musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Tag: Shieldhall

And then I was in Southampton

Continuing with my retrospect of events that happened 5 years ago.

By the end of March 2013 I was ready to leave London, although disaster was about to overtake me on the day before I left. The first disaster was forgetting the pin number of my new bank card, and the second was discovering that my cellphone package was not working as it expired at the point where I needed it most. The other disaster was a phone call that I received from the place where I was going to stay in the city, which left me having to scramble around for another place in a hurry. I literally grabbed the first I could see and hoped that it was not a dive. I was going to travel by bus to Southampton and duly reported to Victoria Coach station to catch my bus. Gads, the place was a mess!

I will never understand why long distance bus stations are such awful places, and why the Victoria  Coach Station doesn’t connect to the railway station in a logical manner!

Two things happened on that bus trip that would come back further down the line. On our way out of London we passed a set of really magnificent buildings that I eventually found out were the Victoria and Albert Museum, as well as the Natural History Museum. I took the image of the Natural History Museum with my phone and kicked myself for not checking out the museums in that area (I was too busy in cemeteries).  I would rectify the V&A and Science Museum in June 2016 but sadly the Natural History Museum was closed for renovations when I tried to see it in 2017.  

The second odd thing to happen was when we stopped in the city of Winchester to collect onward passengers.

Winchester seen through the coach window

I did not really connect the dots at that point as to where Southampton was in relation to London, Portsmouth and Hampshire as a county. That was still to come. As was my visit to Winchester where I went for a job interview a few months later.  Oddly enough I never saw that statue on my visit, which makes me wonder whether that was Winchester at all. However, some quick looking up reveals that the statue is of King Alfred the Great, and it stands close to the site of the city’s medieval East Gate.

The first thing that struck me when I hit Southampton were the ancient city walls that still exist in places in the city. 

I have never done a complete post about the city walls, because it is difficult to work out how they came together, a lot were destroyed in the bombing of the city and a lot were lost by the town planners who rebuilt it. Southampton was badly affected by the bombing and would never be the same city as it was prior to World War 2. 

I also met my new landlord “Bob” who is still one of the nicest guys I have ever met in the UK. If it wasn’t for him I would have really been in serious trouble as my finances started to dwindle when I could not find work. He was a pillar of strength and an understanding ear, he was also took me to places that I ordinarily would not get to see, and when I finally left Southampton I was very sad to say goodbye to him. Thank you Bob. I will never forget you.

The first impressions of my new “home” were not favourable, in fact I was tempted to run away when I first saw it. The entrance was in a parking lot and you were immediately faced with a steep flight of stairs that were always chilly.  A further flight took you to the room and the bathroom on that floor. Inside the place was not great, there was a window, bed, washing machine, toaster oven, fridge, table and a broken wardrobe. The view was of the rooftop of Debenhams and in the distance a park. Somebody had dumped a whole dustbin load of rubbish on the rooftop and I needed to get that cleaned before the seagulls had a party. First thing though was to get the bank card sorted out as I needed to pay rent. I had the money for the deposit but my months rent was still sitting in the bank. Bob was not impressed but understood the situation. The problem was that I had to wait for a new pin and only the bank could issue that via post! Fortunately I was able to withdraw money through the cashier and pay my rent.

Next on my agenda was the harbour! and Bob took me up to the harbour to see the Queen Elizabeth. Unfortunately you could not get closer to her than the pic shows. She was the first cruise liner that I have seen since 2010 and  was berthed up at what is loosely known as “Mayflower” (aka 106). This image is the first ship photograph that I took in Southampton, and by the time I stopped taking pics in it there were 45 individual cruise ships in my collection.

After that he dropped me off at the pier and I was left to shiver in the cold and try to catch my breath as I stared agape at the cruise ship (P&O’s Ventura) berthed at the Ocean Terminal and the Red Funnel ferries sailing past as I watched. I would get to spend a lot of time at Town Quay photographing ships, and each was a special occasion. 

I hung around till the two ships sailed before trying to find my way home. To be honest I was not even too sure where home was! Technically I was living in town as opposed to any of the suburbs (St Mary’s being the closest to where I was). On my way home I passed an employment agency and made a mental note to go register with them as there was a job advertised that was just up my street. 

Many things would happen in the time I was in Southampton (7/03/2013-10/2013), I  cleaned up my room and found my way around (did I mention ships?), but jobwise I could not find anything. The agency turned out to only be interested in numbers and like so many other agencies did not do me the courtesy of a call back even after I registered with them.  I was able to snag a part time job as a baggage handler for the ships, but it was not consistent work and it really just tided me through till I found permanent work.

Unfortunately that job was way too heavy for me and I really battled with pain in my left arm as a result of it. However, from a ship buff’s point of view it was strangely interesting. I had sailed on ships as a passenger but here I was seeing things on the other side of the shell door.  I worked onboard some of the vessels as well, and Oriana was really the hardest to work on because it was always chaos. But, sometimes we had lunch and breakfast on board and that was great. 

From a cemetery point of view Southampton has three major cemeteries: The Old Cemetery, Hollybrook and finally Netley Military Cemetery They were all fascinating places to visit, and I spent many hours in the Old Cemetery hunting down war graves and the graves of people connected to the Titanic. Southampton has a number of Titanic memorials and other Titanic related places to hunt down, but the Titanic mania has meant that a lot of the other maritime history connected to the city has been neglected, and this was reflected in the Sea City Museum. Fortunately I am no longer obsessed with the ship.

Southampton is geographically close to Portsmouth and all of its history, and of course the Isle of Wight is just a ferry ride away. Hythe is situated across from the city and it is quite a popular shipwatching spot, assuming you manage to get back in time for the last ferry. 

Hythe Pier

The pier even has it’s own railway line, and close to the pier is a monument to Sir Christopher Cockrell (1910-1999), considered to be the father of the hovercraft. Unfortunately I never really explored Hythe properly so I am sure there is a lot that I missed. I did do a retrospective post on it though to add to my memories.

(1500×576). The Itchen Bridge

The harbour is fed from the River Test and Itchen, and there is a wonderful road bridge over the itchen with Southampton on one side and Woolston on the other. That bridge was a long steep climb though but I saw so much from it.  

Southampton links in 3 directions to almost anywhere and was quite a convenient base to search for jobs, but realistically I should have lived in Reading to get more out of jobhunting. Jobwise Southampton was a dead end, and while I did go for interviews none were successful except for the last interview that I had in Salisbury. The irony is that in all my time in Southampton I went for more interviews and made more applications than I did between 2011 and 2012 in South Africa. 

South Western House

St Mary’s Southampton

Terminus House

Central Hall

The Bargate

Civic Centre

Former Royal Pier building

Netley Castle from Southampton Water

Queen Mary 2  at Ocean Terminal

Former docks post office building

I found permanent employment in Salisbury in September 2013, but only moved at the end of November so lived in between the two cities for over two months. I was sad to leave Southampton though and will always consider it to be my equivalent of “the place where I was born” (for want of a better description)

(1500×247) Hamtun Street Mural. Depicting landmark buildings and events from Southampton’s history, from the Romans and Saxons to the modern docks and liners. Created in 1978 by artists Henry and Joyce Collins, and restored in 2011

Unfortunately Bob lost his wife in mid 2013 and I saw much less of him after that, but he was always a friendly face in his trademark blue shirt. The empty shopping centre next to the flats was demolished, the original plan was to build a Morrisons there. By the time I left the city the plans were seemingly intact but I heard that it all fell through and chances are they would have erected student accommodation or yuppie pads in it’s place. The sad fact is that Southampton is really like a giant parking lot with many of the historic buildings made into yuppie pads or care homes. In fact that is also true in many of the cities in the UK. 

(1500×284) Town Quay

There were lots of places to visit that were not connected to the Titanic, and some of these may be found listed in the links (the links work from the top downwards chronologically).  

DRW © 2013-2018. 

Updated: 15/03/2019 — 06:54

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

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

Random Shipwatch: PS Waverley

Yet another ship from my long gone Ships Monthly collection, PS Waverley is another ship from a different age. She does not call Southampton her home, but this past weekend she was doing a series of local coastals from our harbour.
Berthed at 104E she is not accessible without having to go through the dockgates and having a valid piece of paper as a ticket.  She is barely visible from Town Quay, and unless you knew she was there you would have missed seeing her. 

I was working on this particular morning, so decided to head out a bit earlier to get photographs of her 10am sailing.

As a steamship I was hoping that she would at least use her whistle, but all I saw was a  puff of smoke and she started to back away from the quayside at the appointed time. I don’t know how maneuverable she is, those twin paddle wheels may give her the ability to rotate about her axis.

Like Shieldhall, she is a real ship. There are no balcony cabins or chrome and glass, instead she was built to ply her trade, and as such is the last sea-going paddle steamer in the world.

She is rated to carry over 925 passengers in “Class V waters”, and, given her popularity is probably very crowded when full.

The weather in Southampton on that day was changing all the time, and light conditions were not great, but at least it wasn’t raining (yet).

She is actually quite sleek and has very nice lines, and the paddle boxes blend in quite well with her hull. I could not really judge how full she was though, because she does seem to have quite a large saloon below deck.  

Then she was past me and heading away from my position at Town Quay, moving quite quickly and in a very businesslike fashion. I did shoot a bit of video of her for my Youtube Channel. 
I wouldn’t mind having a closer look at her, as she is in Southampton from 6 till 26 September, I may have to make a plan over a weekend before it is too late though. It is just a pity she was not berthed closer to Town Quay, preferably where she could be enjoyed by everybody. Had they berthed her in front of Shieldhall there would have been a unique opportunity to have three of the National Historic Fleet Core Collection (Calshot, Shieldhall, Waverley) all together at one berth, and with a bit of pushing and shoving Challenge could have joined in too. 
I think it is things like this that I enjoy the most about Southampton. Every now and then it springs a surprise, and Waverley was definitely one of the many I have had since arriving here in April.

At some point Waverley started to sail from berth 49 and on the 21st I was able to see her alongside from a bit closer. Sadly though, the weather was grey and gloomy so it was not great photography at all. However, I did manage one image which is what I was after originally. From left to right: Calshot, Calshot Spit Light vessel, Waverley and Shieldhall. Arcadia in the background.
I did take some video, but it isn’t really up to much because of the gloomy conditions. I will say one thing though, she does not waste time coming off the wall.

I will see how things go tomorrow and if able will try get to her at the berth, I am very curious about having a look at her from close up. Unfortunately I did not get to her berth, but I did pick her up while I was waiting for an early morning arrival.


© DRW 2013-2018. Images recreated 11/04/2016

Updated: 22/06/2018 — 19:33

Hovercraft. Wow!

Ok, I admit it. Up till April I had never seen a hovercraft up close and personal. And you can bet I have been hoping one would pop up in my viewfinder sooner or later.
My introduction to hovercraft happened up in Southsea when I got a chance to see the ferry that operates between Southsea and Ryde. This is operated by hovercraft and was definitely one of those unforgettable moments. I was photographing the Portsmouth Naval Memorial when I spotted this moving mass of spray approaching at a rate of knots. 


We were not too far from the terminal and I waddled across as fast as I could without breaking into a heart attack creating run. I was just in time to catch her as she approached the ramp/landing field.


By the time I arrived she was already deflated and unloaded and was waiting to pick up her next load of passengers for the trip to Ryde. 

She was not a very impressive vessel in this mode, and if anything looked ungainly and wounded. I changed my camera over to video mode and positioned myself at the edge of the ramp and waited for her to leave, which she did almost immediately. I eagerly followed her entrance into the water and was drenched by the spray from her props. The short video I made of it was cropped to not show the laughter or the wet jeans as I walked back to the pavement. I wanted to do that again if possible. 

Wind forward a bit, and my meanderings uncovered the Griffon Hoverworks which I spotted from the Itchen Bridge. Unfortunately none of the hovercraft they were working on ventured into my viewfinder, but I do know that they were running trials up in the Solent with one of them.

Every time I go up or down that bridge I check to see if any of the hovercraft have popped out for a quick spin, but have not been successful yet. I did have a bit of luck on 15 August when one of the hovercraft was deflated on the slipway next to the Itchen Bridge. I did spot one more higher up on the skipway, and there were two others in the area where I had first spotted them. This particular one belongs to the Indian Coast Guard. The other hovercraft on that slip I spotted in Southampton Water on the 31st of August.

Military hovercraft running trials in Southampton Water.

Military hovercraft running trials in Southampton Water.

However, recently I was once again stationed on the bridge waiting for a ship to transit when I heard an odd growling noise and this small hovercraft runabout hurtled down the slipway, made a skidding turn and headed off at a rate of knots. It happened so fast I did not even get a chance to grab a decent pic. 

Things were looking up!
On the 7th of August we went down to Southsea and once again I was photographing the Naval Memorial, and I was only able to catch a brief glimpse of her as she passed

Once I finished my pics I headed across to wait for the hovercraft. The moving spray heralded the arrival of Freedom 90 as it approached us from Ryde. The difference was that this time I shot video of her approach, and then I moved across to watch her leave; staying well clear of the spray from those props. She did not disappoint! 
Shooting video does mean that you don’t get to shoot stills, but I did manage a few pics of her as she belted off into the distance.

Bucket List! she is definitely going onto my bucket list, assuming I still have a bucket with a bit of money in it.
Interestingly enough, if you cross over to Hythe, very close to the pier is a monument to Sir Christopher Cockrell (1910-1999), considered to be the father of hovercraft.

The withdrawal of the mighty cross channel hovercraft did leave somewhat of a void in unique transportation circles. But from what I hear there are at least 3 hovercraft plying their trade in this area, and I am hoping that one day I will get to travel on at least one of them. 


I never did get to ride the Hovercraft, but I did manage to catch them in action when I was on board Shieldhall going to Ryde and our bows were crossed by these speed machines.

© DRW 2013-2018. Images replaced 10/04/2016

Updated: 07/04/2018 — 10:05

The Good Ship SS Shieldhall.

In the days before the magazine Ships Monthly became too expensive, I would often read about, and see images of Shieldhall. As usual one would sigh and say “I wish I could see her”. Well, now I have seen her, and sailed on her.
She usually lives at the berth at the end of the Ocean Terminal, and is always visible from Town Quay. (She has since been shifted from this position)
However physically getting to her is a different story altogether.  They seem to dislike single people walking through the dock gates as opposed to coming through with a vehicle. The harbour is a dangerous place so it is reasonably understandable. I was able to get to her once and managed to get images of her alongside, but getting on board is a different story. Most of the images used here were taken during the Maritime Festival of 5/6 May 2013. This page may be image intensive so please be patient
The vessel has had an interesting, if somewhat mundane career as a sludge disposal vessel and I am not going to expand on it because there is a website dedicated to her. However, she was withdrawn from service in 1985, and in 1988 a preservation society was formed to keep this classic beauty running. 
She is a popular attraction too, and shortly before the festival she was off to Weymouth and I was fortunate enough to see her sail one cold morning. 
This really made me even more determined to get on board so I made a beeline to the ship on the first day of the Maritime Festival. We were only allowed on board her just before the Lanacaster flypast and that was where I took my images of that event from. But, enough waffling. Now for some images:
Her machinery spaces are amazing. She still has a pair of triple expansion engines fired by a set of oil fired scotch boilers. The engine room is available for visits, and the engineering crew are happy to show people around.
Unfortunately, while at sea your specs and camera tend to fog up totally due to the heat and humidity. Her rudder quadrant is housed in a deckhouse at the stern and is fascinating to watch. Above this deckhouse is the emergency helm.
Her accommodation block consists of her bridge and wheelhouse, with the small shop and Captains day cabin on the next level, with a saloon below that. It is not a bulky structure, but is a tall one and it gives the ship her very distinctive look. 
A lot of Brasso gets used on that bridge, and the woodwork is magnificent. It is not a large space though and I expect it could get very crowded. The saloon area houses the bar and a galley, and a skylight provides natural light to those below. It is a very pretty room.
The ship has two lifeboats,  but they do not conform to modern regulations but have been retained along with their original davits.  
She also has two steam whistles. The one is a proper ships whistle that sounds fantastic, and the other is a strange siren like thing that sounds decidedly like it has it’s own personality. The bell mouthed object is the strange siren mounted on Shieldhall’s rather small funnel. 
Contrary to expectations she does not generate heaps of smoke out of that funnel, it probably smokes when they light up a burner in the boiler, but other than that there are just colourless hot gases coming from it. Her forepeak is a popular spot to stand while underway, and it has a steam windlass on it, as well as all the usual nautical appurtenances
 It is also where her bell is housed.
At  first I thought this was her electrical plant, but actually it is a forced draft fan, and it  is situated in a small room on the main deck level and it is powered by a small steam engine. Trunking leads down into the boiler room from here.
Although there is a modern diesel generator on the upper deck by the funnel. 
Passenger seating is mostly on benches on the foredeck. but there are plenty of nooks and crannies and shady areas to hang around in. A semi permanent awning has been erected forward of her funnel to provide more shaded seating. She does not have huge hatches on her foredeck either, rather there are a series of valves that were used to discharge her smelly cargo. 
The nice thing about her is that almost none of the working bits of the ship have been removed, today she is almost unchanged from when she was built, and I think that is part of her charm. She has no pretensions about being a fancy hi-tech ferry. She was a working ship, and although retired, has retained her look. I hope that she will be with us for many years, and I look forward to going out on her again if ever I get the chance. 
However, without donations and funds and volunteers and skills she will stop. So please support her as much as you can.
Bits and bobs.
There are many things on board that I liked, and I photographed a few of them as a result. These images are all about these bits and bobs.
I seem to recall that I did four trips with Shieldhall and I enjoyed each one. She is a unique relic to an age gone by, and I have a certain affection for her. Its just a pity that a day on her is no longer possible. The longest trip I did with her was down to Ryde, and I blogged about it too
© DRW 2012-2018. Images recreated 06/04/2016
Updated: 06/09/2018 — 11:07

Southampton Maritime Festival. Day 2

And so day 2 of the Maritime Festival at Southampton arrived. You can read about the first day on its relevant page. Scheduled for the day was another Lancaster flyover, as well as my cruise on Shieldhall. I also wanted to revisit some of the things from the previous day, especially the large second hand book stall. 
But firstly…. there were more strange old buses.This one instantly reminded me of the old Johannesburg bus service (when it still worked)



The day was a “bank holiday” and the weather was glorious, although I was still feeling somewhat chilly.

Once inside I was confronted by two rows of immaculate Rolls Royce cars. I have never seen so many of them in one place at a time. I would hate to know how much money was standing there just free to look at. I did try to photograph them all, but there were just too many. Maybe one day I will put up an album of them. 


I did find it interesting that the real oldies attracted the most attention, the vehicle below was so popular I was not able to get a photograph of it without people standing around it, but then it was beautiful. A true classic.


There were supposed to be diving displays in the now unused Trafalgar Dry Dock, but it only seemed to be used by these guys in the canoe, (and I have no idea what they were doing either), as well as some model yachts that were sailing around inbetween canoe exploits. Maybe I missed seeing the divers because they were under the water?


A few additional exhibits had turned up for this day, including this beautiful old Austin 10, which would have fitted comfortably inside most modern homes.


And this Willy’s Jeep that seemed to be hiding a 50 Browning behind that cover. Those of us “in the know” were not fooled one bit!


And while this was going on the harbour continued all around us. The ferries ran as normal, ship loading happened, and sailings would go on just past us.


On the first day the only cruise ship sailing was Adventure of the Seas, and on this day Europa 2 was scheduled to sail at 18H00. Our own departure on board Shieldhall was scheduled for 16H00, and round about 14H00 we started hanging around her for embarkation and to await the Lancaster flypast. I was hoping for better pics this time around and did get a few.

If ever you want a crowds attention; tell them that there is a Lancaster flypast in a few minutes.

Then it was time to board the fine ship Shieldhall for our cruise. The ship wasn’t too crowded, although many of the best spots were taken up by photographers, but we literally had a free run of the vessel, including the engine room. Our route took us past Town Quay, up towards Mayflower Terminal where we would turn around and retrace our wake right through till past Hythe pier and back again. There were not a lot of ships in the harbour though, but it did give one the opportunity to see parts of Southampton Western Docks from a different angle.


Southampton City Terminal

Southampton City Terminal

Former graving dock

Former graving dock

Container Berths

Container Berths

Town Quay area

Town Quay area


Berth 38/39. Heading down Southampton Water towards the Solent

Berth 38/39. Heading down Southampton Water towards the Solent

Southampton Ocean Terminal

Southampton Ocean Terminal

And all too soon it was all over and we were coming alongside. There was no bow or stern thruster to help, just good old fashioned seamanship.

As I walked back home most of the exhibits had been broken up already, and only the steam traction engines were rattling their way home too. It had been a great day, the highlight being that short trip on a real ship. It made me wish that I could attend next year too.

© DRW 2013-2018. Images and links recreated 05/04/2016

Updated: 29/12/2017 — 07:11

Southampton Maritime Festival. Day 1

I was very happy when I saw them advertising the Maritime Festival for 5 and 6 May in Southampton. Not only did it give me a chance to see a lot of interesting vessels, but also portions of the port that are generally closed to people not going on a cruise or physically working there. I also was hoping to get a trip out on board Shieldhall before I left Southampton, and this was my opportunity. 
The festival was held at the Ocean Terminal and the area surrounding what is left of the old Trafalgar dry dock, and it was expected that we would have visits from some of the Dunkirk little ships as well as traction engines and vintage/exotic motor vehicles. Being held over two days I have split the festival into 3 pieces. The first being Day 1, then Day 2, then the trip on Shieldhall. The posts will be very graphics heavy so a cup of tea may help pass the time while the images are loading. However, watch this space.
My first inkling of things to come was the appearance of buses from a different era at the bus stop nearby. I am used to the look of the Southampton buses by now, so anything different catches my eye. I cannot ID any though because I am not too familiar with buses. 
Of course being stopped by the Red Caps just inside the harbour gates made me feel right at home. I believe the Military Police here were called “Pebble Bashers”, although we preferred to call them  “Meat Pies”. 
While this nice VAD Nurse was quick to point out that she had an enema kit and knew how to use it.  There were  a number of people wearing period uniforms and displaying World War 2 related equipment, and they really helped to generate interest.

Of course no festival is complete without at least one pipe band. And we had one of them, although they did not seem to play enough for my liking.

Just past the Calshot Spit Lightship was where the “little ships” were to berth. I found a nice empty spot and decided I would hang around there to see what happened. It turns out it was one of the best spots to be because the ships would come around Shieldhall’s bow and come alongside more or less where I was standing. The first major arrival was the preserved Thames steam tug Challenge which is going to be based in Southampton from now on. 

She has a real oldtime look about her, although I was missing the roiling clouds of smoke that should have been coming from her traditional funnel.  Still, she is a pretty one and I enjoyed looking over her later that day. She is a Dunkirk survivor, and was launched in 1931. 
Then there were the “little ships”, the most menacing being the harbour defence launch ML1387 “Medusa”
Also attending was RAF Rescue Launch 102, that I had recently seen in Portsmouth. The motto of the RAF Air Sea Rescue Service was “The Sea Shall Not Have Them”, and many aircrew owed their lives to these vessels and their crew.
MTB 102 was also present. She too served at Dunkirk, and holds the distinction of being the fastest wartime British Naval vessel (48 knots). The Abdiel Class minelayers could reach 39.75 knots, so they would not be able to outrun this MTB.
But as far as I am concerned one of the real beauties was the Victorian steam yacht Amazon, a true timeless classic that just draws the eye. She dates from 1885 and was probably the oldest vessel in the flotilla of ships attending the festival.
Of course there were other things to see/do on the day.  For starters there were some traction engines (in lieu of real steam engines I guess). An extremely shiney Sentinel Steam Wagon caught my eye, and I could not help but mentally compare it to the neglected steam traction that we have back home.

A very nice Aveling & Porter that reminded me a lot of the steam roller “Judy” that was in steam at the James Hall Museum of Transport during the late 80’s.

And finally there was a very nice Fowler traction engine that had lots of moving bits and turning flywheels and an active whistle too. Sadly though none really went anywhere, but then I suppose H&S would have had to do a risk assessment and issue guidelines and generate reams of paperwork.
And while on the subject of Whistles. There was supposed to be a steam whistle challenge between Shieldhall and Challenge that did not really happen. I suspect one or both did not quite have enough puff left. But once they rectified that it was a different story. Shieldhall has a very “strange” siren, and I did manage to capture it on video. 

The bell mouthed object is the siren, and makes the odd noises, while the long pipe is the proper ships whistle which is beautiful to hear but not really preferred it seems. 

Even the Navy was present, although they did seem a bit lost without a ship. There were members of HMS Collingwood helping out at the festival wearing their best outfits and I was almost green with envy.
There was one highlight that everybody was waiting for, eyes glued to the sky, cameras at the ready. The last remaining flying Lancaster PA474 from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight was scheduled to do a flyover at rough;y 16H00. It was a long wait because we did not know if the weather would keep her down, or if she was coming at all, or which direction she was coming from. However, I soon heard an unfamiliar noise and saw a speck tracking across the sky. She had arrived!

It was one of those oooh moments. And I could not decide whether to film it, photograph it, or watch it. I finally decided on a combination of all three. The noise is so unfamiliar, and I could not but help think that if you multiplied it by 1000 then you may have known what a 1000 bomber raid must have sounded like during World War 2.

The one area where I did spend a lot of time was at the “army” display. And it was quite nostalgic too, especially when I ended up comparing notes about being a conscript with somebody that had been a conscript in the UK. Strangely enough a lot of their experiences were the same as mine, except mine were in Afrikaans.

I did get to try out a Sten which was probably one of those guns from my childhood that I really wanted to try out (thank you Battle Picture Library
And of course there was a Thompson Machine Gun (aka Tommy Gun) which is another weapon I drooled about as a youngster, except it did require a violin case to carry it in.
Neither could I assist with their broken staff car….

And, the army had brought along a searchlight, and I could not help remember the old Rand East Show when they SADF used to shine the searchlights from the Milner Park Showgrounds. I suppose these are all obsolete now, and would not conform to some obscure EU directive anyway.
Of course much of this is out of sequence, because I ended the day on board SS Shieldhall, and after spending quite a lot of time on board her departed with a ticket in my grubby hands for a cruise on board on the next day.  

She is a magnificent vessel, with no pretensions about being anything but a working vessel. She has all the required shiplike appurtenances and tiddly bits. She is well maintained and well loved too, and is probably one of the most loved preserved vessels in the United Kingdom. I will cover her in a separate blogpost  because there is so much to say and see about her.

Inside the Ocean terminal there were a lot of organisations touting for business, and I had lots of chats with some of the stall holders, you just can’t help reminiscing about the “good ole’ days when the QE2 was ‘ere”. Southampton has a rich passenger ship heritage that is part of the history of the port. And while the Titanic does seem to attract most of the attention most ship buffs do recall the many other ships that called Southampton their home.
Then it was time to go home. It had been an awesome day. I cannot even begin to cover most of what I saw, I believe there were over 5000 people on that day, and the warm weather meant that many shed their drab winter gear.

So, to close off the first day I will leave you with an image of a child in a gas mask. Now wasn’t that a great idea? I am sure his mum will come and fetch him eventually. But until she does, continue onwards to Day 2 of the Maritime Festival

© DRW 2013-2018. Images recreated 04/04/2016
Updated: 29/12/2017 — 07:12

Southampton Shipwatch 16: Queen Mary 2

I am probably one of the few people who are not fans of the Queen Mary 2, or I wasn’t until I saw her today. Most images portray her as this huge towering vessel that dwarfs everything in sight, but I saw her for the first time this morning and I have become just that bit more of a fan. I think the trick behind it is to get high up when you see her as she doesn’t tower over you, or hide a building in the way so that it looks like the building is going to sea instead.
She was scheduled to arrive in Southampton at 04.30am from her world cruise, berthing up at Southampton Ocean Terminal, oddly enough she berthed bow inwards, everybody else had berthed bow outwards; and is scheduled to sail tonight at 7pm.
My images from early this morning were not great because of the weather so I returned at 2pm to see if things were any better from a photography point of view. At least now there is some blue sky, later pics in this blog will reveal just what the weather is like at 7pm tonight when she sails for New York.

Because of delays in the sailing of Black Watch I changed my original plan and decided to head off to Hythe to watch her sail. Assuming she sailed on time I would theoretically be able to catch the 20.10 ferry and be on her when AIDAstella sailed. Such are the plans of mice and men.  Of course heading to Hythe means you do have a view of her starboard side as well as her pudding bowled bum.

Once Black Watch was out of the way I changed my position in relation to the terminal for when QM2 started to move. And, just after 19.00 there was movement.
There was a lot of ship to get out of that berth, behind me the weather was going crazy. I was just hoping that the storm did not head our way because I was nowhere near shelter.

Her astern movement completed she started to swing her bows towards me, it was perfect to watch, although I was disappointed that there were no sounds coming from her horn. 

I finally had my unencumbered view of the vessel, and she looks best from this angle. She was now ready to proceed on her voyage to New York. How I wish I had been able to see QE2 like this as well.

As she came almost abaft of AIDAstella she let fly with her hooter, and a mighty sound it was. Hearkening back to the original Queen Mary that also plied these waters so many years ago.

Then it was time for me to head off back to the ferry, stopping occasionally to snap a pic of her as she sailed down Southampton Water.
It is hard to believe that earlier this morning she had returned from sailing around the world and had turned around and was now sailing to New York.
As I stood at the ferry pier I kept on watching her until she turned and was once again broadside on, a distant object in a darkening sky. Many ships had taken that exact same path, but tonight, it was the Queen Mary 2, sailing on a traditional route that will see her on the other side of the world next week.

My opinion has changed. She is a beaut. Granted there are things I would change if I had the chance, but she will probably be the flagship of the world for the next few years, or until something else is built to replace her. But like her predecessor QE2, she is a one-off, there is no sister ship, there isn’t anything around that looks like her. I guess that makes her special.  I have managed to capture her on video, so hop across to my youtube channel for a look at one, or another video of her

Arrival 10/05/2013

Sailing  09/06/2013

On this particular viewing I was on board Shieldhall  and we were able to watch QM2 sailing from on board this vintage vessel. 
Still alongside at QEII terminal. Sailing was still about 60 minutes away. We turned around and headed back to her to wait for her to sail, the 3rd last ship out of four scheduled for that afternoon. 
From a distance: the vessel is still swinging to face us where we are drifting in Southampton Water. 

And, alongside in Southampton at the Ocean Terminal on 03 August 2013.

City Terminal 08 August 2013
On the 8th of August QM2 arrived at a very early hour to berth at City Terminal, I arrived just after she had turned in the swing grounds and was approaching the berth.
That afternoon I watched her sail from 48 Berth, which was not as great a spot as I would have liked. I should have headed down to Town Quay instead.
Sailing from Ocean Terminal 02/09/2013
I worked baggage on QM2 on this day and took some very unique shots of her from opposite where she was berthed at City Terminal, this is also the spot where Titanic was alongside in 1912. 
From the quayside she is huge, and there was no real way of showing that bulk in a photograph.
Once my shift was over I moved across to the other side of the Ocean Terminal and waited for her to sail. It was a long wait, punctuated by spurious bursts of energy to keep my muscles from freezing up after my long afternoons work.
And then she was past, and I was somewhat shocked at the size of her. You can see the video on my Youtube Channel of this sailing. It is however quite a big one, just like the ship that the video is about.. 
© DRW 2013-2018. Images recreated 03/04/2016
Updated: 22/06/2018 — 12:52
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