When you look at something like a ferry that can hold 180 cars and a thousand passengers, you don’t immediately think of agility and maneuverability. However, the Wightlink ferries that run between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight have surprising capabilities. The entry to Portsmouth Harbour is followed by a rapid change of direction to get to the terminal at Gunwharf. From the Spinnaker Tower, you get a great view of how rapidly the ferry can be thrown around. The St Clare is a bi-directional ship so it doesn’t back in like Victoria of Wight. Instead, it looks like it is doing a handbrake turn. The wake ends up almost combing out of the side of the boat!
The Royal Navy has recently commissioned two new aircraft carriers. At 60,000 tons, they are the largest ships the Navy has ever had. The first is HMS Queen Elizabeth and the second is HMS Prince of Wales. The Prince of Wales was due to undertake its first major exercise off the east coast of the US but, shortly after departing Portsmouth, it experienced some technical issues. I don’t know whether there is official confirmation of what happened but there is a suggestion that one of the screws contacted the seabed.
Whatever the issue, she had to return to port and the Queen Elizabeth was substituted for the exercise. There has been discussion that the ship will need to go to Rosyth for dry docking but, as of our visit, it was still alongside at Portsmouth. I was able to get some good shots of it from Spinnaker Tower as well as some from the ferry as we headed to the Isle of Wight. I hope they can fix whatever the issues are rapidly.
A long time ago, as part of the redevelopment of the harbour at Portsmouth, a tower was built. It is alongside the Gunwharf Quays development and rises above the waterfront providing a view across to the Isle of Wight and back to the South Downs. The tower is shaped like a spinnaker from a yacht and so it is named Spinnaker Tower. I have seen the tower on numerous occasions when taking the ferry from Portsmouth to the Isle of Wight. However, I had never actually been up it.
On this trip, we had a lot of time to explore Portsmouth and I decided to go up the tower as part of the visit. There are three visitor levels. The main level is the lowest of the three (but still a decent height). It has the most space and includes a glass floor section to allow you to look directly down. The next level up is a little smaller and has a café. The top level is smaller still and doesn’t really provide much the first level doesn’t have. The windows are also angled in steeply which makes them more problematic for photography.
The view across the whole of the dockyard including the Victory and Mary Rose was great (although one is indoors and the other is currently under covers) and you could see across the Solent or back towards the city. I really enjoy elevated viewing locations so this was a great place for me to spy on the world around me.
Continuing a theme from some recent posts with preserved Royal Navy ships, I add another part of the Portsmouth historic dockyard. HMS Warrior was the world’s first iron hulled warship. See served a reasonable career as a warship but, as was the case in those days, technology moved on fast and she was gradually relegated to lesser duties. Eventually she became a hulk for storage and then a floating oil jetty. Restoration was undertaken in Hartlepool in the 80s and she was opened to the public in Portsmouth in 1987.
I have not ever visited her. I moved away from the area around the time she arrived and, while I have been back there more recently, I didn’t include her as part of the visit. I have photographed her from a distance though. Writing this has made me think that I need to visit at some point. With Victory and Mary Rose in the same area, you might get a bit “shipped out” but I shall have to give it a go some time.
I was searching through my archive looking for some ship shots and the keyword search threw up a few extras that were separate from what I was after. It included some shots of HMS Victory. Victory is one of the most famous warships in the UK. She was the flagship of Horatio Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar and he died on her deck as the battle was won. She survived after her main career was over and sat afloat at Portsmouth for many years before being restored and put on display in a dry dock in the navy base.
I have been on board a few times over the years. I have some old photos from the film days that I took and also some aerial shots of her and thought I might share them here. I understand that she has recently undergone a further restoration. The hull had been sagging around the supports underneath and so she has been repaired and the support system modified. It is also now possible to go under the hull as part of the visit. This is something I would like to try when I next have time during a visit to the UK.
My aerial photo searches brought me to some shots of the Royal Navy’s dockyard at Portsmouth. One or two shots from this were used in a post about a flight I took with Pete but not very many. Flying over the home of the Royal Navy, we got to see a bunch of ships – large and small. HMS Bristol was moored for use as a training ship. I think she may have now been relieved of that duty so don’t know whether she is still around and for how long.
Plenty of frigates were moored alongside and there were surplus Type 42 destroyers at various locations too. This got me thinking about a day many years ago when we were in Portsmouth for some reason. We took a trip around the harbour in a sightseeing boat and I got a few shots of some ships then too so these are interspersed here. Now the arrival of the two carriers to the fleet would mean a good chance of getting a far larger vessel alongside. Might have to think about doing something like this again at some point when I am in the UK.
Ineos is a name I hadn’t heard until recently. They took over the Sky cycling team and that was the first time I became aware of them. I guess that sporting achievements are something that their management are quite focused on because, while waiting to catch the ferry at Portsmouth, I got a look at the building in these photos. It is their America’s Cup challenger facility. The building looks pretty impressive and I hope that the boat that they come up with is similarly so. It would be good to see the cup make its way to the UK after all this time.
The Royal Navy destroyer fleet’s most recent additions have been the Type 45 Daring Class. These ships are an integral part of the groups that will support the new carriers. The Type 45s preceded the carriers in to service by a number of years. They have a superstructure that suggests more focus on radar reflectivity and the main mast is a larger structure than seen on previous ships. This example was sailing out of Portsmouth and towards the English Channel while I was at Seaview on the Isle of Wight. It was a bit distant but still worth a shot given how I haven’t seen one on open water before.
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.
The journey to Portsmouth on the ferry is one I have made more times than I can recall and one of the landmarks that is embedded in my mind is the Naval Memorial on the front at Southsea. This obelisk is a clear sign of either arriving or leaving but it is something that I have never actually looked at in any detail. After we departed the Island on our last trip, we stopped off on the seafront at Southsea and walked along to the monument to check it out.
The obelisk is all I had in mind previously, but the memorial is so much more. The original monument was created after the First World War for all the seaman that lost their lives. There are many panels around the column with names and ranks of seamen. Just looking at the different roles of sailors in that era of ships is interesting and to think of them all lost is sobering.
The memorial was expanded after the Second World War. The walls surrounding the tower and the columned end sections were added along with sculptures of sailors. The detail of them is impressive considering how long they have been exposed to the sea air and the Woolly sweaters, boots, beards and hats have a very authentic feel to them. I find it hard to believe I have passed by this memorial all my life and only now did I stop to look and appreciate it.