Tag: cruise

A last farewell

This post is one that I have dreaded for quite some time, and the time has finally come to make it. However, there is much more to it than a mere farewell, because it is really the culmination of many parts. It really starts way back in the in 1992 when I first saw the newly built RMS St Helena in Cape Town from the Canberra. Both of these vessels are legends, but at the moment we are more interested in the RMS. and this was the first photograph that I took of her. 

Because her prices were in £ she was very expensive to sail on, and a short cruise was not easy to get because she ploughed a long furrow between Cape Town, St Helena, Ascension Island and finally the UK. She was amongst the last passenger ships doing a dedicated line voyage and was also amongst the few ships left that flew the Royal Mail pennant. 

RMS at St Helena. Image courtesy of Sabrina Harper

By some weird piece of luck I heard about spaces being available on board her for the voyage to Tristan da Cunha  that was happening in  1993, and I took a chance and booked passage. It was not cheap by any means and I am thankful for my travel agent who helped me with my booking and the associated flights to and from Cape Town.

Naturally sailing day was a long drag away. I was stuck in a dead end job with a company I loathed, and was only too glad to get away from them for awhile. Around about the same time I picked up issues with my health and ended up having to lug a stash of pills on board with me. There was no way in hell I would be stopped by aches and pains. The report of my voyage exists on allatsea so I am not going to repeat it, suffice to say I enjoyed it thoroughly; Tristan was a fascinating destination, but the ship was so much better. She is really a hybrid passenger and cargo ship and of course does not have the glitz and glamour of the modern cruise ships, if anything she really came from a much nicer era of travel. Her crew were composed of a mixture of “Saints” and ex Union-Castle staff and of course that meant that I was experiencing just a tiny piece of the legacy of the glorious  Union-Castle mail ships. 

I was very fortunate to get that opportunity of a voyage and I kept an eye on her as much as was possible in the intervening years. At some point she stopped calling in the UK, and she was managed by Andrew Weir Shipping as opposed to Curnow Shipping. Work was started on an airport at St Helena and that was really the death knell of my favourite ship, although it was still a number of years away. 

A number of years have passed, the airport was ready to open and it was announced that the RMS would make one final voyage to the UK, arriving in June 2016. At first I thought “Who do I know that can get me pics?” And then I decided I would get them myself and set out for London  on the 7th of June to see the RMS for the last time.   I have told that story before and you can read about it on the blogpost.

The airport was not without its problems though and the RMS was granted a reprieve for another year and a half. 

A year and a half has passed, and sadly the RMS has sailed from Cape Town on her last voyage. The moment that all of her many fans dreaded has finally arrived. 

What of her future? she is came into service in 1990 so is already over 27 years old and is already in the zone where a replacement should have been on the table. She has always had engine issues, and recently had to return to drydock for repairs in Simonstown. The odds of her finding a reputable buyer is really very small, and the odds of her becoming a static hotel in St Helena is even smaller. Unless a buyer can be found she will make one last voyage to the beach, and that will be incredibly sad. However, rather she gets broken up than stuck in some backwater and left to rot.  I am a realist, and preserving ships in a very costly business, even one as small as her. 

I remember many years ago a print advert for Union-Castle that showed the inside of a jet aircraft and a view from the window. It more or less said: “From (date unknown) this is the view you will see when you go to England (or South Africa).” That is now also true of those who wish to visit St Helena Island. 

She will be sadly missed, there will never be another like her. 

The end of the era has come.

Glenn Kasner took photo’s of that last sailing and these images are copyright to him. I am using them with permission.

Sadly she had somewhat of a poor send off, but thanks to the tug for showing some respect.  And while Cape Town hardly budged from their torpor the same could not be said about her send off at St Helena. These images were kindly sent to me by Sabrina Harper and are used with permission.

**Update 2018**

10/02/2018. The RMS sailed from St Helena for the last time. The ship, which has supplied the island since coming into service so long ago was expected to reach Cape Town on the 15th of February (Since revised to 17 Feb) where they will disembark the last passengers who sailed on the ship. Thereafter she will go into lay up or alternatively head off to her next destination, whether it is the beaches of Alang or a new career. The Master was unable to reveal what the final destination of the vessel will be as he would only find out while en route for Cape Town. Once I know more I will post it here too. 

Farewell RMS, fair weather for your final journeys. Thank you for the experience of real sea travel the way it used to be.

**Update 17/04/2018**

It was announced that the RMS has been sold to Tahiti Shipping, a subsidiary of MNG Maritime, bought the ship for an undisclosed amount. Under the name MNG Tahiti she is to be based in the Gulf of Oman, and used as a floating armoury, packed with automatic weapons, bullet-proof jackets and night vision goggles, all stored for maritime security operatives who keep vessels secure from piracy attacks. At this point there has been no announcement as to when she will sail from Cape Town for the last time. 

DRW © 2018. Created 25/01/2018. Cape Town sailing images are by Glen Kasner © 2018 and last 3 by Sabrina Harper and are used with permission, updated 15/02/2018, additional images added  18/04/2018

Updated: 18/04/2018 — 18:44

Preserved Ships: MV Balmoral

The Balmoral was not an excursion ship that I ever saw in Southampton, although that she was built for service between Southampton and Cowes in the Isle of White, as well as perform excursions around the South Coast. The MV Balmoral that this post is about is the vintage excursion ship owned by the MV Balmoral Fund Ltd and I first saw her in Bristol in January 2014. In fact I was not even aware that she was in Bristol at the time.

Unfortunately I was on my way to see the SS Great Britain, so did not take too many pics as I was on a tight schedule (which is dominated by the train timetable). I filed the information in the back of my mind with the intention of coming back one day.

Well this day was that “one day”; only it was now over 20 months later, and there was always the chance that the vessel would have shifted. I do know she had been active for awhile, and fortunately she was in the same spot as when I saw her last time. Unfortunately I was not as lucky with the light this time around, it was a grey and dreary day, although the harbour was really bustling as there was a heritage day event going on in the harbour.

There was a lot going on around the vessel, and there was a sign that indicated that you could go on board her. I weighed that up with what I wanted to see (a rare steam engine), and decided to come back to her once I had taken my pics. Time passed and by 13H45 I was alongside the Balmoral once again. I only had 15 minutes to spare before I left for the station, but with luck I could push it to 45 minutes if I caught a different train. The gangway guard laughed when he heard my predicament, he even knew what train I was after! (image below from 2018)

Then I was onboard the vessel, and it was time to look around.

On board she is really fitted out with lounges and seating areas, and while they are not ugly spaces I was not too enamoured with the colour schemes in some of the areas.

 

 

Naturally I headed for the bridge and wheelhouse, but hit a snag. There were at least 6 people in it, and one standing blocking the door, so I could not even get a look into it.

I headed down to the foredeck to look around, hoping that the wheelhouse would be vacated before train time came along, but it did not look as if anybody was going to budge.
The upper decks are not as nice as on Shieldhall, but they are full of the tiddley bits that make ships so interesting

 

 
I have no idea what had been going on on the aft decks, but it was obvious that I was not going to get any further than where I took the image from. I headed back inside again, to the forward facing lounge, and it was not a big space at all. In fact I think it could get very crowded in there.

The engine room was also open, but the doors were shut and a private group seemed to be visiting. I hung around a bit then went walkies again and returned, but nothing was budging in there, and the wheelhouse was still full of people so realistically there was not much else to see, unless I could get into some area where I was not allowed. It was time I took my leave. I was already running a few minutes late, so really had to leave now or hang around for how long waiting to get to the bridge or engine room.

The “Famous Bow Shot” above was taken in 2014 from the bridge that is almost in spitting distance of the ship, the bridge was undergoing refurbishment at the time and a temporary walk way enables people to cross the river. The image below is from 2018 and the vessel had been moved from the position by the bridge to further down the harbour

My images were dictated by the weather, but it does give me incentive to return to Bristol to rectify the situation, hopefully next time will not be 20 months away.  If I had the opportunity I would definitely go on her for a short jaunt, although I think it could be very crowded on a busy day.

Farewell Balmoral, I hope to see you again soon.

**UPDATE 21/07/2018**

I was in Bristol once again for the Harbour Festival and was hoping to get on board her. She was not in the space where I had last seen her last but berthed almost opposite the Great Britain. Unfortunately the woman who was at the gangplank was not ready to let me see the wheelhouse, and insisted that I have a guide with. The only problem being that the guide was standing at the opposite rail watching what was going on. She was not willing to call him and neither was I able to persuade her to let me go  on board and grab the guide and get it done with. The problem with waiting for more people to pitch was that I would still have the same problem of too many people in too small a space. I gave up and left and have now closed the book on the ship.  

© DRW 2015-2018. Images migrated 02/05/2016. Some images replaced 22/08/2018 and page updated.

Updated: 22/07/2018 — 16:40
DR Walker © 2014 -2019. Images are copyright to DR Walker unless otherwise stated. Frontier Theme