Sunday, 11 May 2014

Three Queens, Southampton, 9th May 2014

On 9th May 2014, Cunard's three 'Queen' cruise ships were all in Southampton together with the latest occasion being Queen Mary 2's tenth anniversary celebrations. They arrived in the very early morning, passing Cowes at the uncivilised hour of 0350, before arriving at Southampton. I saw on Southampton VTS that Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth would be facing each other on 38/39 and 40 so I decided to go over because this would be a unique shot...sadly not as it turned out. I didn't realise this was only temporary for the arrival photos and, by the time I got to Southampton, Queen Victoria was at the City terminal (berth 101) and, worse, starboard side to.

Conditions in the Solent were rough, with gale-force winds and choppy seas, which made for a nice bumpy crossing. Sister ship Red Falcon, complete with her new enhancements, passed us on her way to East Cowes.

(N.B. The full-size photos are mostly larger than usual, 1500 x 1000, so you need to click on them for the largest. I am also not posting all of them, so please go to my Flickr page if you want to see them all)

Cruise ship Rotterdam was in Southampton Water, having sailed at 1100. Her visit was just a fleeting one as Holland America ships never hang around for very long. Because of the gale, it was hard to stand up properly out on deck and even harder to hold the camera steady, so the Rotterdam photos are not among the best I've ever taken.

On arrival in Southampton, it was evident that the Queen ships were not well placed for photography. Queen Elizabeth was okay, as she was at the QEII terminal facing down Southampton Water - good for travellers to and from the Isle of Wight (one thing in our favour!) but not so good for those on the Southampton side - Queen Mary 2 was bow in at the Ocean Cruise Terminal, which was disappointing because it meant there were no good opportunities for a photo of her at all and she was the reason for all the fuss, and Queen Victoria was starboard side to at the City Cruise Terminal, berth 101, so with her back to everyone.

I walked down through the car parks towards Dock Gates 4 and 5 and, as I got to the new Dock Gate 5 (open but still under construction) I decided to try it on and slip past the security guard to see if I could get some decent photos without great big fences or cars in the way. I have to give it to him, he was quick even though he was also dealing with some other passers-by attempting the same. As the ensuing conversation went exactly as I expected it would (Him: 'Can I help you'; Me, playing the dumb tourist: 'I want to get a photo'; Him: 'No chance mate, go to Town Quay. Do you know where it is?'; Me: 'No problem') , I didn't pursue it further, there was no point and I know better than that, and walked back to Town Quay.

I headed back towards Town Quay and ran into my friend Slinky-Dave Shepherd and his mum, who were in Southampton for the event. They were doing a boat trip at 1530 from Ocean Village and asked me if I was going along. I said no, assuming the trips were sold out as I'd not previously booked one, hoping I'd be working instead. However, SDS's mum showed me Blue Funnel's phone number so I gave them a ring, they had plenty of spaces and I duly found myself on a boat trip round the docks.

Something's happened to the colour rendition here. It looks fine elsewhere. Odd.

The boat trip finished a little late, 1640 instead of 1630, so I hurried for the 1700 Red Funnel back to the island. In fact, I ended up having to run and made it onboard Red Falcon just before her engines started. Two days later, I am paying for running through Southampton as my knees are killing me!

Last but not least, I got back to East Cowes as Arcadia was rounding Calshot. If ships really do have a soul and can think, as some of the more romantic claim (and I am not completely immune to that way of thinking myself), I wonder what she makes of the three Queens and it being their day, considering she was originally supposed to be Queen Victoria?

[rant ahead]The day didn't get off to a good start, I found out that a job one of the employment agencies told me they were sending me to had fallen through so, instead of several weeks of paid employment, I'm "looking forward" to yet more weekday boredom and no money - and all my efforts at getting a permanent job have fallen onto stony ground. Added to which, having decided to take the vehicle ferry when I got to East Cowes for photography purposes as Holland America's Rotterdam was sailing at 1100, I found the free car park was mostly closed off with the remaining spaces all taken. Ten minutes and a tirade of f-words later I eventually found a space miles away, which was not ideal and meant I needed to hurry for the ferry. All in all I wasn't a happy person by the time I got on the ferry and was beginning to wish I hadn't bothered!
It also meant that I decided not to stay in Southampton for the fireworks and sailings later in the evening because I didn't fancy a longish walk through the town at night. This three Queens event was characterised by rubbish arrival and departure times. 2130 onwards is not good, especially for us islanders, and the arrivals were worse, bearing in mind there are no ferries before 0545 from the island. So that, along with Red Funnel's crappy timetable, meant island residents were unable to make the best out of the event. Plus there's the photography issue. Fireworks are all very nice and modern DSLRs have excellent low-light performance but photographers want good light for photos, not the dark. Red Funnel were doing a special event cruise from Southampton, using the Red Falcon, but, at £25 plus another £15.20 to get to Southampton and home for us IoW residents, that was not a happening thing as far as I was concerned. That, and the work situation, is making me think even more about 'de-islanding' myself and moving back to the mainland because I'm increasingly sick of crap timetables, adding at least an hour onto journeys and, especially, paying through the nose to get off the bloody place, even for a day out [rant over].