Friday, 18 January 2013


For the last few days, the forecasts promised snow but, as of last night, although it was snowing elsewhere, we had rain, meaning that my "inner child" was rather disappointed (what is it about snow that can turn a lot of adults into small kids?)!
However, when I let my dog out at 0630 there was a thin coverlet on the lawn and the white stuff was coming down thick and fast with the result that, by 0800, the world was white.

With one of my cats wondering what was going on! Actually both cats were fascinated, having never seen snow before.

Back to all things nautical, it looks as if the QE2 is going to have a change of scene. She has entered dry dock in Dubai with a view to being used as a floating hotel in the far East or South East Asia somewhere, operated by Oceanic Hotels who appear to be leasing the ship from Istithmar World, with an option to purchase her after 10 years, according to the QE2 Story Forum. It could be Hong Kong, it could be Singapore but, as usual, Dubai are saying nothing. Given their track record of saying things which then don't come to pass (i.e. Cape Town), I'll believe it when I see it. I read things about 'preserving' the ship but, to be honest, the work that would need to be done to convert a 44 year old worn-out liner into something approaching the level of luxury that people these days are prepared to pay good money to stay in, would surely have to involve gutting the ship, thereby removing all her identity apart from the outer shell (and how badly will they cock that up?). I hope she does well and I wish her the best of luck, but I can't help feeling sorry that the QE2 London bid seems to be dead in the water.

I've seen a photo on Dover Ferry Photos Forum (join to view but it is worth it if you are interested in the eastern Channel ferry scene) of Ostend Spirit, the former Pride of Calais, in her new TransEuropa Ferries colours, and she looks gorgeous. I can't wait to go and see her for myself in the spring. However, I still feel very sad about her sister, Pride of Dover, now a victim of the breakers' torches at Aliaga.
Edit: She arrived back in Ostend today and photos of her in her new finery are on Dover Ferry Photos website, under MV Ostend Spirit - Past and Present (you don't need to register to view the page). She looks great, although the lettering on the sides needs to be finished.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Southampton, 10th January 2013

There were no less than six cruise ships in Southampton today, five of which were scheduled to be there - Azura, Black Watch, Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Rotterdam - and one which wasn't, Saga Ruby, which had broken down with failure of a crankshaft, delaying her world cruise by at least ten days. This is a particular shame because it is her final world cruise, as she is scheduled to be withdrawn early next year - any more of this sort of thing and it might be earlier.
I decided to go over, for my first photography expedition of 2013, as, again, it's a much-desired change of scene and, besides, I remember the days, back in the 1980s and 1990s when all you ever got in Southampton, as far as passenger ships go, were QE2 and Canberra a couple of times a month plus, if you were lucky, Maksim Gorkiy, Achille Lauro, Norway and Stefan Batory would put in the occasional appearance. I also find that, if visits are planned round cruise ship calls, other things fall into place and there are other ships to see and photograph.

As I set off - ridiculously early - there was light rain in the air and it was slightly foggy, so I hoped it would clear off by the time I actually reached Southampton. I intended to get the 0715 Red Jet as I was planning to go over to Hythe, meet some ship-spotting Facebook friends and photograph Rotterdam coming in. She was due to dock at 0930 so I decided to get to the marina at 0830 to meet the others, my friends Daniel Gosling - 'SatNavDan' on YouTube - John Kennedy and his wife Roz, plus Kevin Dempsey (PD and Rob Ellerington-Parr were still on Queen Mary 2, having done a sly Transatlantic without telling anyone! I'd meet them later). On all the previous occasions I'd gone to Hythe by sea, the ferry in use had been Great Expectations ('Low Expectations' to its enemies) so I was pleased to see the old Hotspur IV was to be my transport.

The view from Town Quay at sunrise. The sky was now partly clear but this state of affairs wouldn't last, of course.

We passed Grande Anversa (IMO 9287417, built in 2004, 38651 GT, Italian flag), on her way in

Grande Anversa was assisted by Svitzer Ferriby

Saga Ruby and Queen Mary 2 - one is struck by how minute Saga Ruby looks, next to the huge Azura and Queen Mary 2. A point not well-illustrated by this photo, though.

A dramatic sky as the newly-risen sun was promptly covered by clouds. As someone also interested in astronomy, I believe that clouds always know when you want a decent clear sky and act accordingly by making an unwelcome entrance. It was very cold at Hythe marina, and the clouds looked distinctly snowy, although none fell.

Azura and Saga Ruby

It wasn't long before Rotterdam was spotted passing the refinery and she soon reached us at Hythe.

Patsy and Rob were also watching Rotterdam, but from the more salubrious (and equally cold) surroundings of the Deck 11 Observation area just below Queen Mary 2's bridge.

The car carrier Texas (IMO 8204963, built in 1984, 66635 GT, Norwegian flag) and dredger Sand Heron (IMO: 8900701, built in 1990, 3751 GT, UK flag) were in

And Hotspur IV passed us as she went to and from Town Quay

And feeder container ship Jessica B (IMO 9226384, built in 2000, 6236 GT, Antigua and Barbuda flag), a regular visitor, arrived, as I was on my way back to the top of Hythe Pier on my way back to Southampton.

And Red Jet 4 passes Queen Mary 2

Queen Mary 2 looking spectacular, as usual, against a wintery sky

We went our separate ways not long after Rotterdam had docked. After a coffee in a village-centre café, I headed back to the Hythe ferry, meeting Patsy and Rob on the pier where we had a brief chat.

I tried an 'artistic shot' which I think was at least partly successful

I took as many photos of Saga Ruby as possible because, after this year, there will be no more opportunities

Naturally, a Red Funnel got in the way of photos. It was rather sad to see Red Eagle's Union Flag funnel had reverted to its more usual plain red.

Once off the Hythe ferry, I had time for a few distance shots of Black Watch and Queen Victoria. Perhaps I should have walked round to Mayflower Park, but I was freezing and couldn't be bothered, so I contented myself with shooting them from TQ. Queen Victoria was a waste of time, as she was too far away and lost in the murk, but I took the picture anyway.
That disgrace of a wrecked Royal Pier needs to be knocked down. Now. It looks awful and interferes with long-distance ship photos.

I caught the 1145 Red Jet back to Cowes. I had a kind of embarrassing experience when getting off the bus at the park and ride, I have a bad back (again!) and my left leg keeps giving way, especially after been sitting for a while, and that's exactly what it did as I got to get off the bus, resulting in me sitting down rather hard on the step! It wasn't a fall as such, but I still felt a bit of a prat! I just hope no-one thought I was pissed...

Anyway, I have now only just thawed out, although the tips of my fingers and toes would beg to differ.

Video of Rotterdam arriving at Southampton:


Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Ryde sands

Dogs got a walk on Ryde Beach, east of the Pier, so the camera came too. Unfortunately (I seem to be using that word too much recently! :-/) after the lovely bright start to the year on January 1st, the weather has reverted to type - crap - and it was murky, with only the odd glimpse of brightness as the sun teased us.

Nonetheless, the Solent did produce a few floating items to aim the camera at, namely Armorique, Torm Gertrud and Wight Ryder II on its usual run from Ryde PH to Portsmouth Harbour.

Armorique (IMO: 9364980, built in 2009, 29468 GT, French flag) inward to Portsmouth from Ouistreham (Caen)

Wight Ryder II (IMO: 9512549, built in 2009, 520 GT, UK flag) sets off on its usual run to Portsmouth... the tanker Torm Gertrud (IMO: 9240885, built in 2002, 30128 GT, Danish flag) passes Ryde on her way up to the oil terminal at Fawley on Southampton Water.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Happy New Year

In a contrast to the appalling weather of recent weeks, the sun came out today as 2013 got off to a bright start. I'd been stuck indoors for the best part of two weeks because of both the weather and a neck problem, which meant I hadn't been able to drive my car until today, and I was sick of it so I put my camera and dog into the car and headed up to Culver Down.

Long-distance ship shots aren't usually the best and these are no exception, especially as I was having to photograph them into the sun and slight haze. Long zooms are great for small objects, such as birds, at closer distances but not large objects, such as ships, at long distances. Not that it matters, it was a good excuse for a walk with my dog and to aim the camera at something.

Here they are, all lined up. I've added their names in Photoshop

King Eric (front) and Seadance.
King Eric: IMO: 9228849, built 2001; 23217 gt, Marshall Is flag
Seadance: IMO: 9183300, built in 1999, 57066 gt, Malta flag

Morning Lily: IMO: 9446013, built 2011, 70687 gt, Panama flag

Nordic Grace: IMO: 9230892, built in 2002, 84598 gt, Norwegian flag

Paramount Helsinki: IMO: 9453963, built in 2010, 62851 gt, British flag

No photographed were Marianne Kirk (oil tanker; IMO: 9419735, built in 2009, 29955 gt, British flag) and California Highway (car carrier; IMO: 9574078, built in 2010, 59447 gt, Panamanian flag), as one was too far away and the other was straight in front of the sun.

It seemed as if the world, his wife, his dogs and his kids were all on Culver Down today, not surprisingly as it was a nice day and a public holiday, but goes to show how it is near impossible to escape people here in overcrowded Britain. The shops in Sandown were mostly open as I drove through, which struck me as a little odd. Can't the retail staff get a day off on New Year's Day?

I am hoping to be in Southampton on the 10th, for some 'proper' photography, depending on the weather.