. Wet and misty weather prevailed on the Tuesday for up-Channel trips from Penarth, Weston and Clevedon cruising around the Holm islands but this deteriorated to fog the next day for the sailing from Swansea to Ilfracombe- though the sun did break through for very short spells.

Thursday 28th was scheduled as an off-service day in Swansea but in the event the vessel left before noon for Avonmouth due to a dire weather forecast. The result was that sailings for the next day were cancelled and in the event those for the rest of the weekend met with the same fate as the whole country suffered from severe storm conditions. It was particularly unfortunate that the annual sailing to Padstow was lost as it is a highlight of the programme and a favourite of the Master!

Thus the early season Bristol Channel sailings came to an end with less than half the trips operating as scheduled. Balmoral locked out of Avonmouth at 18.00 on the last day of the month-destination unknown – in the hope of finding a “weather window” to round Lands End to pick up her programme on the South Coast and Thames. To find out what happened watch this space in the next edition!!!

Webmaster’s note:  In fact Balmoral was just able to round Land’s End in very rough conditions on the morning of 1 July, berthing for the night at Swanage.

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