Standing at the Town Quay it was inevitable that sooner or later a Red Funnel ferry would pass by on its way to or from the Isle of Wight. There are two different ferries that ply this route. The larger car ferry (Red Eagle, Red Osprey and Red Falcon) which sails to East Cowes,
And the high speed catamaran Red Jet (1-4?) that sails to West Cowes. These tend to streak past at a high rate of knots trailing a frothing wake behind them. That is not how I consider going by ship to be.
It tuns out that the Red Jet numbers are 3, 4 and 5, 1 and 2 are nowhere to be seen.
I decided to do the trip to the Isle of Wight almost on a short notice whim. My considerations were that the weather had to be suitable, and there had to be a ship sailing from Southampton that I could photograph on my way back. I decided on a sailing for 22 April, and grabbed my gear and off I went. I was curious about how they loaded the vessel on the landward side as there are 2 car decks, but they solve that with a gangway that accesses the upper card deck as well as the lower. It is a well rehearsed procedure, made even easier by a well managed terminal parking system.
The passenger section of the ferry consists of two decks, an enclosed lounge and refreshments area, and an outside deck which has glassed off areas to keep passengers out of the wind (which can be considerable). Access to the vehicle decks is not allowed during the voyage.
Our sailing was for 09.00 am with a 55 minute voyage time. It is only 9.9 nautical miles between Southampton and Cowes and the ferry averages 12.5 knots. The schedule was a bit out of kilter on my trip as one of the ships was out of service.
Then we were off, and it felt great to feel a ship underneath me again. There is just something soothing about moving through the water and watching everything else pass by. I guess it is one of the many things I miss about cruising.
It is also nice to see some of the harbourside from the water, and to at least appreciate parts of the docks that are not accessible to the public. The cruise ship at Southampton Ocean was P&O’s Azura, and she was busy with lifeboat drill. It reminded me of a duck with her ducklings all paddling around her.
This was the ship I was hoping to photograph as she sailed down Southampton Water while we were returning from the Isle of Wight.
The interior of the ferry is comfortable, although I did not tarry there as I was much more interested in being on deck and feeling the wind blowing me away.
Of course while en route the Red Jet had to roar past us at a rate of knots, but in my opinion we were on the better vessel.
We passed the line of tankers at Fawley Refinery just before we reached Calshot Spit, and I was really happy to see large ships again after such a long absence.
Then we were alongside the Calshot Spit, I expect this are must have been where the Calshot Spit light vessel used to be before they stuck her on the quayside to moulder away (The light vessel has since been moved to the Solent Sky Museum).
And then out of the haze loomed our destination. The Isle of Wight.
The area we were now crossing is known as “The Solent”, and if you turn right at Calshot you will eventually enter the English Channel, and if you turn left would pass Portsmouth and Gosport and then enter the English Channel. If you went straight you would collide with the Isle of Wight.
East and West Cowes is divided by the Medina River which has a chain drawn ferry running between the two banks. Naturally on the day of my visit it was broken…
Disembarkation was painless as a foot passenger, and a bit more hectic as a vehicle driver, but even on this end it is a well rehearsed operation. I would hate to see the carnage if we tried loading a ferry like this with South African taxi’s and the 4×4 brigade.
DRW © 2013-2018. Images recreated 02/04/2016, post expanded retrospectively 13/12/2017