Tag Archives: cowes

QE2 But Probably Not As You Remember Her

I have scanned a lot of old negatives that the family has accumulated over the years including some my mum sent me last year.  Some of those were of the cruise liner, Queen Elizabeth 2 or just QE2 to most people.  We used to see QE2 a lot.  She would sail in and out of Southampton so would pass our place often.  After she returned from the Falklands, she went in for a major refit.  She had to replace a lot of what was taken out when she was used as a troopship as well as remove the helipads that had been welded on her after decks.

One change they made when refitting her was a new paint scheme.  Gone was the black hull and in came a gray color and a red funnel.  It was a strange look and out of keeping with the traditions of Cunard.  I don’t know how long it lasted exactly but a few years later, she was back in the more familiar colors and they remained until she was retired.  One morning she came up the Solent in the fog.  The combination of fog and a gray paint scheme was quite ghostly.  These shots were taken from our window.

QE2 Sails to the Falklands – A Crappy 110 Shot

My negative scanning exploits have been covered a fair bit on this blog.  Up to now, this has been focused on my 35mm films.  However, when I was a kid, I had a 110 film camera.  This was not what you would consider the pinnacle of photographic technology.  It was a small, plastic camera with a lens that I doubt was up to much.  110 film came in a cartridge and was tiny so you were making an image on a small frame with a dodgy lens and nothing much you could control.

I didn’t know what I was doing so we were destined for great results!  I didn’t understand how much light would be available so would take shots indoors without a flash and be shocked that nothing came out or that it was very blurry.  The viewfinder was offset so you had parallax issues which became apparent when you tried to photograph something up close.  All in all, not great.  However, for general shots, it would give you a result.  Not a good result but a result.

I dug out some of these 110 negatives to see what I could find.  Some of the shots, while not of any quality, are historically significant.  In 1982, we were living in a flat on the waterfront in Cowes.  We had a lovely view across the Solent.  We could see from directly north off to the east.  Part of the building obscured our view to the west but our bathroom had a small window that looked across the roof and could give a less obscured view to the west.  It was from here I photographed the QE2 as she sailed for the Falklands.

She had been requisitioned for the war and went into Southampton to be modified.  The rear decks were cut back and the swimming pools plated over to make helicopter landing pads.  All the nice stuff was taken out and she sailed with 5 Brigade aboard heading for an uncertain future.  She came out Southampton Water, negotiated around Brambles Bank and then came past us and on her way.  At one point a pair of Sea Kings flew over the top.

Canberra’s departure and return were bigger events for us when they happened and I remember them both vividly.  QE2 came back on a school day and I could see her coming up the Solent from the tower building in the center of the school but it was a distant return.  Canberra came back at the weekend and was part of an amazing flotilla as everyone seemed to be out to greet her.  I have no shots of that!

Car Transporter

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.

Fastnet Race Start in the 90s

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.

Red Kestrel

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!

RedJet

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.

An Old Friend on the Shore

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.

Waves on Cowes Seafront

We drove along the seafront from Cowes to Gurnard.  The tide was high and the storm was bringing a swell in from the west.  Consequently, there was a lot of water along the road with sections under a few inches.  Some caution as we drove and we could get through.  Meanwhile, the waves were bashing in to the wall and splashing high in the air.  With the wind being so strong, it was tricky to hold steady for a shot and I was also a bit vulnerable to getting a lot of spray in the face.  However, I managed to get some shots and some video while minimizing how damp I got and how much salt water got near the camera.

As a kid, I always loved being down on the seafront when the weather was stormy.  It is way more fun to watch the waves crash in than to see a calm sea.  This proved to be a perfect day for me to visit as the following day things had calmed right down.

Red Funnel’s Finest

If you want to get to the mainland from the Cowes area, Red Funnel are your main option.  They have two services to Southampton.  The car ferry operates from East Cowes while a fast catamaran provides a passenger only service from West Cowes.  Both types of ferry came by while I was on the seafront.  The car ferry headed out while the cat waited outside the harbor.  I guess the strong winds meant they were looking for a bit more space.  Once the ferry was gone, the cat came in to the harbor.

Need to Find Another Way Around

The seafront at Cowes moves from the Parade to Princes Green via a path that runs around the Royal Yacht Squadron.  During the races, the cannons that signal the racing are mounted here (along with a lot of ceremonial cannons that don’t get used much.  At this time of year, everything is gone.  With the high tide, that path was a bit gone too!  Th water level was high enough to mean that the path was underwater most of the time.  It might have been possible to run through during the gap in the surges but no one seemed to think it was a good idea.