The movement of cars around the world requires a specialist type of ship and, while they may be functionally effective, they are not good looking ships. They have the appearance of a box on the water. The large rear loading ramp allows the cars to be loaded and then they get driven around the multitude of decks for storage. This example was coming up the Solent and heading in to Southampton. A similar example had a shift of load in this area and was put aground on the Brambles Bank to avoid sinking. No issues in this case, of course.
Having traveled on the car ferry from Portsmouth to Fishbourne on the Isle of Wight for all of my life, I have seen many generations of ferry come and go. The oldest ones I recall are Fishbourne and Camber Queen. These would amaze current travelers with their limited car capacity and very limited customer amenities. They were replaced by a bigger and better equipped fleet which were replaced in turn but the fleet of Saint named ferries. Their time has mainly come and gone and now most have been replaced again.
On this trip, I got to ride of two ferries from the newer generation. They have a significant increase in capacity that has required the introduction of two level loading to allow the schedule to be kept. While traveling on each, I got to see the other heading in the opposite direction along with one of the older Saint class. The latest ferry has again gone away from bi-directional operation and has also added a hybrid power drive of some sort. No idea how it works but the large logo on the side leaves you in no doubt that it is there.
We recently had the 40th anniversary of the Fastnet race that ended up with a significant loss of life and boats. Weather forecasting technology and the methods of communicating were very different forty years ago and some of the boats were ill-suited to open water racing of that nature. Growing up in Cowes, the Fastnet race was always a big deal. It was every other year as part of the Admiral’s Cup. Some of my school friends got to crew on it. I watched the start of one of the races when we still lived in the UK and I scanned in some of the shots I got that day. The start was always frantic. Boats are jockeying for position, often very close to shore. Lots of shouting goes on. With a good wind, big sailing boats look so cool to me.
While walking along the waterfront at East Cowes, I heard the noise of an approaching helicopter. As it got closer, it turned out to be a Coastguard AW189. I hoped it would come closer and it obliged by flying almost directly over us. What I didn’t know was that another of the fleet would be at RIAT when I was there a few days later so I was going to get a closer look than this. Stay tuned for that!
The Red Funnel ferries have made appearances on the blog after previous UK trips including this one here. While we were on the seafront at Cowes, we saw one of the ferries coming in but it looked pretty odd. It actually looked a lot like the old style of ferries from my youngest days. There was little upper superstructure and it looked like it was designed for trucks only. The name was Red Kestrel so a quick google confirmed that this is exactly what it is. By taking freight traffic, it leaves more space on the main ferries for the car traffic. Apparently, it has space for about 12 passengers so I guess it is not well appointed!
There are going to be some lifeboat posts coming up in the coming weeks. We ended up seeing quite a bit of the RNLI’s work while we were there. I shall have more detailed posts but these shots are just a warm up act for the posts to come. I do like the RNLI and they certainly entertained me on this trip!
The fastest way to cross the Solent between Cowes and Southampton is the Red Jet. These catamarans have replaced the hydrofoil service that was the quickest way over when I lived in Cowes. The hydrofoils were interesting to ride on, particularly when the weather got a bit rough, and they had a single prop that, if they threw it off, left them bobbing out in the water awaiting a tow. The RedJets are clearly bigger and probably a lot more reliable while still being fast. I have never ridden on them but my family do frequently.
When I was a teenager, we lived on the seafront in Cowes. The road was a short distance in from the waterfront but a side street led down to the sea itself and you could walk along from there in either direction, either along to Egypt Point or in to the town center. The railings that stopped you falling in to the sea (if standing up was not something you could manage on your own) were mounted between a series of posts and, on one of these posts, there was a sculpture of a lion. Clearly weathering had taken a toll on this lion but repairs had been carried out over the years. When I was there last year, we took a walk along this same stretch and it was great to see this familiar old fella still guarding the shoreline.
The view from the top of Culver Down is usually good (provided you aren’t in cloud) so we took a trip up there while I was visiting mum. While there was a lot of rain and cloud coming through as a result of the storm system, there was also a fair bit of sun illuminating parts of the countryside when a gap in the clouds showed up. From that location, you could see where the sun was running to. Whether looking down at the windmill, across to the harbor or spotting the Ledge (a nasty rocky outcrop just below the surface of the sea that has claimed many an unlucky sailor), the light was interesting. The rainbow certainly didn’t hurt either.
The stormy skies over the Island were very active in the Sandown Bay area. In the course of a couple of minutes, you could see the valleys on the opposite side of the bay have clouds wisp across them and then suddenly vanish from view entirely. They could be back a few minutes later and then gone again. The wind was blowing things through very rapidly. For a few moments, there were some great beams of light punching through the clouds and illuminating the water beneath. I was lucky to be able to get a few shots off before the clouds rolled through again and cut of the sun altogether.