musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Tag: ferry

Loving Liverpool (11) The Final Say?

The final say?

This is the final post in my “Loving Liverpool” series that covers my recent trip. And what a ride it has been. I returned from the city with over 2000 images and even when I look at them now I realise how many images I neglected to take, especially in St John’s Garden and at the Anglican and Catholic Cathedrals.

The highlight of the trip was probably Museum of the Moon and St James Garden, they were breathtaking and photographs do not do them justice.

Museum of the Moon

Liverpool as a maritime city is a mere shade of its former self, no longer do mighty transatlantic liners berth in the Mersey nor cargo ships ply their trade backwards and forwards. Mighty steam engines no longer wait at Lime Street Station to take their trains to London or north to Scotland. The end result has been much cleaner air! But a loss of the heritage that made this place what it is. 

Liverpool was built around the slave trade, and it made many people very rich and inflicted misery on countless others. There is no way to really reverse that situation, and I am afraid that it is yet another blot on our “civilisation”. However, it is crucial that it does not get swept under the carpet and relegated to the pages of dusty old tomes. The Maritime Museum had an exhibition on Slavery, but I did not see too much of it because of the crowds. The museum also has the obligatory Titanic exhibition which was surprisingly interesting, especially since the builders model was present, or was it the builders model of the Olympic disguised as the Titanic?

Cunard’s Campania

For me though Liverpool will stand out for its many beautiful buildings, and there are a lot of them! The one strange gem was Roscoe Gardens and the Grand Central Hotel with its quirky décor, steelwork and pipe organ. It was truly a wonderful space, and I could easily do a post all about that building alone. 

There were two churches outside of the cathedrals that I saw, in particular the Liverpool Parish Church is a real beauty, and it had a welcoming atmosphere too. The nautical feel of the church does it credit, and of course finding woodwork from the Aquitania was an added bonus.  

But, like the other “bombed out church” it does tell a story about the Liverpool Blitz.

The presence of Western Approaches Command Museum really just highlighted the importance of the city to the conduct of the Battle of the Atlantic,  and I am sure that if I visited the city cemeteries at Anfield and Toxteth Park I would possibly find some of the many innocents killed in the bombing buried within them.

Talking of cemeteries, contrary to my usual plans I did not visit the city cemeteries, although St James Garden was really a bonus. It was a really wonderful place to visit. The Cathedrals were equally amazing, and a revisit to them both is really on the cards for a return visit.

One of the more surprising finds was the Hall of Remembrance inside the City Hall. The building itself was stunning, and the staff were incredibly helpful too. The Hall was outstanding, a really beautiful room but I am sure not too many people are even aware of its existence.

The pier head was enjoyable, but it really was sad that there were all these acres of dock space and nothing in them, it is the reality in many of the former ports in the UK. The faithful ferry does help alleviate the shortage of shipping, but I fear that even at some point she may become redundant unless a way can be found to revitalise the service. Birkenhead across the water is also worthy of exploration, as is Bootle and possibly further afield to a point when I can see the expanse of water known as the Irish Sea.

The Irish Sea in the distance (1500 x 422)

On my way to Liverpool I was lucky enough to get some pics of the large bridge at Runcorn spanning the Mersey. It really deserves better photographs than those I managed from the moving train.

Crewe Railway Heritage Centre was also worth a visit but was not open during my time in Liverpool. It was a pity though as there appeared to be quite a lot to see.

Some of those wonderful old buildings.

Municipal Offices

Exchange Station

Former Royal Infirmary

County Sessions House

Hargreaves Building

Wellington Rooms


Liverpool, London & Globe Bldg

There were a number of other weird and wonderful things that I saw, and these are some of them.

Paifang, Nelson Street

Like many cities Liverpool has a large ethnic Chinese community centred around Chinatown. Many of the inhabitants are descendants of Chinese seaman who served in the merchant ships that called in the city.  The paifang on Nelson Street is the largest, multiple-span arch of its kind outside China.

The Liverpool Sailor’s Home Gateway was originally outside the main entrance to the Sailor’s Home  which stood where the current John Lewis is. It was removed from the home in 1951 and presented to the successors of the Henry Pooley and Son’s Albion Foundy in Liverpool; the original makes of the gate.

Liverpool sailor’s home gateway

It was returned to this space in 2011 and is dedicated as a memorial to all the sailors who have passed through Liverpool during its long history as an international seaport.

This wonderful footbridge I spotted in Princes Dock. It reminded me of a whale carcass.

The Queensway Tunnel was opened in July 1934 and it connects Liverpool with Birkenhead. 

Queensway tunnel

There are a number of ventilation shafts visible from the river, with one shaft being part of  George’s Dock Ventilation and Control Station building. This magnificent art-deco building should really be the 4 grace. In the image below it is the square building in the foreground. 

I was hoping that the Library (situated in St George’s Quarter), would be a magnificent space, but sadly it wasn’t. However. if you look upwards…

Quite a few “modern” buildings are worthy of consideration too, and the city has a surprisingly modern skyline.

(1500 x 479)

Liverpool Museum

Mann Island Buildings

The Gym. Strand Street

Echo Wheel & Echo Arena

There is a lot of excellent public art and statues in the city and it is impossible to see it all and catalogue it. 

‘A Case History’ was created by John King. Installed in 1998 on Hope Street

Heaven and Earth by Andy Plant

The Great Escape. Herbert Cronshaw

These 10 pages are not the only one spawned as a result of my visit, a number of pages were created at allatsea too, and so far these are:

Overall though I really enjoyed Liverpool, it was one of those experiences that I was very fortunate to have. I tend to view cities as a newcomer and can see them with a different light to what the average person who lives in the city has. Would I live in Liverpool? I cannot answer that because I really only saw the touristy bits and not the nitty gritty of life in its tougher neighbourhoods.

I only dabbled briefly in the underground railway and only experienced 3 stations and my 4 days of weather were all different, and of course I was not there to experience winter in all its discontent. Yet I found the people incredibly friendly and I must single out the commissionaire at one of the “3 Graces”, the guide at the Musical Britain display and the lady manning the front desk of Grand Central Hotel,  as well as the staff at The Lord Nelson Hotel. What a pleasure to deal with you all.

Lord Nelson Hotel

Its time to lapse back into my torpor of inactivity, although I still have quite a lot more odds and ends that I will use in other blogposts, for starters my forthcoming “Crime and punishment” post has been put on hold and now needs a rethink.

And that was Liverpool…

DRW © 2018 – 2019. Created 15/06/2018

Updated: 04/01/2019 — 06:59

Loving Liverpool (6) Ferry Across the Mersey

Continuing where we left off…

Naturally visiting any sort of harbour presents possible opportunities to get on a boat or a ship, or at least to see one (or two).

MV Snowdrop

Liverpool did not disappoint because there is a ferry that crosses the Mersey and I had her in my sights as soon as I spotted her (which says a lot for her dazzle camouflage).

At the time “Snowdrop” was working “River Explorer” cruises between Pier Head Ferry Terminal to Seacombe Ferry Terminal, and then to Woodside Ferry Terminal where the U-Boat Story was and then back to the pier head. When I first hit the ferry terminal my first consideration was queues. These were very long to get on board so I decided against it at the time, although did try a bit later in the afternoon but by then it was her last round trip so I gave it a miss. It would have been better to have taken that late sailing because the light was so much better that afternoon compared to the next morning.

The next day was a different story (as detailed in Loving Liverpool (5)) but by 10 am I was on board and ready to sail! Let go for’ard!

The vessel was built in 1959 for the Birkenhead Corporation as “Woodchurch” by Philip and Son, Dartmouth and was yard number 1305

Builders Plate

She was launched on 28 October 1959 and made her maiden voyage from Dartmouth to the River Mersey in 1960.   She is of 617 GRT, with a length of 46.32 m (152 ft 0 in), beam:  12.2 m (40 ft 0 in) and draught of 2.46 m (8 ft 1 in), as built she had a capacity of  1,200 passengers. 

Fortunately she was not too crowded so I was able to wander around taking pics of her decks and seating areas and just taking in the scenery. I was hoping to get close to the Stena Mersey but almost half way across the river I saw that she was getting underway so managed to get some pics of that happening.

(1500 x 476) heading back towards Seacombe.

I rode the vessel only as far as Woodside where I jumped ship and went to look at the U-534 exhibit.

I reboarded Snowdrop at 11H30. 

We puttered along towards the bend in the river and I was able to see the Royal Fleet Auxiliaries berthed at Cammell Laird of Birkenhead.

The vessel above is RFA Wave Knight (A389), while the vessel on the slipway is a Royal Research Ship being built at an estimated cost of £200 million, with the name RRS Sir David Attenborough and she is expected to be in service in 2019. The vessel below is  RFA Fort Victoria (A387)

RFA Fort Victoria (A387)

I was not sure how far you could get if you walked along the promenade towards those ships at Birkenhead, although I had been tempted to try that in the morning. Actually with hindsight Birkenhead may have to go to the top of my bucket list if ever I get back to Liverpool.

And then we were alongside once again and the queue to board was already looking long. I was happy because I had had my “cruise”. It was not much but was better than nothing. At least for that hour I was on the deck looking towards land and not vice versa.

The second trip.

On my last day in Liverpool I discovered that the cruise ship Saga Sapphire was in port so I decided to grab a short hop across the river to Seacombe and see about getting pics of her from the ferry,

Unfortunately the sun was really in the wrong place so the pics came out pretty badly.

Commuter services run between Seacombe departing at 7.20 am with a ten minute trip across to the pier head terminal and back until the last arrival at the pier head at 9.50 am.  However, this morning fleetmate Royal Iris was berthed at Seacombe so I was able to grab closeups of her, but it also meant that there was either a vessel swap going to happen or she was going to do a cruise too.

I stayed on board Snowdrop and rode her back to the pier head.

From there I strolled to the passenger terminal and took a closer look at Saga Sapphire before plonking myself on a handy bench to see what happened with Royal Iris; who had shifted from where I saw her earlier. 

Voila, she unberthed and started to head towards me and Snowdrop started to come into the shot too from behind Saga Sapphire…. this could be interesting, because I was hoping to get them both together and was rewarded for my patience. Royal Iris was already packed so I suspect she was doing a cruise, possibly down the Manchester Ship Canal?

Why the dazzle camo?

Dazzle camouflage was really the brainchild of famous artist Norman Wilkinson and the zoologist John Graham Kerr, and it consisted of complex patterns of geometric shapes in contrasting colours, interrupting and intersecting each other. the intention of it was to make it difficult to estimate a target’s range, speed, and heading.

How effective was it? It is certainly very strange to see and just maybe a few lives were saved as a result of it. However I have heard about the case of a WW1 destroyer sent to escort a large vessel that was dazzle camouflaged and her captain  admitted that he had to sail around the ship before he could work out which direction she was going in. The confusion of somebody trying to view a ship through a periscope could gain a potential target a few more seconds to evade a torpedo attack, and that was very important in the war at sea. False bow waves were also painted on ships too and I have seen images of a destroyer painted on the side of a passenger liner. 

The current mania for dazzle camo ships in Liverpool was really to draw attention to the war at sea and if it succeeded then that is a good thing. 

In January 2015 Snowdrop was given her unique new livery inspired by dazzle camouflage. Designed by Sir Peter Blake and entitled Everybody Razzle Dazzle.  She was one of three vessels commissioned to carry a dazzle livery, the others being Induction Chromatique à Double Fréquence pour l’Edmund Gardner Ship / Liverpool. Paris, 2014 by Carlos Cruz-Diez on the museum ship Edmund Gardner also berthed in Liverpool.

Tobias Rehberger’s Dazzle Ship London was created on HMS President in the River Thames. Unfortunately she was not in London in 2016 when I was there as she had been shifted to Chatham to make way for sewerage works. Her future was looking very bleak and it is unknown whether she will survive her cash crisis or not. She does need dry docking and funding is needed to get her through to her new berth in 2018. Images of her in dazzle camo are on her website

I do not know what Snowdrop looked like before she became so hard to see, but Royal Iris certainly looked much better in her normal livery.

As for Royal Daffodil, I was hoping to see her too, but she was nowhere that I was familiar with, at one point she started to sink at her mooring and I suspect she had been moved since then. I have since heard that she is laid up at the east float next to the Duke Street Bridge in Birkenhead and no real firm plans had been made about her future.

And that was my fun with ferries.

When next we return I will be dealing with Western Approaches Command and three large memorials that I found in the same area. Space permitting I will also visit the church on the waterfront


DRW © 2018. Created 05/06/2018

Updated: 27/06/2018 — 19:10

Loving Liverpool (5) Birkenhead

Continuing where we left off… 

It was now day two of my Liverpool trip and outside all was grey and gloomy and I was at a momentary loss as to what to do with myself. While researching my navigation I discovered that Liverpool was also home to “U-534“,  a Type IXC/40 U-boat from World War II. She had been raised on 23 August 1993 by the Dutch salvage company Smit Tak  after being undiscovered for nearly 41 years. She now formed the nucleus of the U-Boat Story museum at the Woodside Ferry Terminal in Birkenhead, which, was a short train journey underneath the Mersey. You can see the dismembered U-Boat in the image below.

Woodside ferry terminal

I actually did not use my brains when I decided to hop the train across the river, for starters I was at least 2 hours too early, and secondly I could visit the museum free if I bought a ticket for the river cruise on the ferry.  With the clouds hanging over my head I picked up the underground at Lime Street and headed to Hamilton Square Station in Birkenhead.

Hamilton Square Station

It was chilly too, and I regretted not bringing my jacket with.  I also regretted missing the lift and hoofing up an infinite number of stairs to get out of the station. 

The promenade, U-Boat Story and Waterside Ferry Terminal were about a block away. A quick walk and I was there, but everything was closed and not a soul was in sight. It was only 8.15, why was everything closed? It was very depressing indeed. The only item that looked reasonably interesting was a replica of the Victorian submarine “Resurgam

The original ill fated vessel met its end in Liverpool Bay off Rhyl on 25 February 1880 while en route for Portsmouth. How successful it may have been as a functioning submarine is not noted. However, the information plaque records that she did sail and submerge successfully. 

At the waters edge I discovered that not only was the tide out, but there was actually a ship alongside at the ferry landing on my side of the river! Huzzah! let’s go have a look!

She was busy loading and there was no way of knowing when she would sail and of course I was on the wrong side of the river to get a proper look at her (for the record she was the Stena Mersey).  And, to my amazement a movement on my right revealed a tanker running light outbound.

I idled along checking my watch. The first ferry to Woodside was destined to arrive at 10H30 and  the museum only opened at 10H30 and it was only 8.20! I had a decision to make because nothing was happening here. Looming next to the terminal were the segments of U-534 and I peered at them through the fence with interest. 

I really wanted to see this exhibition so I either had to hang around till opening time, or head back to the other river bank and come across with the ferry after 10H30. 

There were a few other surprises on this short stretch of river bank. 

The Birkenhead Monument.

The HMS Birkenhead is one of those definitive shipwrecks that litter the pages of history, and especially early South African History, as she foundered after colliding with an uncharted rock near Danger Point (today near Gansbaai, Western Cape) on  26 February 1852. The sinking of the Birkenhead is the earliest maritime disaster evacuation during which the concept of “women and children first” is known to have been applied. There were of the approximately 643 people on board the ill fated vessel of which only 193 were saved. 

The memorial was unveiled on 5 March 2014

The HMS Thetis Memorial.

A bit further along the promenade I found a memorial to the men lost in the sinking of HMS Thetis on 1 June 1939. I recall reading the story of the disaster and unsuccessful attempts to rescue the men trapped inside her, and it was really one of those disasters that could have been prevented.

Ninety-nine lives were lost in the incident: 51 crew members, 26 Cammell Laird employees, 8 other naval officers, 7 Admiralty overseeing officers, 4 Vickers-Armstrong employees, 2 caterers and a Mersey pilot.

Thetis was successfully salvaged and repaired, being commissioned in 1940 as HMS Thunderbolt but was sunk by depth charges by the Italian corvette Cicogna on 14 March 1943 off Sicily.  All hands were lost and Thunderbolt settled to the bottom in 1,350 m of water.

She is listed on the Submarine Memorial at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum in Gosport.

It was time for me to head back to the other bank of the river. The ferry was currently running 10 minutes trips across the Mersey between the terminal in Liverpool and Seacombe/Wallasy and if I arrived too early I would ride her up and down until I got tired. The round trip on the “River Explorer Cruise” runs from Pier Head Ferry Terminal to Seacombe Ferry Terminal, Wirral and then to Woodside Ferry Terminal, Wirral where the U-boat Story was and then back to the pier head. It was a 50 minute hop off and hop on trip and I intended to climb off at Woodside, check the exhibition and then reboard at 11H30 to return to the starting place.

However, I am going to skip the ferry trip in this post as I really want to do a post about the ferry separately so this one will deal with my visit to U-534. (the ferry is dealt with in Loving Liverpool (6) Having bought a River Explorer ticket I was entitled to free entry to the exhibition and I had allocated enough time to grab the ferry back at 11H30, although I was equally prepared to catch the next one at 12H30 too, although it would be much more crowded on that trip. There were not too many of us at the museum at that awful time, and I headed directly for the vessel instead of pausing at the exhibits in the hall. The submarine had been sawn into 4 parts, with the conning tower balanced between two of them. Each sawn end had been “sealed” with a transparent bulkhead that allowed you to see inside it.

I am however ambivalent about what was done because they really sliced up an intact (albeit rusty) U-Boat, but it did allow for a limited view of the interior of a U-Boat. The limitations of what they did were several: the biggest being that you could only really see a jumble of badly rusted machinery but nothing that lay beyond roughly 2 metres away. The state of the transparent bulkheads did leave much to be desired because they were badly smeared and I would have thought that they would been cleaned every morning before the exhibition opened. In some sections the machinery was also covered in pigeon crap! and if a pigeon can get in then so can the rain.     

But, those slices were fascinating to see, and while there were cross section explanations that marked certain components it was not always easy to understand what you were seeing. The vessel was full of water for over 40 years so the interiors are badly rusted, and the few wooden parts that I saw were rotten and there was a certain eeriness about that interior. I recall reading a book called “The Night Boat” by Robert R McCammon many years ago, and it was about a submarine full of zombies, and what I was seeing looked very much liked what I imagined that literary submarine looked like (although without the zombies and pigeons). I am not going to even try explain the images because it is beyond me.

It was fascinating to say the least. What really amazed me was how they squeezed so much machinery into such a small area and routed pipework and cables through the hull. The vertically orientated image shows the inside of the saddle tanks, with the curvature of the pressure hull on the right hand side. I never thought to check the underside of the saddle tanks because technically they were free flooding.

On 5 May 1945 she was underway heading north towards Norway, when she was attacked by a Liberator aircraft from RAF 547 Squadron which dropped depth charges. the submarine took heavy damage and began to sink by the stern. Forty nine of the fifty two crew members survived, including four who escaped via a torpedo hatch.

Inside the main building is an exhibition of items that were found inside the submarine, and these were very poignant, and obviously from long ago. 

For me it was a rare glimpse at the inside of a ship that could have ended the war if affective countermeasures were not found, and at times it was a close run thing. U-534 never sank a ship but did shoot down two British aircraft. Her end came right at the end of the war, and today we are able to catch a tiny glimpse into a vessel that descended from primitive hand powered machines that were considered an ungentlemanly weapon. We have come a long way since U-534 was built way back in 1942, and today the nuclear powered submarine is a true submarine and even deadlier than before.

It was time to catch the ferry on the next part of my journey, so I headed outwards, slightly miffed because the shop did not have prices on their ferry models.

My next post will deal with the ferry and my 2 trips on board the ferry Snowdrop.


DRW © 2018. Created 03/05/2018

Updated: 19/06/2018 — 12:54

Return to Gosport

In July this year I headed off to Gosport and Haslar Royal Naval Cemetery, unfortunately between then and a month ago I somehow hurt my ankle and any large scale expedition became problematic. That also explains the lack of blogposts this past month. I have literally been laid up. However, I am on the mend so I headed off once again to Haslar to see how many more graves I could photograph of the potential 700+ that I was still missing.

I also wanted to try for a harbour cruise as I wanted to get photographs of HMS Illustrious who was being decommissioned in Portsmouth.  She is really the last of her class and is quite a famous vessel in her own right. The harbour cruise was only running much later so I decided to return to it on my way back; so I headed to the Gosport ferry terminal.

Towering above the dockyard was the ship I wanted to photograph, and on that short ferry crossing I got my pics.

Satisfied, I headed off to the cemetery which isn’t all that far away, but that ship kept nagging away in the back of my head. I really needed to see her from the dockyard. 

Haslar really has two major groupings of graves, the first being the World War 1 graves and the second being the World War 2 graves. The later is easy to identify because of the headstone, the former is categorised by the use of the Admiralty pattern headstone as pictured alongside. The problem with these headstones is legibility, the inscriptions are small and you really need to go up close to see what they say. 
I was fortunate that the caretaker told me that the WW1 graves had all had their headstones replaced a few years back and they tended to stand out a bit more. The “E” Plot where most were is quite a large area and covers the era from roughly 1904 – 1938. Armed with this information I would be able to be a bit more selective of which graves to photograph and which to skip. The grave pictured is outside of my date range, but the mix of colours and textures on it is wonderful. I had roughly 700 graves to photograph and with a cloudy sky it was not too uncomfortable. 
I worked my way through the graves reasonably quickly, and by 13H30 I was finished and ready to head back to the ferry terminal. There are a lot of images to process and I will be busy doing that for quite awhile. My train was scheduled to depart at  14h23, so I decided to rather try for the 15H23 train instead and go have a look around the dockyard.  As I approached the marina I spotted movement, and it turned out to be a container ship inbound. It was quite odd seeing such a large ship moving through the channel, but then Portsmouth is not only a naval dockyard, there is also a ferry, cruise ship, and cargo terminal. Unfortunately I was still a bit too far away for a great pic of the vessel, Had I walked faster, or not paused at…. these thoughts do tend to go around in the head when you miss a shot like this.
I also stopped to have a look at the Holy Trinity Church which is almost a landmark on its own. Unfortunately the graveyard that I was hoping for did not exist, although there was one grave related to the clergy from the church. The War Memorial was a nice plus though, but that tower really dominated the space.
Then it was ferry time…. and in the distance was HMS Illustrious once again.
Once ashore I headed off to the dockyard. I had been there before in April last year, so did not want to do the touristy stuff, however the queue for the harbour cruise was way too long so I decided to give that a miss. You can still access parts of the dockyard without being on a tour, and that was my aim.
HMS Illustrious dominated the scene, she really stood out, but there was an intense sadness about her. I cannot imagine what it must feel like to say goodbye to a ship that you have served on for a long time, especially if you know she is going to probably make one final journey behind a tow. As usual people are crying for her preservation, but realistically that probably will not happen. Ships are expensive to preserve, each preserved ship is like a large hole that has money poured into it, although some do manage to survive against all the odds. If it was up to me they would all be preserved. (Sadly, HMS Illustrious was towed from Portsmouth on 07/12/2016 for the breakers)
Emerging from behind HMS Dragon (replete with bow art) was the ferry Mont St Michel, she was moving very slowly, and I considered trying to race her back to the station, but I have seen her many times before so decided to give it a miss. I strolled around and looked at some of the bits and bobs, although HMS Victory is a bit big to be called a bit or a bob. I am glad to hear that the monitor HMS M33 is eventually going to be opened to the public. She is an interesting vessel, albeit slightly spartan, and it does seem a waste for her to be taking up a drydock without being able to generate any income for her preservation.
HMS Victory is still sans her upperworks, although she really looks good and on board she is really a site to see. I have visited her, and I did a retrospective report on her. The image below I took in April 2013, and the sun was shining, unlike this grey day in September. 
Then it was time to mosey off to the station, I had seen most of what I wanted to see, and I was starting to get tired. The station is not too far away and between HMS Warrior and the station I would be able to see Mont St Michel passing. I also discovered the reason for her slow pace, a nice reefer: Crown Topaz,  was passing up the channel, followed by something that may have been a dredger
And then she finally came into view, although I have to admit she does not really appeal to me, with her short foredeck. I like my ships to look like ships, not like blocks of flats with pointy ends. 
And then it was time to go home. It had been a very fruitful sort of day, although only once I had processed all the images would I know where we stood with completion of Haslar Naval Cemetery. I expect that there are a few graves that I have missed, but that is just an occupational hazard when it comes to grave photography.  I don’t know when/if I will be down this neck of the woods again though, after all, I am still hoping to get back down to Bristol, although my ankle problem does negate that. 
© DRW 2014-2018. Created 28/09/2014, images recreated 20/04/2016 
Updated: 22/06/2018 — 19:20

Red Funnel Flip (3)

Go full astern..

Having been taken across the Medina by Jenny boat I was once again back on East Cowes and en route to Kingston Cemetery. East Cowes has a very different feel to West Cowes and it may be one of those affluent vs middle class things. Although given how little I saw on this visit I may be totally wrong. 

The one problem I did encounter was large trucks that were coming and going to the ferry. It was somewhat dangerous for a foot passenger such as myself. It was also not good for photography. 

Once clear of the terminal and having found my bearings I was ready to head off to the cemetery.

I love the houses in these towns, they are much more attractive than the faux “Tuscan Villas” so beloved of yuppies and architects back in South Africa. These old row houses have character! 

Eventually I reached Kingston Cemetery, and it had a very different feel to its neighbour over the river. It was consecrated in 1876 on land given to the people of Cowes by Queen Victoria. 

The Exif data on these images gives the time as being around 13H00, look how the weather has changed. 

And, like Northwood, it too has a mass grave and Civilian Dead Memorial.

It was time to go, I was also feeling peckish so needed to find food or snacks, I had spotted a likely place while I was in town so would pause there and kill some time replenishing my energy levels.

I was also hoping to get to see some water up close and personal, and was able to achieve that once I was finished lunch. 

To be honest I was at a loss as to what to do to kill time, the museum was closed much to my dismay, and frankly I could have spent much more time at the cemetery. I was tempted to grab the next ferry and head back to Southampton, but I really wanted to experience seeing Azura coming out down Southampton Water. Problem number two was that because one ferry was out of commission the sailing times were slightly out of kilter. 

There was one mystery that I wanted to solve but unfortunately I did not get proper pics of it at the time because I was hoping to get better ones when I was on the ground. On East Cowes, just as you enter the Medina, there is a large hangerlike structure with a Union Jack painted on it, and I really wanted to know what the significance of it was because Cowes was also a a place where they built flying boats and hovercraft many many years ago.

Rummaging through my images I found an information board that gives some background to this place and the industry that was once a leader in its field. The structure, built by the firm of Sauders-Roe Ltd is known as the “Columbine Shed” and it was built in 1935 along with its attendant slipway. During the war years many seaplanes were built here, and it was also here where the SR.A1 Jet propelled seaplane (to be seen at Solent Sky Museum in Southampton)  first took flight. it was also at this spot where the 3 Princess Flying Boats came into being, only one of which flew. Hovercraft were built here too including the SR.N1, the world’s first hovercraft and the very successful SR.N4 Mountbatten Class of cross channel hovercraft of which 6 were built,  as well as the smaller  SR.N6 (Winchseter Class) hovercraft, one of which was used to carry passengers between Cowes and Southampton.  

Princess Flying Boat model at Solent Sky Museum in Southampton

Sadly though, there was nothing to see at the site, except for the hull of a yacht inside a frame, and I could not even get close to that. 

Where did all of this industry go to? the flying boat became irrelevant and the hovercraft has been phased out by more efficient means of transport, although there is a hovercraft service between Portsmouth and Ryde.  

It was time to make tracks, I was tired, having been on the go since early in the morning, I really just needed to find my way back to the terminal and catch the ferry back to Southampton. 

By the time I arrived at the terminal at 4pm. I was bushed and couldn’t wait to be on my way home again. The weather had turned gray and moody and it did not bode well for photography. We sailed at roughly 4.30, about the same time as Azura would be upping her lines back in Southampton (assuming she did that on time). 
It would be nice to say “we then turned our bows towards Southampton” when the reality is that the ferry is double ended, and the only difference is which side her funnel will be on when she is at sea. Her Voith propulsion make her very maneuverable, and that is needed when coming “bow” onto the loading ramp. 
And because the ferry is double ended you could read this blog from here back to the top of the page because it was almost a reverse of our trip from Southampton, but in gray weather. It’s true we did get to see Azura close up, but the weather didn’t make for great pictures. 
We also met up with one of the many car carriers that visit Southampton on a regular basis. 
And then we were in the harbour, although it was almost empty. This is Shieldhall snoozing at her berth. Unfortunately she no longer occupies this space and can be found very close to the former drydock just past Mayflower Terminal in the Westrn Docks
The ramps were waiting, as were the vehicles and passengers who were heading the other way. I was almost glad to be home, although I would not have minded going backwards and forwards again.
I was home just after 5.30 and it had been a great trip, and I really wanted to do it, but never did. I would also have loved to try the hovercraft between Ryde and Southsea too. Ferries like the Red Funnel vessels are non-existent back home, so seeing and traveling on her was a lot of fun. Sadly though, even these vessels may one day become extinct, especially if you consider the reduced ferry services that run today. But, as long as there are goods that need moving a vehicle ferry like this has a reason to be.
And, having traveled on one I now have a better understanding of the service that they deliver to the Isle of Wight as well as a feeling for the route that so many passenger liners in the past had sailed to access the ocean. I just hope it continues that way long into the future. As for the Red Jets? I am not too keen on low flying at sea, but then if the weather was rough it may be fun, but there is no open deck to stand on, just seats, like on a bus.

© DRW 2013-2018. Images recreated 02/04/2016, blog post expanded 13/12/2017

Updated: 28/12/2017 — 07:56

Red Funnel flip.

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, 

Red Osprey

Red Falcon

Red Falcon


Red Eagle

Red Eagle

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.

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

Updated: 28/12/2017 — 07:50

Popping into Portsmouth

On the afternoon of 19 April I made a half day trip to Portsmouth with my landlord. It was a spur of the moment thing so there was no real itinerary or end destination. I did however want to at least see HMS Warrior and HMS Victory if possible. Anything else would be a bonus. The weather was sunny, but extremely windy in Porstmouth, so much so that some of my images were at crazy angles as I tried to take pics. 
First vessel on view as HMS Warrior, and she is magnificent. We did not have the time to go on board any of the attractions, but some quick pics will do for this post. She is much bigger than I expected and is really a unique vessel in so many ways. 


Dominating the skyline of Portsmouth is the Spinnaker Tower and of course the buildings that form the Historic Naval Dockyard predate it by many years. There are quite a lot of really beautiful old buildings in the city, but time was not on my hands to explore any of them.

 At the Historic Dockyard is the long lived HMS Victory, much to my dismay her upper masts and spars had been removed. This venerable old lady is really worth seeing because she is a unique vessel, and in a class all of her own. Over 250 years old, she still looks as good as when she was built. The removal of the yards and spars have to do with her ongoing restoration, and hopefully in a few years she will get them back. 


Close to the Victory is the Monitor M33, a 1915 vintage vessel that is neither glamorous, or as famous as the wooden wall close by.  (At the time of writing this post she was not open to the public, but she has since been undergoing preservation so that she can finally be opened).


Behind her lay modern warships of the Royal Navy, and I had to wonder what it must have been like here during the World Wars. The drydocks and inner basins would have been occupied that’s for certain.


There was a lot of ferry traffic about too, with vessels destined for the Isle of Wight, the continent, and other ports close by. Strangely enough there were none to Southampton.

We then headed to Southsea to have a look at the hovercraft that goes across to Ryde. It was not in yet so I took a look at the surging waves and the shingle beach. The wind was still blowing a gale and it was decided unpleasant.

While we waited a cross channel ferry came past and we decided to go take a closer look at the Portsmouth Naval Memorial. How many ships have passed down this channel? If only the sea could talk.
The Memorial is a magnificent structure, but again it is just so difficult to photograph because of its sheer sze and the number of plaques on its walls with 24600 identified casualties listed there. I would like to revisit the Memorial and rephotograph it.

By this time the hovercraft had made an appearance and I headed towards its “landing pad” as it beached itself.


By the time I got to the pad it was almost ready to leave, and inflating its skirts it turned and charged down the beach, hitting the water in a burst of spray, which was then flung straight at me as it headed off once again. I was drenched, but it was worth it!

Then it was time to go home again, we wanted to head out and have a look at the forts on a hill protecting Portsmouth so headed out there. The view was spectacular, but the glare did make it difficult to take photographs. These images are all 1500 pixels wide


Then we headed off for home. The weather was starting to get odd, and the artillery museum at Fort Nelson was closing so there was no real need to stay any longer. Portsmouth is on my list for a day trip, but first I must get to Isle of Wight. But even before that, we had to get home.

© DRW 2013-2018. Images recreated 01/04/2016

Updated: 28/12/2017 — 07:51

The Star Ferry Page (2)



The vessels are double ended with a wheelhouse on either end and a central engine room with an open lower deck and an enclosed upper. 
Rough dimensions are: Length Overall 36.28m, Extreme Breadth 8.57m, Net tonnage: 39.69, Gross Tonnage 164.01, Passenger capacity 551, Minimum crew 5.
They were all built at Hong Kong & Whampoa Shipyards. Golden Star and World Star were built in 1989 by Wang Tak Engineering & Shipbuilding Ltd and can carry 762 as opposed to 576 for the rest of the fleet. 
The debate is out as to whether the upper deck is better than the lower. From a price perspective the lower is more affordable, while from a view point perspective the upper is. But, the lower deck is so much nicer because you are so close to the water.
Mooring position
Lower Deck
Upper Deck
Steering Position
Northern Star Builders Plate
Upper Deck
Navigation Light, Life Rafts and Funnel
Central Ferry Terminal
Embarkation Point
Tsim Sha Tsui Terminal
Tsim Sha Tsui Terminal

© DRW. 2008-2018 This page originally created in March 2008 and updated 15 April 2010. Moved to blog 21/12/2013, images recreated 10/03/2016

Updated: 24/12/2017 — 10:40

The Star Ferry Page (1)

Star Ferries at Kowloon and Central Hong Kong

No trip to Hong Kong would be complete without a trip on the Star Ferries. These familiar cream and green ferries have been ploughing the waters of Hong Kong for over 110 years and are an institution. I have been fortunate enough to take at least 8 trips between Kowloon and Central and each time is like a mini-adventure. There appear to be 12 ferries in service and I have managed to photograph 11 of these during the 2 trips I have made to Hong Kong.  Shining Star does the harbour cruises for Star Ferries and her look is very different from the rest, she is a reproduction of the earlier ferries that used to ply these waters. The rest of the ferries were built between 1956 and 1989 in Hong Kong. There is also a ferry for hire called “Golden Star” which could be the mystery Louis Vuitton branded ferry I saw in 2008. 


The vessels are double ended with a wheelhouse on either end and a central engine room with an open lower deck and an enclosed upper. Rough dimensions are: Length Overall 36.28m,  Extreme Breadth 8.57m, Net tonnage: 39.69, Gross Tonnage 164.01, Passenger capacity 551, Minimum crew 5. They were all built at Hong Kong & Whampoa Shipyards. Golden Star and World Star were built in 1989 by Wang Tak Engineering & Shipbuilding Ltd and can carry 762 as opposed to 576 for the rest of the fleet. 


Meridian Star (1958) Celestial Star (1956)
Twinkling Star (1964) Day Star (1964)
Shining Star (1964 Solar Star (1958)
World Star (1989) Northern Star (1959)
Silver Star (1965) Morning Star (1965)


Golden Star (1989)

© DRW. 2008-2018. This page originally created in March 2008 and updated 15 April 2010. Moved to blog 21/12/2013, images recreated 10/03/2016

Updated: 24/12/2017 — 10:41
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