Monday, 22 July 2013


I've done precious little of anything and no ship photography whatsoever since I got back from Dover almost three weeks ago. The weather has been fantastic the past few weeks with high temperatures over 30°C and a lot of sunshine but I've spent the time lounging around at home, job hunting with no luck and visiting my mum in hospital (she's on the mend, defying the doctors' gloomy prognoses). However, today I decided to take a trip to Portsmouth this afternoon to see Artania depart. Built as Royal Princess in 1984 - I remember watching her sailing along the Solent when I should have been in a geography lesson, I would rather have skipped English or maths! - she is a ship that I haven't seen in a while, the last time was as Artemis in the Solent some years back, probably in 2005.
I caught the Hovercraft over to Southsea and walked along the seafront which, in the lovely hot weather (it was at least 32°C/90°F), was packed. During the walk I was 'treated' to a chav couple having a very loud argument about who was shagging who and in which every other word was a variation on the 'f- and c-words', and all the while their unfortunate baby (which probably has no chance) was screaming his head off. Classy. Not.

The photos are a mix of ones taken with the Canon 6D and 100-400mm lens and the 600D with the 24-105mm lens on it.

Commodore Goodwill was coming in as was St. Helen. Yes, there's a yacht in the way. There's always a yacht in the way.

A quick trip to the Still and West for a drink, where I met my friend 'Slinky-Dave' Shepherd (check out his SDS Ship Photographic page on Facebook - you don't need to be signed into Facebook to see it) before heading back to the Round Tower.

By now, it was clouding over and there was a breeze keeping the temperatures down. I could hear distant thunder coming from the direction of Southampton which was not surprising, given the temperature and humidity, and some business-like cumulonimbus clouds were building up.

Bretagne arrived on her usual route from St. Malo

The Wightlink ferries over to the island were in and out as usual. I wasn't going to bother with these too much but I did in the end, for something to do while waiting.

Top to bottom: St. Faith, St. Helen again and Wight Ryder II with St. Faith

Normandie Express (a.k.a. the Vomit Comet or 'VomCom') arrived as we were waiting for Artania - which was late - to depart.

Finally Artania appeared, some 25 minutes late. I assume she was waiting for the VomCom.

Once Artania was gone it was time to go home. I'd missed the 1900 hovercraft back to Ryde but luckily there was one at 1930. I had twenty minutes to wait so I sat in the waiting room, reading Facebook on my phone and studiously ignoring the TV which was tuned to the news...apparently some woman in London has had a baby which, judging by the hype and fervour displayed by the media, seems never to have happened before.

Once back at Ryde I took a photo of Freedom 90 as she headed back to Southsea, totally forgetting about the sand and crap thrown up by the fans; I had to protect my lens from a sandblasting as the craft turned off the pad but I got a nice shot of her passing the pier.

And that's it for now. Apart from the TSS Solent Cruise #2 on August 10th - I hope I can make THAT one! - I haven't got any photography trips planned for the near future, apart from the usual serendipitous opportunities that might present themselves.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Friends, old and new

I hadn't been to Dover since 2005 and that was just a fleeting visit on my way over to Belgium, so I decided that, this summer, I would go down there to see the changes in the local ferries. My friend Patricia was also planning to go to Dover on July 4th to see the two Saga ships, Saga Ruby and Saga Sapphire so we decided to pool our resources and go together.
With that planned, I booked my car onto Red Funnel for 3rd July and arranged to collect Patricia in Southampton just after 0930. Because of some stuff Patsy had to do en route, we arrived in Dover at around 4pm where cruise ships Carnival Legend and AIDAstella were waiting. We checked ourselves into the Premier Inn on the seafront, where I'd booked us a twin room, and then went to get photos of Carnival Legend, which departed at 1700. Unfortunately the light was rubbish.

AIDAstella sailed at 2000, in improved lighting conditions. There are WAFIs in Dover, too, but these don't seem to do any actual sailing, they come out of a marina, sort of drift around then head back in again.

The ferries were coming and going.

Spirit of Britain leaving in the late afternoon/early evening

Here, as it was getting dark, Spirit of Britain is back in while Pride of Canterbury arrives.

The next morning we took a return trip over to Calais, travelling over on Spirit of France and back on one of my old favourites, Pride of Burgundy.
The weather was disappointingly murky but improved as the day went on.

Dunkerque Seaways was in

While Nord Pas-de-Calais, another of my favourite ships, was just arriving.

As we left the harbour and headed out into the misty Dover Strait, Pride of Burgundy and Dieppe Seaways were approaching

The trip across was enlivened by a Herring Gull looking for easy pickings, which a group of American teenagers were happy to give him.

Spirit of Britain and Calais Seaways - a ship which has had more names than I've had hot dinners - were leaving Calais on their way to Dover.

A seal swam behind us as we entered Calais harbour.

Pride of Canterbury and Rodin were in Calais, as was the ro-ro ship Ivan

As we didn't have long before the return sailing, we waited in the terminal where I found a lovely model of the Spirit-class (original Spirits, not the new things) ship Pride of Kent, formerly Spirit of Free Enterprise. She's one that's much missed around here.

We didn't have that long to wait until our 1325 return sailing on Pride of Burgundy. In the meantime, Dieppe Seaways had arrived back in Calais.

Berlioz was approaching Calais as we left, 20 minutes late.

The weather was disgusting, so we headed inside. Personally I much preferred Pride of Burgundy to Spirit of France, she was a much friendlier ship with nicer interiors although her outer decks could do with a bit of attention. I just didn't like SoF at all. What were P&O thinking when they designed her with bugger-all outside deck space part of which is designated for smokers - who ignore the no-smoking signs on the no-smoking port side and invade it with their filthy habit.

The weather improved as we got to the English side of the Channel. Spirit of France was departing from Dover, I nearly missed her... I was watching Nord Pas-de-Calais following us into Dover

Dover Seaways was about to depart

Another friendly gull...all nice gulls love a sailor.

After we'd disembarked and gone through the usual formalities -which included ridiculous questions asking us where we'd been, why and for how long, which annoyed me as I was coming back into my OWN country on a UK passport - we headed back to my car to drive along the seafront, because we intended to walk up Prince of Wales Pier to photograph the Saga ships least that was the plan. In the end we just got Saga Sapphire and not Ruby, which didn't sail until 6pm.

While waiting for these, I photographed more ferries - Berlioz, Dunkerque Seaways and Pride of Canterbury.

Both Saga ships were late, Saga Sapphire didn't sail until nearly 1700 and I had to run down the pier to renew my parking ticket, as I'd put £2 in the machine and not £3, before she was clear of the harbour. In any case we had to get going pretty soon, because I was booked on the 2215 ferry back to East Cowes, and had to go back to Southampton via Dibden Purlieu to drop Patsy back at her place, and I know what the M25 is like at this time of day, so didn't want to risk getting held up especially as Red Funnel love charging people for missed ferries and amended sailings ('Missed your allotted sailing? Oh dear, that'll be another fiver please').

While we were waiting for Saga Ruby, I decided to go and get some petrol, and when I returned to the pier I could see Patsy walking down. She'd given up on Ruby and, as it turned out, the ship didn't sail until 1800.

Dover-Southampton is usually around 2.5 hours but the M25 was indeed as bad as I thought it would be, but after queueing on that motorway and witnessing some spectacularly crap driving on the M3, we got back to Southampton by 8.30pm and were quickly in Dibden where I dropped Patsy off at her place.

It was a good trip and it's been too long since I'd been to Dover, and I really shouldn't leave it another eight or nine years. It was slightly sad, as some old friends - the old Spirit class, the Prides of Dover and Calais, etc, are all gone - but Dover is still a busy place and long may it remain so.