Haynes World - ships, ferries, a laugh on the ocean wave, and other interesting things...

30 May 2010

Cap Finistere ferry 2nd/3rd May 2010

CAP FINISTERE ferry crossings
Sunday 2nd May/Monday 3rd May 2010

One of the delights of a British Bank Holiday is the chance to use the time away from work and travel a little further than on a normal weekend. After a 3 night trip on the good ship MARCO POLO from Tilbury, on Sunday 2nd May I took the opportunity to get a train south to the Hampshire port of Portsmouth, ready to sail on the cruise ferry CAP FINISTERE from there to Cherbourg during the day, and return overnight.

I was with my ferry chums Bruce, Matthew and Richard so it was a happy group who enjoyed Earl Grey tea at the Clarence Pier area of Southsea, waiting for our ship to come in (nothing new there then)! We saw the Wightlink vessel ST. CECILIA arriving from Fishbourne on the Isle of Wight, and a hovercraft, and then Brittany Ferries’ CAP FINISTERE herself. We were to sail on her at 16.45 to Cherbourg in France, and then return on the same ship overnight.

She was built in Kiel by Howaldtswerke Deutsche Werft AG, at 32,728 gross tons as SUPERFAST V, for delivery in July 2000, to Superfast Ferries of Patras, Greece, with a service speed of 28 knots, but the yard soon had problems with the building and the transmission; delivery date was changed to November, but even after sea trials and more work the owners would not accept the ship until 5th April 2001. She sailed from Patras to Ancona but the gear problems continued and she was sent to Lloyd Werft at Bremerhaven in February 2002 for rebuilding. In April 2002 she resumed her Patras-Ancona service, then Patras-Igoumenitsa-Bari in 2007 and to Ancona in 2008. I sailed on her during that time and enjoyed the experience.

Superfast Ferries decided to sell her in December 2009, for delivery in February 2010to Brittany Ferries and this took place on 12th February in Syros; it seems the sale price was £75 million; four days later she was renamed CAP FINISTERE and sailed for Portsmouth. On 23rd February 2010 she tested the ramps there before going to Arno, Dunkirk, for repainting. So in March 2010 she started sailing for Brittany Ferries from Portsmouth on their twice-weekly sailings to Santander, Spain, and their thrice-weekly sailings to Cherbourg, France.

Having checked in at the terminal, we had to take the little bus to the actual ship. The kind driver was persuaded to drive slowly so we could see and photograph the red-hulled ship EXPEDITION which was berthed nearby, and whilst we were waiting for the rest of the foot passengers he even cleaned the outside windows on our side of the bus so we could get better pictures!

Getting on board was easy and we were soon up the escalators and onto the public decks, then into the stern lounge with its wide views; here I was approached by someone who knew my name, and happened to be travelling with other friends, so introductions were made – goodness, a kind of fame! I also received a text message from a friend in Paris, who had been told I was on board by these other mutual friends, so life started to feel rather surreal for a few minutes.

The ship has lots of open deck and seating, and internally there are lots of eating and sitting spaces, so it was interesting to walk around and notice there were few alterations that had been made to the vessel. The ones we did find were photographed as we sailed across the Channel. The eating facilities did not offer much choice in the way of venue or menu, but they were acceptable; I imagine things could be very different on a busy sailing.

We sailed on time and made excellent speed across to Cherbourg, disembarking in darkness, and waiting a short time before embarking for our return trip overnight to Portsmouth, sailing at 23.45 hours.

Ships seen: Commodore Goodwill, Commodore Clipper, St. Cecilia, Expedition, Jack James (tug), Agulhas Stream, Wight Ryder II and a Gosport ferry, Ed Sheepdog which was a small fishing boat, various warships in Portsmouth, Victory,

Monday 3rd May 2010

With a 09.00 hours arrival there was time for breakfast on board and a final look round at the sea and Channel shipping. The overnight sailing had been calm and we wondered if we had actually moved far after leaving Cherbourg. Bruce thought we didn’t start sailing again until about 5 a.m., and I remember looking out of my cabin at one point during the night and seeing a few coastal lights on the port side, which suggested it was the French coast.

Back at Portsmouth we disembarked and continued our weekend journeys by heading for the Isle of Wight ferries and a trip to locate the old paddle steamer RYDE, so that will be a little tale for another time.

Our time on CAP FINISTERE had been enjoyable and I found it strange to be on a ship that I had known in her previous life as SUPERFAST V, but all ships are interesting and this was no different.

Ships seen: Bustler, Normandie, Norman Arrow, St. Helen, hovercraft

28 May 2010

MARCO POLO Cruise 29th April 2010 Part 2, the final one

MARCO POLO cruise 29th April 2010
Part 2 - the final one

Saturday 1st May 2010
May Day in the UK and Europe, and today we arrived in Antwerp and were alongside just before 10 a.m. ready to enjoy another public holiday in another country. How lovely – this is my first visit to the beautiful Belgian city of Antwerp.

We’d sailed up the River Scheldt with its twists and turns, watching lots of other river craft. After disembarkation we met a friend of Bruce’s who walked us around a lot of his city, starting with the ex-warehouse area leading to the Castle.

Our walk then led us to the 1952-built HAKON JARL ship, of the famous Norwegian Hurtigruten service, but now an hotel and restaurant ship under the name of DIAMOND PRINCESS. From the bow she looked good, with a royal blue hull, but the rest of her was not a pretty sight, but she is still afloat. We went on board and were allowed in Reception but that was all, as the other facilities were closed, including the Lipstick Café.

Continuing on from the Bonaparte Dock we walked around the MAS Museum (Museum Aan De Stroom) building of red brick, with its white ‘hand’ symbol over the walls, which celebrates one of the stories of the founding of the city of Antwerp. It’s to be a combined ethnographical, folklore and maritime museum when it opens.

We enjoyed the architecture and crowds, including the May Day Parade taking place in the main square.

The flags on display outside City Hall fluttered in the breeze, as did the red flags being carried by the marchers.

It was all cheerful and noisy, with the inevitable dog fast asleep on the cobblestones outside a bar.

We had lunch of beef or rabbit casserole at an old hostelry and enjoyed these local dishes tremendously in a very convivial atmosphere.

Philippe showed us the entrance to the Castle, the Zoo, and we visited the Central Station, the Cathedral with its bell tower and three huge Rubens paintings, saw an old cinema, part of the old city wall, the old Mission to Seamen building being renovated and of special interest to me as I am a supporter and local committee member of the re-named Mission to Seafarers; we also saw the Guild Houses, the Butcher’s Hall, the narrow entrance at number 16 of the Old Corn Market to the Vlaeykensgang, the Farmer’s Tower, the Bourla Theatre, and all the while the sun or rain came down on us. It was a fascinating time and place to visit.

Back near the Cruise Terminal we admired the Art Deco exterior of the Pedestrian Tunnel under the canal and went down the 1930s original wooden escalator, looked through the tunnel and came up on the other wooden escalator.

The tunnel and escalator are all Listed. This brought us back to the walkway leading to the ship, so reluctant farewells and grateful thanks were made to Philippe and his family for a wonderful introduction to this fascinating city.

We enjoyed another pleasant evening and dinner on board MARCO POLO, as we sailed overnight back to Tilbury.

Ships seen: Jervis Bay, Baccarat (our bunkers), a Cosco ship, Terntank, Pinta, Steam Ship Wolk, Viking, Primera, Multratug II, Rhine Princess, Sir Winston, Fairplay 22 (tug), Ternland, Kapitan Kudlat

Sunday 2nd May 2010
Heavy rain was falling as we tied up at Tilbury, so breakfast was a rather sombre occasion. Bruce and I were due to go south to Portsmouth for more travel adventures with other friends, so after general goodbyes we left the ship and headed for the train station.

On reflection I thought the ship design and layout was interesting and everything appeared well cared for, although the Restaurant organisation was not quite as our group would have wished. For such a short trip we really did expect to have a good amount of sea-time together (especially for meals) so it was a shame that all our dining requests were in vain. Still, I really enjoyed sailing on the famous MARCO POLO and thought it was good value for money. I would certainly love to sail on her again and for a longer trip, and would certainly recommend MARCO POLO for an interesting ship trip.