Saturday 22nd May 2021
I was up and out for some fresh air before breakfast this morning, as the gales seem to have died down slightly, and life seemed less turbulent.
After checking out of the hotel, we drove to Portsmouth Gunwharf Quays underground parking. The first piece of good news was that the harbour cruises were running, and we were soon in the short queue to buy tickets to board ALI CAT OF COWES for a real harbour cruise around Portsmouth Harbour.
Ali Cat of Cowes, near Jenny M and Albula
Victoria of Wight
We were soon on board, wearing face masks of course to comply with one of the remaining Covid restrictions in this part of the UK; the number of passengers allowed on board was reduced too and we were reminded to follow social distancing, but it felt wonderful to be there, and everyone around looked cheerful.
At 11 a.m. we set sail, and the cameras were again in use. Nearby was the little JENNY M, and the rather larger ALBULA. In a couple of minutes we arrived at our first stop at the Dockyard, to pick up more passengers, and finally we left that quayside and sailed out into the harbour proper. We could see so many ships and small vessels, including the mighty HMS WARRIOR built in 1862, and other tugs and Naval vessels.
Wight Ryder 1
Wight Ryder II and the Spinnaker Tower
The old floating bridge number 5, Hempel
Vessel number 68 from the USA
HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH
Ahead we could see the very new Aircraft carrier HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH, who is due to sail from here in Portsmouth this very evening. She looked vast, compared with the other vessels around her, but I was very pleased to see her for real. There were many other Royal Navy vessels nearby, many of whom are probably going to accompany HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH this evening.
As we approached these ships we had to keep outside a restricted area of course, with several Police vessels showing where we could sail. I started taking pictures of the Aircraft Carrier and suddenly became aware of something unexpected. Near a high point on one of the top turrets I could see a sight I thought I recognised: I could see the Royal Standard, the flag flown on a building or ship when Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is on board! The more I looked, the more certain I felt. What an occasion to be here, on my first sailing since September 2019, with a good friend, and it wasn't raining!
That looks like the Royal Standard
On board the new aircraft carrier
The bow and ramp
At the furthest part of the route we could see another new cruise ship, the VIKING VENUS. I was pleased to see her, knowing that she starts her maiden voyage from here today. She will head up to Liverpool as her first port of call.
The brand new Viking Venus
Viking Venus bow
SD Christina and others
Diligence, who went to the Falklands
The bow of Viking Venus
Logo and funnel of Viking Venus
Geest Line Lombok Strait
On the way back I was happy to see H.M.S. VICTORY, launched in 1765, and of course best known as Lord Horatio Nelson's flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805. I believe many in the UK consider that 21st October would be the ideal date for an extra Bank Holiday, because of the long gap at present between the Bank Holiday on the last Monday in August and Christmas Day on 25th December.
Our little harbour cruise finally came to an end and we had to disembark back at Gunwharf Quays. It had been a good morning, at sea, and was a very reassuring way to start to get back to what we all hope will be normal life in the coming months.
Back on dry land we headed for the small cafe at the bottom of the Spinnaker Tower and considered all the ships we had seen today, many of them about to leave on big adventures. We wish them all well.
Ships seen: Ali Cat of Cowes, Jenny M, Albula, Wight Ryder I, Wight Ryder II, Spirit of Gosport, HMS Warrior, HMS Victory, HMS Queen Elizabeth, St. Faith, VIC56, Diligence - a Royal Navy ship who had been to the Falklands, HMS Enterprise, the floating bridge number 5 called Hempel now at Gosport Marina, HMS Duncan, SD Victoria, SD tugs including SD Helen, HMS Bristol, SD Netley, Norton, Suzanne, Christina, Yorkshireman, Scotsman, Geest's Lombok Strait, Viking Venus, Victoria of Wight, St. Clare, Mont St. Michel