South Coast - Part 4

Report by Martin Longhurst

The sailing on Friday 11 September 2009 was modified in the same way as Thursday’s in that the Portsmouth connection was maintained by the Gosport Ferry Spirit of Portsmouth.   Some 150 took advantage of this opportunity to join those already on board from Southampton for the cruise to Yarmouth and round The Needles.  

Saturday was fortunately another lovely day but was fraught with delays.   Firstly, a coach load of passengers arrived at Southampton’s Berth 48 just after the gangway had been taken in, meaning a 10 minute delay while it was replaced and they boarded.   Approaching the mouth of Portsmouth Harbour, we passed Wightlink’s St Clare setting out on one of her crossings to Fishbourne on the Isle of Wight.   The earlier delay did not really matter as we were tied up at Portsmouth’s Continental Ferry Port in plenty of time to await the arrival of Spirit of Portsmouth with nearly 300 on board.    By the time these passengers had boarded, and those for Portsmouth disembarked, we had missed the chance to leave the Harbour before the arrival of Brittany Ferries’ Mont St Michel.   The Queen’s Harbour Master does not allow shipping to pass so we had to wait for her to turn and tie up.   



Alongside the Continental Ferry Port (Ashley Gill)


Having left the Harbour just ahead of St Clare, again heading for Fishbourne, the steamer turned west.   Passing Cowes we encountered the very unique sight of three Red Jets together – two on passage both ways and the third hove too.   We also heard news that, unusually, the Kingswear Castle was not sailing due to engine problems.   Finally we reached Yarmouth where there was a good crowd still waiting for us despite the long wait.   Unfortunately a medical emergency there caused a further wait before we could commence our circumnavigation.

Over 600 were aboard for the anti-clockwise passage in glorious weather with excellent visibility.   We encountered a significant number of large ships anchored off the Island’s south-east coast, presumably ‘awaiting orders.’    An excellent, detailed commentary was given by Chris Philips which demonstrated his in-depth local knowledge.   As we passed Ryde we could see the monstrous cruise ship Independence of the Seas leaving Southampton Water.   We eventually passed her off Norris Castle, East Cowes.   The paddler saluted with three blasts on her whistle, the sound echoing off the liner’s flat sides.    Eventually someone on the cruise ship’s bridge found the button and she replied on her deep horn.


We met a passenger from Bath, Jim Litster, who showed us a cutting from the Western Daily Press about a trip the Balmoral was going to make in 2012 to commemorate the Titanic disaster.   However, despite the heading picture being of ‘our’ Balmoral, the voyage is actually to be undertaken by Fred Olsen’s Balmoral.   Just as well, as it involved taking 1,300 passengers across the Atlantic!


Soon we tied up at Yarmouth Pier once again and after our passenger transfer, we steamed off for our final call at Southampton.   There was a vast fleet of coaches lined up on the quayside, including a Bedford OB with its driver wearing a period dust jacket, both for our Portsmouth passengers and for several parties on board.


Overnight P&O’s Oriana appeared across the dock at Berth 46 while Waverley sat in the morning sun.   Our departure was delayed for 10 minutes by Grimaldi Line’s Grande Ellade passing outbound.   However, every cloud has a silver lining as that meant that two late comers were able to join the ship and contribute to our revenue.


About 120 passengers had boarded at Southampton and a similar number joined at Yarmouth.   There were some familiar faces on the Pier at Bournemouth as we approached.   One of them was Roddy McKee who was able to give us details of the KC’s problem.    Apparently a crack had been discovered in the low pressure connecting rod in the morning causing the cancellation of the Sheerness sailing.   Repairs had been carried straight away by welding, and successful trials had been run on Saturday evening, allowing the steamer to resume programme, as planned, on 14 September.


The Swanage Railway was holding its annual Steam Gala this weekend, and a lot of passengers disembarked to see what was happening there.   Pleasingly, a large number came on the steamer for the trip along Dorset’s Jurassic Coast to Weymouth, with 75 minutes ashore.   Over 120 joined at Weymouth for the one way trip east to Swanage, returning by coach.   The similar trip from Bournemouth to Southampton was not so popular this week.   We enjoyed another spectacular sunset on passage to Yarmouth, before starting the final leg back to Southampton.



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