musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Category: Southampton

Remembering the Mendi 2017

Every year around this time I commemorate the lives lost in the sinking of the troopship Mendi on the 21st of February 1917. This year is no different and each year I know more about it.

Earlier this month I discovered a new Mendi Memorial in the churchyard of St John The Evangelist, Newtimber, Sussex. The memorial is to  “Chief Henry Bokleni Ndamase” who perished on the Mendi.

TQ2713 : Memorial to Chief Henry Bokleni Ndamase by Bob Parkes

Naturally I wanted to know more and took a good long look at my Roll of Honour and drew a blank. The big problem with the ROH is that it is really inaccurate, and there are a number of reasons for that. I consulted with the local co-ordinator of the South African War Graves Project and he replied as follows:

“This whole Mendi RoH is troubling, it seems to me that there were initial errors made in some of the names, errors crept in as a result of “tweaking” the facts and a general misunderstanding of the history of the casualties (probably due to the unavailability of any documentary evidence.) Many of these errors are now on memorials and plaques and seem to be copied from one to the next (or sourced from the internet) and how do we address that? We have forwarded copies of the documents at the SANDF Archive  that list the recruitment details of these chaps and I hope that these will eventually be filtered through the system and the graves/memorials amended. Lets see…

Typical documentation for SANLC

Henry Bokleni:   (7587)  His father was Bokleni and he was Henry. In keeping with the standard practice at the time, as he never had a surname, he was given his father’s name as a surname. It seems he was a Chief/Headman at the time.

Richard Ndamase:  (9389)  His father was Ndamase and he was Richard. In keeping with the standard practice at the time, as he never had a surname, he was given his father’s name as a surname. His Chief was Dumezweni so based on the info we have, it is unlikely he was a Chief.

Mxonywa Bangani:  (9379)  )  His father was Bangani and he was Mxonywa. In keeping with the standard practice at the time, as he never had a surname, he was given his father’s name as a surname. His Chief was Nongotwane so based on the info we have, it is unlikely he was a Chief.

Isaac Williams Wauchope : (3276) His father was Dyoba (also known as William Wauchope). Isaac was a learned man, holding the posts of a teacher and a clerk/interpreter to the magistrate and married his wife Mina as per Christian rites. He was a minister at a church in Blinkwater when he got sentenced to 3 years in Tokai Prison for forgery. He enlisted in 16 Oct 1916 as a clerk/interpreter and not as a chaplain (it is unlikely he would have got the chaplain post as he had a criminal record) The Chaplain job went to Koni Luhlongwana (9580), who also died on the ship.

 It does not seem that he used his father’s name as surname at all during his lifetime and so the use of “Dyoba” is incorrect. The reasoning behind the attempts to ‘africanise’ his name remain a mystery.

New Memorial to the Mendi :  There is also a problem with the 670 (it was 646, including the crew) who died. We have identified the home provinces of some of the casualties – Transvaal (287), Eastern Cape (139), Natal (87), Northern Cape (27), OFS (26), Basutoland (26), Bechuanaland (8), Western Cape (5), Rhodesia (1) and SWA (1) so not all were from the Eastern Cape.”

The reality is that the memorial contains incorrect information, and it is perpetuated as there is no real way to correct many of the errors. I am relooking my own RoH and correcting it to conform with the data that SAWGP has.  

However, in spite of the errors, the fact remains that people have not forgotten the Mendi, in fact we probably know more about it today than we did way back in 1917. 

This year, apart from the Services of Remembrance being held at Hollybrook and Milton Cemeteries in Hampshire, a South African Warship, SAS Amatola, (a Valour Class Frigate) will lay a wreath at the site of the disaster.  On board her will be some of the relatives of the soldiers who died on board that ill fated troopship.

The Mendi has not been forgotten, it is now prominent in the military history of South Africa, The men who lost their lives have not been forgotten, the sea has claimed them, but their spirit and courage still resonates 100 years after they died. However, we need to broaden our vision and recognise that all of the men of the battalions of the SANLC and NMC who volunteered to serve overseas are remembered too, because the non combatant role that they played was equally important to the ending of the “war to end all wars” 

© DRW 2017-2018. Created 21/02/2017.  Image of Newtimber Memorial © Copyright Bob Parkes and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 16:40

Modelling the Union-Castle Line (1)

The Union-Castle Line had some beautiful ships, but for some reason or other they never received the attention of plastic model manufacturers like Airfix or Revell. If you wanted UC you built  from scratch. I did try scratch building many years ago, and while it is possible, without the plans you are going to be sucking on air. Sadly, Triang never dabbled in them either, but as my Minic Ship collection grew so I became more aware that there were some very nice 1/1250 ships out there if you were willing to fork out large amounts of money, and there were UC ships amongst them!.  Ebay has taught me a lot, and recently I found a supplier for resin cast vessels who was offering a number of Union-Castle vessels, including some of the cargo ships. My first acquisition was the Capetown Castle and Dunnottar Castle.

Capetown Castle

Capetown Castle

Dunnottar Castle

The biggest question of course is: “what colour is the hull?”

The hull colour has been described as many things and it is really a difficult subject because the colour is not available off the shelf. The closest (in my opinion) that there is Humbrol 42 (Violet Matt). On my original Union-Castle webpage I used to use  A77B96 and that came from a Union-Castle document that I scanned and matched using the colour dropper. I have also heard the colour described as “Mountbatten Pink”. 

Humbrol 42 Violet Matt


Web colours A77B96


The Capetown Castle model is not a very good likeness to the real vessel, but it is close enough. She was not a difficult ship to paint but I did make a mistake with the deck colours and subsequently ruined the model. But it was an interesting experience painting her, especially given my tendency to not see too well. 

John Bowen’s book, ‘More Miniature Merchant Ships’: has the following colour scheme for the Capetown Castle:  

“Union-Castle lavender grey to the level of the top of the bulwark to the opening in the ship’s side forward in way of the Upper (C) Deck, white above, with narrow teak colour dividing line between; red below waterline (the nearest shade to this hull colour being obtained by mixing 10 parts Humbrol No 147 Light Grey, 1 part Humbrol No 174 Signal Red, and 2 parts Humbrol No 104 Blue).

Superstructure: white, inside bulwarks white. Masts, derrick posts, derricks: as built, masts were reddish-brown, derrick posts and derricks white. After the war the masts were changed to white. Ventilators: white, inside cowls red. Lifeboats, davits: white, boat covers light grey. Windlass, winches: mid-grey. Bollards, fairleads: black. Hatches: grey. Funnel: vermilion (orange red), black top, Decks: wood planked, bare steel decks mid-grey.

The first mistake I made was using too dark a brown for the decks, and that would come back to haunt me in the future.

Capetown Castle

Capetown Castle

Dunnottar Castle

I used to work on both ships over the weekends, and soon had them shipshape although I was not happy with the decks. The colour on the tin was a light brown but this was way too dark. I would have to rethink the deck colour. The masts were pins and the derricks were bristles from my carpet brush. They worked well and I was happy to find a ready source of derrick material. Now if only I could find out why my brush doesn’t work as well anymore 😉 .

Update 11/10/2016

This month I acquired a 1/1250 scale of Victoria.  Built as Dunnottar Castle was one of the older ships still afloat and spent most of her life as a cruise ship. She was built by Harland & Wolff, Belfast, and launched on 25 January 1936. She was primarily used on the London (Tilbury) – round Africa service until the outbreak of WW2, when she was converted to an armed merchant cruiser, and later to a troop transport. In 1949 she resumed her London – round Africa service. In 1958 she was sold to Incres SS Co, who renamed her Victoria and substantially rebuilt her in Rotterdam. She entered service in 1960 on New York-West Indies cruises. In 1964 she changed hands once again, this time to Victoria SS Co, a subsidiary of Swedish company Clipper A/B, she retained her name, and Incres Line as agents. Chandris Cruises bought her in 1964, and she resumed sailings as The Victoria in June of 1976. She cruised in Europe and the Caribbean until 1993, when she was sold to Louis Cruise Lines and renamed Princessa Victoria for use on cruises from Cyprus. In 2002 it was reported that she was to be taken up for service as a hotel ship in London. This sadly never came to pass and the Princessa was laid up and in 2004 sold for scrap. She arrived at the breakers at Alang on 25 May 2004.



Reina Del Mar and Llandaff Castle

The next two ships I bought were the Reina Del Mar (under UC ownership) and the Llandaff Castle. The latter may also double as the Llandovery Castle, but I decided to go with Llandaff instead. These models were from the same supplier, but the Reina Model was outstanding. 

Llandaf Castle and Reina Del Mar before painting

The one irritation with the Reina was the lack of roof for the cinema but I managed to fabricate that using spare plastic I had left over from my container ship experiment. Unfortunately there is no model shop where I live and the local art supplier has a limited stock of paint, and I agonised over those tinlets for ages, hoping to find a suitable deck colour before settling on Humbrol Matt 121 (Pale Stone). I was surprised with the results and decided to overpaint the decks of the other two ships. That was not successful. 

Reina Del Mar

Reina Del Mar


Llandaff Castle

Llandaff Castle

At the time of writing the basics of both ships have been painted and I need to touch up the mistakes and fill in some of the spots I missed as well as paint the cargo gear. However, just before I reached this point I was able to pick up a Pretoria Castle off ebay and when she arrived I got quite a suprise because her hull is the same colour as mine as are her decks! The ship was made by Albatros and she is 1/1250 scale.

Pretoria Castle

Pretoria Castle

I also have a Pendennis Castle en route and next month I hope to have an Athlone and a Durban Castle in resin cast. 

My fleet of Union-Castle ships is growing. and as I get more confident hopefully my painting skills will improve. 

Bucket list? Naturally I have a bucket list, but the ships in that bucket are pricey and possibly out of my league. I would really like a Windsor, Carnarvon, Arundel and Edinburgh. Till then I shall leave this blog post as completed for now and when the new ships arrive will start a “page 2”.

Page 2 may be found here

© DRW 2016-2018. Created 23/06/2016. Excerpt from John Bowen’s Book is courtesy of Glynn Price. 

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 16:08

Dry docked.

While rooting around amongst my pics I remembered that I had some interesting ones that I took in Gloucester in August 2015. I was hoping to get back to the city at some point, but then other things intervened and I never did (since rectified).
This post is about dry docks and ships, and it is really a series of images that I took way back in the 1980’s when we were in Durban and got the chance to go down into the Prince Edward Graving Dock. There were two vessels in the dock on that day and it was quite a thrill to walk underneath those tons of steel. The ships were Mobil Refiner (top image) and Regina D (lower image)

Mobil Refiner

Mobil Refiner

Regina D

Regina D

For those that are interested in these things, the principal dimensions of the dock are:

Overall docking length 352,04 m Length on keel blocks 327,66 m
Length on bottom 352,04 m Width at entrance top 33,52 m
Width at coping 42,21 m Inner Dock 138,68 m
Outer Dock 206,90 m Depth on Entrance MHWS 12,56 m
Depth on inner sill MHWS 13,17 m    
You really get a sense of scale when you get to see how big ships actually are, and these two were relatively small vessels compared to what is floating around nowadays.
Unfortunately my images are not great,  The problem with taking pics down there is that there are patches of deep shadow and patches of bright daylight which really messed with the camera (and operator). Then the conversion process from slide to jpg further degraded the images. But, it is a great memory.



Cape Town has the Sturrock and Robinson Dry dock, and Clinton Hattingh was kind enough to send me these images of the latter showing the keel blocks 

The Robinson Dry dock is the oldest operating dry dock of its kind in the world and dates back to 1882. The foundation stone for the dock was laid by Prince Alfred, second son of Queen Victoria.

Now wind forward to August 2015 and to Gloucester where there were two dry docks, and one was occupied by a sailing ship.
gloucester 548

I don’t think that caisson has been opened in many years, although in 2017 I revisited Gloucester Harbour and that dock was occupied. 

The vessel is the Den Store Bjorn, built n 1902.

Of course there are a number of these drydocks around in the the UK, The most famous one in Southampton is the King George V,  and it was the place where the really big liners were overhauled. Many images exist of the dock with one of the Queens in it but sadly the caissons have been demolished and the dock is now used as a wet dock. What a waste!

Southampton also used to have the Trafalgar dry dock which is close to the Ocean Terminal, it too was used by many of the famous liners, including a number of Union-Castle ships. It has been cut in half and the one half has been filled in while the other is a rectangular pool of water.

These facilities were built for the ship repair industry that the city once had, but that trade has moved offshore to Europe and today these spaces are only really known to those who have an interest in ships of the past.

There are two other dry docks of interest in Portsmouth, both inhabited by famous ships.

The first is the dock where the Monitor M33 is on display.

and the drydock where HMS Victory has been for so many years.

And finally, there are two more dry docks that I would like to mention, both with preserved vessels in them. The first houses the Cutty Sark in Greenwich.

and the other houses the SS Great Britain in Bristol.

Both of these provide an interesting glimpse at the underside of ships, as well as the opportunity to marvel at their construction and how large they really are. 

When this post started out originally it was only really about the Durban trip, but it has grown into much more as I have experienced other similar docks, and what a fascinating journey it turned out to be.
© DRW 2015-2018. Images migrated 02/05/2016, more images added 04/06/2017
Updated: 01/01/2018 — 15:27

Southampton Shipwatch 44: Britannia

On this slightly overcast morning I made my way to Southampton to see the maiden arrival of  P&O’s new ship Britannia. I was hoping that the weather would not turn nasty and that the sun would shine on her arrival. The ship was due at the dockhead at 12H30, and would sail down to the swinging grounds by Mayflower, turn, and then hold her position for a parachute drop, before sailing to the swinging ground at Ocean Terminal and then going in stern first for the first time in Southampton. This would be the 8th maiden arrival that I have witnessed from the city.
I arrived early, although fortunately I did plan for an early train as there was an incident at Clapham Junction that delayed trains from the east, most were running roughly 30 minutes late. It did mean I had some time to kill and I mooched around like a lost soul until I saw tugs heading from their berths towards Southampton Water. She was close! 
That first glimpse is an important one, because that is where you get to see a ship that may exist for 30 years, and who could become an old friend as you see her regularly. The first thing I spotted were the two big blue funnels
P&O have been doing a rebranding exercise, the traditional yellowish funnel being replaced with blue, and hull art being painted on the bows. On a new ship it does make sense, but on a ship like Oriana or Aurora it does not. Those two vessels were built for P&O, and I don’t think rebranding them was a good idea, they are both very British ships (inspite of their registry), and they should not have been touched. 
Then they turned on the window washers and from this point onwards the tugs went crazy with their water canon. So much so that a decent pic of the ship was almost impossible. Having seen other images taken at Mayflower and Hythe I should really have gone there instead of Town Quay.
I have to admit I do like her, she does bear a resemblance to Royal Princess but does not have that overly top heavy appearance of the Princess ship, and of course the twin funnels really make a difference. 
Town Quay was packed, and it was good to see so many people out there to welcome this new ship, although a part of me was unhappy that so many people were getting in each others way and ruining the shots! (We won’t even discuss the worm drowners).  As you can see the water jets were huge and the wind was blowing the spray onto us rubber neckers, so I did get a taste of the harbour water (and it was salty).
People now started to dash off to Mayflower to join the hordes that were already there. I chose to remain where I was (probably because I did not feel like going all that way), but I was really hoping to get better images when she returned having been swung.
As modern ships go she is not unattractive, she does look slightly bulky in the rear end, and of course that downward sloping stern and ducktail does nothing for me, but I can live with that. The branding on her bow is not too distracting either, in fact it does provide a nice break from all the white.
For those that are interested, Svitzer Sarah was the main culprit that was washing windows. 
They started to swing the ship and we finally got a chance to see all of her with not too much spray, and I think she probably looks at her best from that angle. She does have reasonably clean lines without all the top hamper and clutter that the two NCL ships (Getaway and Breakaway)  have. 
Once she had swung everything stopped while overhead a small aircraft dropped 3 parachutists. I must admit I did find that a bit of an odd thing to do, but then there was probably some publicity reasoning behind it.
The show over, the vessel slowly made her way towards us, although this time around we would all move away from the spray and keep our lenses dry! 
They then started to swing her once again so that she could go astern into the berth. Usually the ships manage to accomplish this without the use of attendant tugs, but it seems as if nobody was taking any chances today.
And then it was time for me to make tracks. I had a train to catch, and it was at least 25 minutes walk to the station. I turned my own bows to home and bid the newest addition to the worlds cruising fleet a fond farewell. I hoped to see her again one day, but till that day comes, may she have a long and successful career, unfortunately, she will become the new P&O flagship, taking the title from Oriana. 
On Sunday 10 March, The Queen will officially name the vessel, and she will commence her cruise programme shortly thereafter. 
© DRW. 2015-2018. Created 06/03/2015. Images migrated 27/04/2015
Updated: 31/12/2017 — 09:26

RBS 101 (2) Revisited

When I did the original posts entitled RBS 101 (Really Big Ships 101) it was really a look at these huge ships that seem to dominate our harbours. RBS 101 (2) was about cruise ships, and when I originally wrote it I had not seen two of the ships. The following is still true though: My reference for this information is the a list of the worlds largest cruise ships, as well as the company websites. Bear in mind that I am only dealing with ships that I have physically seen and I have also deliberately stayed with ships over 1000 ft long. In terms of the biggest ships, I have seen 13 out of the 57 in the Wikipedia list. This list however is n longer correct, but was really a look at the ships as at 2015

As we were saying in RBS101 (1), Passenger/Cruise ships are even more complicated when it comes to size. There are many possible options that could make one ship bigger than another in one aspect, but smaller than that same ship in another aspect. 

The important criteria in my opinion are as follows:  Length overall (LOA), GRT, and capacity. That makes things a little bit easier. Of course capacity can be measured by “double occupancy”, or “full board”, but generally double occupancy should suffice. 

The contenders are:
Oasis Of the Seas.
Royal Caribbean Lines. GRT 225282 LOA 1187ft (362m) Passenger capacity:  5412  double occupancy.

Quantum of the Seas
Royal Caribbean Lines. GRT 168666 LOA 1139ft (347,1m) Passenger capacity:  4180  double occupancy.

Queen Mary 2
Carnival Corp. GRT  148528   LOA:  1132ft (345m)   Passenger capacity:  2592  double occupancy.

Royal Caribbean Lines.  GRT: 154407, LOA: 1112 ft (339m) Passenger capacity  3634 double occupancy

Adventure of the Seas

Royal Caribbean Lines. GRT: 137276  LOA: 1020 ft, (310m)  Passenger capacity: 3114 double occupancy 3807

Norwegian Breakaway

Norwegian Cruise Lines. GRT 144017    LOA:  1062 ft (324m)  Passenger capacity: 4000  double occupancy


Norwegian Getaway
Norwegian Cruise Lines. GRT 145655    LOA:  1068ft (326)  Passenger capacity: 3910  double occupancy

Royal Princess

Princess Cruises. GRT  142714   LOA:  1083 ft  (330m) Passenger capacity:  3600  double occupancy  

Celebrity Eclipse

Celebrity Cruises. GRT 122000  LOA:  1041 ft (315m) Passenger Capacity 2850 Double Occupancy 

Oasis of the Seas and her sister Allure of the Seas really break all records, and dominate in all categories, although Allure is a smidgen larger than Oasis. Newcomer Quantum of the Seas comes in as number 3 in size, although that is only true until her sisters make an appearance.

Interestingly enough our biggest box boat in service is 1305 ft (398m) long. Allure is probably one of the biggest ships out there, although she is to be upstaged by an even bigger ship one of these days. 
The most important thing about big ships is that while they may be huge, it does not mean that they are good looking. Size and bulk can ruin the ships lines, and given the propensity for strange sterns and a lack of sheer many modern cruise ships are not good lookers. 
So, there you have it in a nutshell, a slightly updated version of an old topic. You can only really appreciate the size of some of these vessels when seen against something else, or when they come past you. Personally I prefer small ships, there is something about being on a ship with 3999 other people that puts me right off. 
© DRW 2014-2018. Images recreated 20/04/2016
Updated: 31/12/2017 — 08:57

Southampton Shipwatch 43. Quantum of the Seas

RCL’s newest ship, Quantum of the Seas, had her maiden arrival in Southampton this past week. Unfortunately, as I am in my last days at work I was unable to get leave to see her, although she did arrive in the late afternoon, which would have made photography difficult anyway. The only window I really had to see her would be on the Sunday afternoon when she sailed for the United States.
The weather has not been kind to photographers lately and I was in two minds to go down to Southampton to see the ship. The timing was awkward because of trains, and a 17H00 sailing would have been do-able, but only just.
I arrived at the station at roughly 15H30, and caught the bus down to Town Quay. The walk was just not something I felt like tackling. Ever since my ankle started to play around I have been trying to cut down on the top speed charges that I tend to make when I am in a hurry. The ship was alongside at 101, and the weather was grey, although the rain seemed to be staying away. 
First impressions? that baby blue hull, heaps of unshiplike appurtenances,  the eye in the sky thingey, and lots of superstructure and a small hull. It is however hard to be definitive about her because I was not able to get a full side view of her or a front view.
At least she did not have an open plan stern like Oasis of the Seas has. Although what lurks behind that strange glass area is still a mystery as I have not looked at deck plans of her. Mayflower Park was packed and I moved across to Town Quay to do my photography from there. Quantum was occupying the berth usually used by RCL ships, which meant that Adventure of the Seas was sitting at QEII, she was due to sail at 16H30. 
The sun was busy setting by now, casting a nice orange glow on the surroundings. Its just a pity that it would not give us that extra hour we needed to see Quantum away. From Town Quay it was possible to see her a bit better, although the clutter from the derelict Royal Pier messes up the view.
I must admit I definitely prefer her to Oasis, she does not have that large superstructure overhang, and her lifeboats are stowed further inboard on her hull. The top decks look horribly cluttered though, but given all the goodies she has on board she still doesn’t look too awful. The eye in the sky thingey is actually called “The North Star Observation Tower”. I keep on thinking of the London Eye when I see it, and while it does seem a lot over the top it must really be an experience to see the view. The crane arm is 41M long, so it is a long way to fall.
Just after 16H30 Adventure sailed, and my gut instinct was saying that the ship would not sail on time. I had planned my visit that the latest I could leave Town Quay would be 17H35 to catch my train by 18H10. If I missed that train I would have an hours wait for the next. 
It was getting dark really quickly, and the ship was slowly coming alive with light, although not as much as I really wanted. My camera does not deal with the dark very well, and for that matter neither does the operator. 
I was lucky to catch the eye in the sky thingey raised. and it did look odd. Come to think of it, where was the foremast? Sailing time came and went, and I decided that I was really wasting time and would head off to the station, pausing at Mayflower to see what she was like close up in lights. 
She towered over the area, and stuck out like some garish disco over the darkness. The area was still packed, but you could see a lot of people were leaving because they did not know when she was going to sail. That’s the problem with waiting for a ship to go, it could take ages. She sailed 2 hours late the other night, and that was bad news if you are standing shivering waiting for the lines to drop..
It is interesting to compare the night and day shots of her stern.
Then I was out the door. The lines were still down and it did not look like she was going to sail soon. She was probably waiting for me to reach the station, that’s what usually happens.
One last shot through the fence and I was off. I could still catch the 17H54 train if I rang down full ahead. And, I made it in time too. I believe she finally sailed at 18H00. So what does she look like from the front? unfortunately I do not have images of her from that angle, however I did find these two on the Royal Caribbean Press Centre website.
© DRW 2014-2018. Created 02/11/2014. Images recreated 20/04/2016
Updated: 31/12/2017 — 08:58

Southampton Shipwatch 42: Oasis of the Seas

This morning I headed off to Southampton on half days leave because due to arrive was one of the largest cruise ships in the world: Oasis of the Seas. The weather was overcast after a weeks rain, and as we approached the station I could see that there was mist over the harbour. The other cruise ship at Mayflower was MSC Magnifica, and I managed a glimpse of her as we came into the station. From Town Quay she was just a white blob in a grey sea/sky and this is all I really saw of her, certainly not enough for a shipwatch on its own.
Oasis was due to arrive at 9.30ish and berth at 101, she has some very peculiar berthing arrangements and this maiden arrival had had to be carefully planned. Apparently she only berths starboard side to and once she was ready to sail would have to be swung up at the swinging area by the container berth. She was due to sail at 23.59 but there was no way I was going to hang around that long! I headed across to Town Quay via Mayflower Park. There was already a crowd gathering there, and there was probably a mob gathering at Town Quay too. The weather was still lousy, and Hythe was almost hidden in the mist. Saga Sapphire was berth alongside at QEII so would provide an interesting comparison.
By 9.25 there was movement, and it turned out to be a tug with her water canons open, and there was a buzzing helicopter making excited movements as its occupants photographed the ship that was now emerging between the buildings and Saga Sapphire. It was hard to get an indication of what was coming along at slow ahead, but soon the bow emerged, and then the broad front of this huge vessel. There was an exchange of hooters and either Saga Sapphire or her had a wonderful old style ships hooter. And I am glad that at least that occurred because this is after all, a maiden arrival.
Then the ship was clear and you could see how big she was, or should I say how broad she was. This was a really big ship and my first impression was of a large superstructure on a small hull, with a huge overhang on either side.  She was not a pretty ship from this angle, if anything she looked like an ungainly one, but that was really because of the odd angle. As she came closer the foreshortening effect diminished and you could finally get a feeling for her length. She was big, very big, and would probably make Independence of the Seas look small!
As she came alongside you could get a sense of how high the accommodation was, with its cluttered upperworks. The stern interested me because I had never been able to understand what was going on there. It appeared as if there were some sort of fabric sails that hid the hole in the back. Unfortunately, with our low vantage point there was no real answer. I would have to try get other pics from Mayflower.

Strangely enough her hull was a baby blue colour which I will reserve judgment on until I have seen her in sunlight. Then she was past me and I headed off to Mayflower to join the crowds. She was berthing a bit further towards 102 than the ships usually do and was coming alongside without a tug. She was quick though, there was no fussing or messing around, from arrival to this point had probably been 15 minutes.
Then I got a chance to look at that stern. I can see a hang glider there, and a large logo…
I took my pics, checked my watch and decided it was really time to get back to Salisbury. I stopped at Dock Gate 8 and took a few pics, although could not get past the gate to get other images.

I was glad that I had made this trip, although to be honest she doesn’t really appeal to me, although I would love to go on board to poke around. But sail on her? probably not. There could be over 5000 people on board (that’s probably 10000 items of luggage that has to be moved between ship and terminal), and that is 4999 people too many for me.

The nitty gritty is that when she was built she was the largest cruise ship afloat, although her sister Allure of the Seas is a smidgen bigger. Awhile ago I explored large cruise ships in a blog post called Really Big Ships,  so will have to make a few changes to that one


On 30 October the latest of these mega ships is arriving: Quantum of the Seas will be here and occupy the same berth. By then they will have sorted out all the peculiarities involved with a ship this size and things should go smoother. It is unlikely that I will be able to go down to see her as I am changing jobs next month so my leave is all tied up. However, I will see how things go, I wouldn’t mind seeing her, after all, it is not every day that the opportunity arises to see such huge moving objects. Its just a pity the weather had not played fair.

© DRW 2014-2018. Images recreated and links repaired 20/04/2016
Updated: 31/12/2017 — 09:01

Heading back from Ryde

Carrying on where we left off….

There was one thing I needed to see and that was the Portsmouth Naval Memorial at Southsea, it was designed not only as a memorial, but also as a leading mark for shipping. In the image below the memorial is the white tower with the greenish ball on top of it. It is a very impressive memorial, and one of three similar memorials that were erected to the casualties of the Royal Navy.
Shieldhall was now heading back to Southampton at a leisurely pace. The weather was hot and cloudy in places, and the water was calm. Perfect cruising weather really. The sun had discovered that there were areas of me that needed attention and I often had to head to a shade deck just to cool off.
My presumption as to why we were dawdling along was twofold. There was a small tug dredging in the approach channel, and we had to wait for her to finish, or the master was waiting for the cruiseships to emerge from Southampton so that he could regale them with the siren. Any cruiseship is fair game and often some merchant ships get the siren treatment too. It must be quite odd to be on the bridge of your sparkling cruiseship to be accosted by a small steam powered ex-sludge carrier with an often obscene siren. Cruise ship sailing time is around 16H30, and we were not quite ideally placed by the time they started unberthing and moving. Get a move on Smit Buffalo!!!
We also passed a few smaller vessels going about their business, and a host of power boaters and assorted water craft. Sand Heron was being followed by 3 of those water scooter type machines that were using her wake as a launching platform. I had seen this vessel in Weymouth awhile ago, and photographed her sister transiting the Itchen Bridge.
By now I could pick up the movement in Southampton at the further-est extent of the lens of my camera. (which reminds me, the lens extending mechanism does not sound very good). The leading vessel was Independence of the Seas, and I expected that because they are quite prompt in their departures, unlike certain other vessels……
And then we were waiting, siren at the ready… but would they catch the hint?
Independence of the Seas is a real beauty, she exudes size and efficiency and I have never seen her looking shabby or run down. She is also prompt, but her master chose to ignore our plaintive bleatings, parps and belches. 
I was fortunate enough to catch her as she turned into the Western Solent, and with the sun on her.
Emerald Princess on the other hand wanted to play along and we exchanged salutes with her (much to the amusement of everybody on board).
And finally Oceana also exchanged salutes with us.
As we passed the mouth of the Hamble I spotted a strange contraption festooned with lifeboats. I suspect it is some sort of training facility for ships crews, or maybe for scouts? it may be worthwhile finding out more about it. (Apparently this is part of Warsash  Maritime Academy)
Somebody was missing from the sailing list, Azura had also been in the harbour and she was not amongst the sailings. We had left her at Ocean Terminal when we had sailed, although she was berthed bow first instead of stern first like she usually does. Hopefully as we got closer we would pick her up. 
We picked up Whitchallenger on her way downstream, she is a bunkering vessel and may have been heading to top herself up as she was riding quite high.
We were also overtaken by two separate members of the Red Funnel fleet, and the Red Jets really left us rocking in their wakes, although Red Osprey just made us wobble a bit.
As we got closer to the harbour I spotted Azura being swung in the turning basin and soon she was bearing down on us. This was actually the second time I had seen her like this, the first being on my Cowes trip. 
You only get a sense of how big these ships are when they go past you, sadly though they do not really appeal to me, although I do recall that both her and Ventura were easy to work onboard from a baggage handling perspective.
and then we were alongside Hythe Pier
and I got to wave at Challenge, she is looking very lonely in that corner of the harbour. I really wish they would have her at a better spot because she is liable to be forgotten where she is now.
And then we were ready to come alongside, our trip completed. Shieldhall and her crew had brought us home safely.
I still had to get to the station and catch my train back to Salisbury, and I was tired. But it had been a different trip and I had enjoyed it. My only gripe was that there weren’t more ships to see on the trip. My next cruise will probably be one of the short harbour voyages that they have during the Maritime Festival which is being held on the 22nd and.23rd of  August. I will see you then Shieldhall. 
© DRW 2014-2018. Created 27/07/2014, images recreated and links changed 19/04/2016
Updated: 30/12/2017 — 20:37

Heading down to Ryde

My ears pricked up when I read about the trip from Southampton to Ryde pier onboard the Shieldhall. I have done three trips on board her already, so she is not a new experience. However, there is something about this classic steamship that gets into your blood. Possibly because she is a real ship and not some floating gin palace? I did a general blog post about her in May last year, so there isn’t much to say about the ship that I haven’t said before. But, I usually find something new each time I go on board.
Southampton harbour was quiet, and the cruise ships in port were Independence of the Seas, Emerald Princess, Azura and Oceana. I was secretly hoping we would see them in Southampton Water on the way back. And, I was hoping to see lots of ships on the eastern Solent as we sailed along. The best surprise was the THV Galatea , she was berthed bow to bow with Shieldhall and was a very impressive vessel. 

And then we were off. Springing away from the quayside and turning our bows towards the stretch of water that reaches to the Solent. If you look at a map of that area you will see that with a lot of pushing the Isle of Wight would fit quite snugly into the area known as The Solent although the geology is a bit more complicated than that. The theory was that once we entered the Solent we would turn to port and sail towards Portsmouth. 

A major grouping of vessels is to be found at the refinery at Crawley, although mostly tankers, there is also a nice grouping of tugs to be found here.
These three (Ajax, Lomax and Phenix), are operated by Solent Towage Ltd. and are occasionally seen in Southampton Harbour assisting some of the cruiseships. The next important area is Calshot Castle and I believe it is quite a good ship spotting venue, especially for afternoon sailings.
Once past the castle, we headed towards Cowes before turning to Port and sailing towards our destination. 
I had done the trip to Cowes once before with the Red Funnel ferry, and it was an interesting trip so it was not new to me. However, I had only been to Cowes, so far the rest of the Isle of Wight had evaded me. Ryde is easily accessible from Portsmouth as there is a conventional ferry service to the island as well as a hovercraft that does the run rather quickly.
Shieldhall was not unaccompanied in her voyage though. A swarm of yachts and small boats kept pace with us or came in close for a second look. She is a very popular vessel and I suspect getting a chance to see her sailing is one that you do not pass by. The Solent is also a very popular boating area and there were a number of people doing things in small boats. Unfortunately there were also a lot of those unattractive modern power boats that always seem to have a blonde draped languidly somewhere on the deck. The only real traffic we passed was the Hapag Lloyd container ship London Express that was heading into Southampton. 
As we got closer to our destination the Spinaker Tower in Portsmouth started to take on more definition, as did the Spitbank Forts and the ferries passing across our bows. I was really hoping we would get close to the forts but unfortunately never did.
Eventually we arrived at our destination which was Ryde Pier  and frankly from where we were it was not really very visible, and if the Master had not sung happy birthday we would probably have missed it. I cannot even show a pic as I do not have one that I can positively identify as “that’s it!”. Suffice to say I need to physically go there and take pics on the spot, and that will give me an excuse to go on the hovercraft. 
And talking about hovercraft, that’s her, crossing our bows. 
We sailed a bit further to Bembridge , or I believe it was Bembridge, again I cannot be too sure. It didn’t really matter though because it is not always the destination that interests me, sometimes it is all about the trip to get there. At this point we turned around and headed back in the general direction of Calshot, which was a pity because I really would have liked to have gotten closer to the Spitbank Forts, there was a Brittany Ferries boat heading away from Portsmouth that I was hoping we would get to have a look at but she was moving quite quickly and we would have never caught her anyway.

Our trip back towards Calshot was taken at a leisurely pace, and there were two possible answers to that question. But, we will have to turn the page to find out what they are.

© DRW 2014-2018. Created 27/07/2014. Images recreated 19/04/2016
Updated: 30/12/2017 — 20:39

Southampton Shipwatch 41: Emerald and Dawn Princess

I detoured on my way back from Portsmouth on the 12th of July to grab some pics of Emerald and Dawn Princess that were both in Southampton. The former at Ocean Terminal, the later at QEII. Unfortunately they are not really unique ships, Emerald  is one of the “Grand Class” clones and was launched in 2006. Her sisters are Crown Princess and Caribbean Princess. So technically I have seen her before. 
She was due to sail at 16H00, but as per usual the concept of time keeping was missing from her sailing, she finally started to drop her lines at 16H25, which was problematic because there were three others due to sail at 16H30 (Independence of the Seas, Oceana and Balmoral). There was quite a crowd of rubber neckers, fishermen and the occasional shippie watching her leave. 
Somehow though I cannot get much enthusiasm for these ships, I was considering that 30 years down the line these may be considered to be “classics” but I know I will really struggle to ever consider them that. 
And then it was time to head to the other side of Town Quay to catch Indie. Leaving the Emerald Princess to sail past her fleetmate Dawn Princess at QEII. I have to admit to a certain fondness for this big vessel, she is quite an attractive beastie and she is very prompt about her departure.
She was followed by Oceana, another ship for which I do not have much affection. 
One of the reasons I remained behind after watching Emerald Princess leave was to see Oceana alongside Dawn Princess.
Unfortunately QEII is an awkward place to photograph ships, it is too far away from Town Quay and unless they back the vessel into the Itchen or turn her when she arrives you only really get stern shots. These are the only pics I have of this 1997 built vessel. Her sisters are Sun Princess and Sea Princess, as well as Oceana. Incidentally the flat vessel alongside her is probably the slowest vessel in Southampton. I can walk faster than she can sail. Dawn Princess was due to sail at 21H00 (which probably means 21H30)
Then I turned my attention to Balmoral that was still being turned, unfortunately, being a bit of an old lady (and a classic too), she does not have stern thrusters so still needs a tug, but soon she too was heading down the channel. 

She was definitely the prettiest of the 5 ships in the harbour, but I could not really hang around as I had to get to the station by 17H36 for my train (which only arrived at 17H40). It was fun to do shipwatching again, and there are a number of unique arrivals scheduled for September that I will go down to Southampton for, so watch this space!!!

Emerald Princess 26/07/2014.
On the return to Southampton on Shieldhall on 26/07/2014 Emerald Princess was in the harbour too and I managed to get other pics of her. 
© DRW 2014-2018. Created 13/07/2014, updated 27/07/201, images recreated 18/04/2016
Updated: 30/12/2017 — 20:44
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