Thursday, 27 December 2012

Pride of Dover...the end of the road

With it looking absolutely inevitable there will be no reprieve and miracle for my old friend, I put this together from some of my old photos of her. It's not much, but it'll do.

Goodbye old friend. Rest in peace and thank you for the crossings over the years.

A ship, like a person, is more than just the sum of its parts. It's not just the people involved with it, it's *something else*, too. People have long said that ships have souls, personalities and feelings and, although it might be considered just a flight of fancy by the foolishly romantic among us, that includes those people considered generally unromantic, like seamen, some who have said the same thing over the years.

Why else would the confirmation of the sale of an old ferry to breakers mar, if not ruin, so many people's - not just my - Christmas Day, with grown people professing to be 'gutted'? Is it because she was once pride of the fleet, now unwanted, unloved and, despite hopes to the contrary, cast aside for an undignified, if natural death, cut to pieces at the hands of ship-breakers? Maybe. At the very least, she was a big favourite of many ferry enthusiasts, especially those on the eastern Channel, and has gone to breakers before her time (and after rumours of repairs were proved to be false, which also upset people) which, in itself, is reason enough to be sad at her passing - although her 25 years of life were good ones, only marred by the occasional breakdown and the last two years in lay up.

Some people would consider it overly sentimental to be sad about a ship, a machine made of steel, plastic, glass and other assorted compounds and elements, but so what? If it makes me and others 'sentimental', then fine, I am in great company. I've never really given a toss about what other people think, as it is generally people unimportant to me who would have a go - those who matter don't care and those who care don't matter!

In the meantime, Pride of Dover awaits her fate off the coast near Aliaga, which she reached this morning, and Eide Fighter is again dragging her round in large circles. I assume they are waiting for a beaching slot.**

**Edit, 28th December - The deed, it appears, is now done. :-(


Tuesday, 25 December 2012

"Well. This sucks"

This is going to be a downbeat post. Sorry about that, it being Crimbo Day and all that, but there was some bad news about Pride of Dover this morning; someone posted on Dover Ferry Photo Forums that the destination of the tug towing her has been changed from Tuzla, where the shipyards are, to Aliaga, where ship-breakers lurk. While this is not unexpected it is nonetheless very sad news, particularly on Christmas morning and appears to dash the hopes of her fans and friends that she'd be repaired for further service.
Whether she was destined originally for possible repair and things were changed after some discussions - and she spent a day or two being dragged round in circles off Sicily for no apparent reason - we shall probably never know, but it is a sad and premature end for a wonderful ship and a few people's Christmas Days were slightly marred by that news, judging by comments on forums. Her twin, Ostend Spirit (ex. Pride of Calais) will be lonely...well, apart from the ancient Larkspur and Gardenia, whose own futures cannot be assured given their ages and the fact that Larkspur is knackered.

On the subject of sad ends and possible demises, the fate of the QE2 has come back into the public domain, with a report in the UK's Daily Mail that she'd been sold to the Chinese for scrap after Dubai flatly turned down a bid from a consortium in London who wanted to buy her for use as a hotel adjacent to the O2 Arena. This has not been confirmed and not reported elsewhere, apart from rehashes of the DM story, and, frankly, I'd take it with a pinch of salt - as any rumour - until it is reported in the shipping press, rather than a tabloid. As reported on the QE2 Story Forum, her crew had been changed, en masse, to a Chinese one which is where the latest batch of rumours began. There are rumours also of her being used as a hotel in the Far East or Singapore and also, more bizarrely, being cut down for use as a Chinese helicopter carrier or converted into a troop-ship.
Cunard issued the following statement on their Facebook page (probably because they got bombarded with comments from upset and angry QE2 fans):

"We have noted the messages of understandable concern with regards to the recent article in the Daily Mail with reference to QE2. We remain in close contact with Dubai and can reassure you that to the very best of our knowledge this story is pure speculation - one of a number of stories and rumours as we have seen over recent months. Our best advice would be to ignore the story.

Best regards,
Cunard Line."

I hope Cunard are right and not just saying it to get people off their case...! Time will tell.

As Christmases go, this has not been the best, Pride of Dover and QE2's fates aside, I have a neck injury (suspected slipped disc, with the attendant nerve problems) and a few other things have gone wrong, and I expect that SFC will cap it with a loss at Fulham tomorrow... Roll on January!

*Post title, from film 'Madagascar' when the penguins get less than they were expecting on landing in Antarctica. I am out of ideas for good post titles.

Friday, 21 December 2012

2012. Apocalypse Not.

We're nearly at the end of yet another year, with Christmas and the New Year just round the corner. As I get older, the years increasingly seem like blurs punctuated by Christmases, they vanish that fast, and apparently it will get worse.
As years go, 2012 wasn't too bad, except for the appalling cold, wet and dismal weather which marked late spring, summer and autumn and put a dampener on major events during the summer.
Anyway, here are a few highlights, lowlights and notable events from this year, with some representative photos and links to the relevant blog posts.

In April, I visited a lighthouse for the first time, when I got the chance to visit St. Catherines Lighthouse on the south side of the Isle of Wight.

5th June had the first meeting of all three current Cunard 'Queens' at Southampton. This was billed as a 'Jubilee' event, coinciding with events up and down the country marking Elizabeth II's 60 years as monarch but, unfortunately, it was a bit spoiled by the unusually - even for our climate - diabolical weather. I didn't go over to Southampton, having picked up some 24-hour disease or other and, in any case, it wasn't worth the effort, in view of the bad weather, and all three would be back in Southampton on 13th July, minus the hype and probable crowds.

3rd July was the P&O Grand Event, celebrating 175 years of the company, and all seven of their current cruise fleet were in Southampton together. I was lucky enough to be there aboard Oriana, having been invited along by my friend Patricia Dempsey; someone else was booked but he had to drop out and his insurance covered the costs meaning I effectively got a free cruise, a four night one to Amsterdam and Zeebrugge. Again, the event was a bit marred by wet and misty weather but that didn't prevent everyone having a good time.

13th July - a Friday - saw all three current Queens back in Southampton. This was a much more low-key and unadvertised event but Blue Funnel Cruises were running a boat trip, which I joined, meeting up with my friends Patricia and Kevin Dempsey and Andrew and Donna Cooke. The weather was a vast improvement on the previous 'Royal Rendezvous' and the sun even made a guest appearance!

25th July - HM The Queen visited Cowes so I went with my aunt to see her. I am not a royalist but I fancied a morning out and went with my aunt (who is an ardent royalist) to see her. We got good views and I got some cracking photos of Her Madge as well. It was, for once, a gloriously hot and sunny summer's day, too.

On 2nd August I visited Holland America Line's Maasdam for the day. I'd put my name down for it and duly received a confirmation email. Mein Schiff 2 was also in, so that was two 'new' ships for my photo collection! It was a very enjoyable day and worth the effort of going across to Southampton early and also having to dress smartly.

Among the lowlights were learning in October that a ship I'd always been very fond of, the old Spirit of Free Enterprise/Pride of Kent (I) had gone to Turkish breakers as Anthi Marina, in April, following the collapse of GA Ferries. She was almost unrecognisable in her final, badly altered (molested!) form, only her superstructure and funnels identified her as one of the three Townsend-Thoresen Spirit-class ships from 1979/80. Only one now survives, Oleander, the former Pride of Free Enterprise, but how long for?

Another old friend, Pride of Dover, is also facing an uncertain future, having been towed to Turkey (for what? Breakers or repair?) at the end of November. I managed to catch her in the shipping lane south of the Isle of Wight on 30th November, under tow of the tug Eide Fighter. Luckily her twin, Pride of Calais, has been acquired by TEF and will enter service, as Ostend Spirit, in the New Year. Dover Ferry Photos Forum has all the latest news, gossip and speculation (you need to join to view the forums but it is worth it).

Back to the highlights and, in November I managed to fulfil an ambition I'd held since childhood - a trip on a Cunard liner. I went, again with Patricia Dempsey, on Queen Mary 2 for a short, four-night, trip to the Channel Islands, Le Havre and Zeebrugge. It was a superb trip and Queen Mary 2 is a wonderful ship, I sincerely hope I can sail on her again one day in the not-too-distant future.

Meanwhile, speculation abounds as to QM2's predecessor, Queen Elizabeth 2, and her ultimate fate. Rumours of possible scrapping have surfaced and a change of crew to a Chinese one, reported by Rob Lightbody on the QE2 Story Forum, have done nothing to allay people's quite natural fears for the ship. Like Pride of Dover, we will have to wait and see what happens but at least QE2 is over 40 years old, and has had a good innings, while Pride of Dover is just 25. That said, I am one of those people who don't want to see the ship scrapped but, at the same time, realistically do we want her to potentially end up in a possibly SS United States-style purgatory? Fingers crossed for both QE2 and Pride of Dover, two ships I have fond memories of.

Anyway, that is 2012, as was. Not a bad year by any stretch of the imagination, if you discount the atrocious weather and my being made redundant at the end of September. It's December 21st, as I type, a nice sunny day and - as entirely expected - no sign of a world-ending apocalypse. I guess that if the fictitious rogue asteroid/planet/comet/whatever hit us, it'd come down with a dull splat in a soggy English field somewhere. Mind you, with the rain we've had this year, that'd probably generate a good-sized tsunami in itself.
I smugly wrote on Facebook a few days ago that I'd not managed to break any bones or get any serious illnesses this year, unlike 2011 which was marked by a (fortunately benign) liver tumour, a torn knee cartilage and a broken ankle, only to injure my neck two days ago, a suspected slipped disc!
Non-maritime highlights include a trip to Texas to see my friends there as well as the best Olympics of the modern Olympiad.

What will 2013 bring? Probably not a lot if my work situation doesn't improve. I definitely have a short cruise booked, on Aurora in April and again with Patricia D (pooling our resources makes these trips just about affordable, as doing it singly would mean I'd have to pay the odious single supplement), a four nighter to Amsterdam and Zeebrugge. Boring itin? Not a bit of it - great for ship photography!
I also plan a trip to Dover, Calais and Ostend with possibly Terneuzen and Antwerp thrown in for good measure. The Ostend part of it will be to catch up with Pride of Calais/Ostend Spirit and maybe the rumoured Ramsgate Spirit (Pride of Dover/A. N. Other Ship) as well.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year everyone.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Friday, 30 November 2012

Farewell Pride of Dover

Yesterday, 29th November, Pride of Dover (but now with her name amended to Pride) left Tilbury under tow of the ocean-going tug Eide Fighter, towards Tuzla, Turkey, and an uncertain future. At around 6 knots, Pride of Dover (that's what I knew her as and that's what I'll continue to call her) and tug weren't moving very fast and passed Dover late yesterday evening. I knew they'd be passing south of the Isle of Wight this afternoon and, depending on the weather conditions, the westbound shipping lane can be seen from Ventnor, if you are up high enough. This morning was a bit misty, so I didn't have any firm plans to go and see if I could spot the two ships, but I was out with the dogs this afternoon and saw the conditions had cleared, so drove to Ventnor more hopeful than actually expecting to see them.

There was a line of ships out on the horizon and a quick look through binoculars confirmed that two of them were Pride of Dover and Eide Fighter, so I took a few long-distance shots from the view point above Bonchurch. I'd been on a birdwatching trip and seen the sum total of bugger-all birds, but seeing Pride of Dover, albeit at a distance, more than made up for that.

Of course, at a distance of around 20 miles, these pics, taken with a 400mm lens, are pretty crummy as expected but they're 'record shots', no more. One is 'as is', the other is cropped.

No-one knows what is going to happen to the ship, apart from the people who now own her. She needs repairs, which according to rumour would require completely new engines because hers are knackered, and as her destination (or rather, that of the tug towing her; PoD is being towed as a 'dead ship' with no power, or AIS signal, of her own) is the ship-yard at Tuzla, there's hope that she is going to be repaired for further service. If not, the scrap yard at Aliaga is not too far from there.
I said 'farewell' to my old friend and wished her luck.

And here is the ship in happier times

A thought...25 years ago, another unwanted ferry passed here, under tow. Herald of Free Enterprise, as Flushing Range, would have been visible, conditions permitting.

2nd December - More rumours of the ship's ultimate fate have surfaced today, with a suggestion that she will be assessed at the shipyard at Tuzla to see if she can be repaired for service in the Black Sea. I certainly hope she can and, judging by other people's comments, so do a lot of people. But, if not then it'll be the beaches of Aliaga for her.
Meanwhile 'Pride', and Eide Fighter are now doing circles in Lyme Bay, presumably because of an inclement weather forecast for the Bay of Biscay.

11th December - Pride of Dover and Eide Fighter eventually left the Channel last Thursday and continued on their way. Eide Fighter and her precious towed cargo are now around 100 miles from the Strait of Gibraltar and are expected to arrive at their destination on Christmas Day.
Meanwhile rumours and counter-rumours abound as to what's going to happen to the old ship. Some people say 'breakers' because Aliaga lies 1000km away from the given destination of Tuzla (and based on the fact that, in the past, ships' stated destinations have not proven to be entirely accurate, with journeys ending at breakers instead of the previously stated destinations - ships can, and do, change hands while underway) while others have heard things from contacts, friends and relatives who work for shipping companies and say that she will be repaired at Tuzla because, even with the tow costs, it's cheaper than Northern Europe. The repairs, if this happens, include new engines. I sincerely hope that the latter is true but if I were a betting person I wouldn't be putting my meagre savings on it, much as I want it to happen - and the ships have to pass Aliaga on the way to Tuzla...I hope that Eide Fighter won't be 'dropping something off'. I daresay we'll find out around Christmas.
This all reminds me of the football transfer windows, with a similar level of gossip, rumour and speculation.

In the meantime Pride of Dover's twin, Pride of Calais, also no longer wanted by P&O, has been apparently earmarked for TEF's Ramsgate to Ostende service.

The place for the latest news (plus rumours, gossip and speculation) is right here.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Queen Mary 2 - interior photos

Here are some of the photos I took of the inside of Queen Mary 2 last weekend. I didn't get to see anywhere near as much of the ship as I would have liked, but that's something for next time!

Loads of large posters and displays of Cunard ships and people from the past
First Mauretania - there were a lot of paintings of past and present Cunard ships

Second Mauretania

The sinking of Lusitania

Plaques from ports were dotted about

Sign for the planetarium, which I never got round to visiting. Next time

Veuve Clicquot champagne bar

Winter Garden
Queen's Room sign

The Queen's Room

Main corridor on Deck 2, looking towards Britannia Restaurant

Lifts on Deck 6

Corridor on Deck 2. Note wonky break-glass call point!

Another view of the Veuve Clicquot Champagne Bar

Queen Mary 2's bell

The Boston Cup, a.k.a. the Britannia Cup, was supposed to have been presented to Samuel Cunard when his first ship arrived in Boston in 1840 but the cup was actually not ready at that time, and it's not known when it was finally presented to Cunard. It went missing until 1967, when it was discovered in an antiques shop in Maryland, USA. Cunard bought the cup and put it aboard their Franconia, from where it found its way onto QE2, then Queen Mary 2 in 2004. It is located outside the Chart Room.
Info from Chris's Cunard Page

Entrance to Royal Court Theatre
Inside the Royal Court Theatre

Nice bronze impression of QM2 herself

One of the large plastic or glass charts in the Chart Room. Not easy to photograph!

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Big Mary - Part 3

We arrived at Zeebrugge in thick fog early on Monday morning, although the sun did make a tantalising and very brief appearance at one point before the murk closed in again. We got off the ship to get some photos of her from the dock, while keeping an eye out for a blonde G4S security guard who Patsy has had several run-ins with in the past - this guy harasses passengers who attempt to walk along the dock side and doesn't allow them to take photos of their ship, while the other guards are not bothered. People must have complained, as he left us alone, which was just as well as I had a hangover and wasn't in the mood to take crap from a jobsworth.

Brief glimpse of blue skies. What a tease.
The sign is there, just in case you were in doubt as to which ship this was ;)

Going through the security back aboard the ship was interesting, as a pack of A4 batteries in my camera bag caused consternation. Heaven knows what they looked like on the scanner's monitor but I had to open my bag and pull things out for a visual inspection.

Despite the murk, I decided to photograph what few ships were visible.

Artevelde, built 2009, 5005 GT, IMO 9501954, Belgian flag

Catherine, built 2002, 21287 GT, IMO 9209453, Belgian flag

L'audace, built 1999, 15224 GT, IMO 9187318, Spanish flag

Pauline, built 2006, 49166 GT, IMO 9324473, Luxembourg flag
It was cold as we left Zeebrugge - but at least the fog had cleared - but we went up to the top deck and a small platform in front of the funnel, hoping for the full effect of Mary's 'War of the Worlds' horns as we left the port.

I made a short video of the horns

An hour later, we dropped off the pilot at De Wandelaar pilot station. The pilot vessel, a Swath catamaran, came up alongside us at speed and we got a good view from the Golden Lion, where we were on eye level with the boat. As the pilot vessel came alongside us, she hit us with a loud clang causing people to look away from the football on the telly: 'Shit! They hit us!', but no harm was done.

It was time for an early night, as we planned to get up early for our arrival at Southampton. The wind and sea were getting up and the upper outside decks were closed although the Promenade Deck was open. This was like a wind tunnel and you wouldn't have been able to stand up on the top decks.
In the early hours, Mary rolled beautifully in the seas generated by Force 7 winds but things had calmed down somewhat by the time we reached the Solent, although it was raining.

We docked in the Ocean Terminal, with the assistance of a tug, by 0630 and were off the ship by 0915. Our colour was Gold and number 3, and our disembarkation time was 0930 but they were a bit early, so I was able to catch the 0945 Red Jet home. We caught a taxi round to Town Quay, as it was raining and we were disinclined to get wet! I don't know if the driver was a failed racing driver or fancied himself at Silverstone or something but he stuck his foot down and we had a speedy ride round the corner to TQ.

That was a great trip and an ambition - to sail on a Cunard liner - realised. I still want to do a trans-Atlantic trip and, at the prices they were going for (£269 one way - tempting, but I would have to get home!), that will probably happen sometime in the next few years. Queen Mary 2 is a superb ship and the grandest ocean liner ever built; I didn't get to see as much as I would have liked but that's another reason to go back. She is huge, but not too huge and is my favourite cruise ship currently in service, just edging out Oriana.
There were very few bad points, but here they are: it was far too hot throughout the ship, the coffee was as weak as it could be, drinks were stupidly expensive, the currency is in US$ and some of the spellings were American, which grated more than a little considering Cunard are (were) a British company, and I hate seeing 'Hamilton' instead of 'Southampton' on the life-rings, life boats and on the stern. But she had more good points than bad ones and I loved being aboard her.

I have taken some interior photos, which I will put in a separate post.

Big Mary - Part 2

After leaving the Corbiere anchorage near Jersey, it was a quiet overnight journey round the Cherbourg peninsula (and Patsy was happy as we spotted Celebrity Constellation in the Channel, on her way to Southampton). It was formal night, a necessary evil of cruise ship travel and a hang over from the old days of ocean travel, so we put our posh clobber on and went to dinner. After dinner was over, we went to the Winter Garden - I wonder why it is called that, when it has a tropical ambience with banana plants and other rain forest vegetation painted on the ceiling? - where Patsy knows the banjo player in the Queen's Room Orchestra, an elderly chap named Stevie. The band were playing jazz numbers which, frankly, I can't stand but it was entertaining to watch Stevie do a charming little dance as he sang a number and it went down well with the other passengers.

We arrived in Le Havre early next morning and found it was pretty busy with ships moving in and out of the harbour. Patsy doesn't really do 'horribles', as she calls anything that isn't a cruise ship, so she left me to it as I photographed the comings and goings.

Hoegh Berlin, built 2005, 68871 GT, IMO 9295842, Bahamas flag

Leto, built 2006, 35881 GT, IMO 9311880, Liberian flag

Mare Picenum, built 2011, 81499 GT, IMO 9449405, Italian flag

V.B. La Heve

V.B. Sainte Adresse

MSC Ingrid, built 1999, 53208 GT, IMO 9181651, Panama flag

Coastalwater, built 2000, 2140 GT, IMO 9205158, Dutch flag

Chembulk Tortola, built 2007, 11534 GT, IMO 9342786, Panama flag

Guanabara, built 2007, 57462 GT, IMO 9384992, Bahamas flag

V.B. Superenzo
Amur Star, built 2010, 8537 GT, IMO 9480368, Malta flag

As we waited to depart in the evening, I tried some more low light photography, including the cracking sunset, plus the arrivals of MOL Celebration and the dredger Victor Horta.

Victor Horta, built 2011, 5682 GT, IMO 9525704, Belgian flag

MOL Celebration, built 2008, 86692 GT, IMO 9321251, Bahamas flag

It had been a glorious day, weather-wise, with sunshine and light winds and the night was clear. I've already posted the photo immediately below but, as I am pleased with it, I'll post it again.

Unfortunately, this didn't last long, and the fog returned sometime before dawn. Queen Mary 2's horn woke me up at about 0400, with one blast every two minutes. I'd not long got to sleep so I wasn't best pleased, especially as I was feeling ill after having drunk far too much in the Golden Lion that night...can't complain, I suppose, as it was self-inflicted!

To be continued...