ORIANA, 28th June 2019
I am a member of the international Ocean Liner Society and was one of the people who booked to join other members on the planned annual cruise on board P&O's ORIANA for a farewell cruise, lasting a week. She is due to leave the fleet in a few weeks time and many of us were interested in sailing on her for the last time. I planned to travel to Southampton on the day before sailing, and checked on marinetraffic.com that morning, to see that the ship was approaching the Channel Island of Guernsey. That seemed fine and I looked forward to seeing her on Friday.
Thursday 27th June 2019
I travelled to Southampton and soon checked into my hotel and left my little suitcase. It felt odd not to have a rucksack on my back, with minimum weight, but I could indulge myself and take several different outfits for my week on board ORIANA - what a novelty.
I had been invited to meet a couple for dinner at a local hostelry and they sent me a message to say that the sea around Guernsey was too rough to launch the ORIANA tenders so the call there had been abandoned. The subsequent message was to tell me that the ship then had a medical emergency and would be returning to Southampton that very evening and was due in just after 9.00 p.m.
We sat at a dinner table on the first floor of the Dancing Man Brewery looking out of a big window when we suddenly noticed ORIANA sailing past and heading slowly for her berth at Mayflower Terminal. It was nearly 9 p.m. but the light was enough for a photograph and then to spot another friend walking along the pavement below. I had already been surprised to find out that this hostelry was originally what I knew as the old Maritime Museum, with its wonderful ship models and displays. I think back then the main thing I coveted was a very large model of the CAPETOWN CASTLE, which was so detailed I think I could have pointed out my cabin when I worked on her as a Union-Castle Line Purserette - oh my, memories, memories. Back to here and now, as we managed to contact our Danish friend down on the pavement and persuade him to come and join us for a meal.
That was a pleasant evening which ended with a short tourist trail around several of the city wall remains and a visit to the 14th century Red Lion, in Below Bar; I remember it as a favourite establishment in the 1960s where sea-going Union-Castle staff would sometimes meet on the night before sailing, on a Friday at 1.00 p.m.
Ships seen: Oriana, Red Funnel vessels heading to and from the Isle of Wight, various cargo vessels entering or leaving the port with tug assistance
Friday 28th June 2019
My Danish friend was staying at the same hotel as me, and over breakfast I suggested he might like to take a little ferry to Hythe from Town Quay, as he could add it to his Ship List for the year. He was immediately happy with that idea, so we checked out and left luggage at the hotel, and walked down to the water. We saw huge container ships further along Southampton Water, and I warned him that the Hythe ferry was much smaller. We saw the Red Funnel passenger ships heading to and from the Isle of Wight, and I said the Hythe ferry was smaller than these. We saw the fast catamarans heading to and from the Isle of Wight, and again I said the Hythe ferry was smaller than them.
By the time we had passed the Town Quay location of our Union-Castle Line offices way back in 1998 when the re-launched Union-Castle Line was preparing for the Centenary Voyage, my Danish friend was starting to wonder just what he was to sail on. He soon found out when we bought tickets for the little Hythe ferry called JENNY BLUE. She is of small and unknown tonnage but is 13 metres long and is standing in on the route at present due to 'safety issues' with one of the other Hythe ferries. It was a warm and sunny day and a pleasant way to spend 20 minutes on the sparkling water as we sailed over to the little village of Hythe, on the west side of Southampton Water.
At Hythe the ferry berths at the end of the 700 yards long Pier, which carries a railway along the track to the centre of town. The original railway was built in 1909 but the current electrified rails were laid in 1922 with a 2 feet wide narrow gauge. There is a wide board walk beside the line which is a pleasant alternative to the ancient but equally pleasant wooden railway carriages. I always enjoy this little trip to Hythe and would recommend it to anyone wishing to photograph any cruise ships in Southampton port or sailing in and out.
(more information can be found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hythe_Pier,_Railway_and_Ferry)
There was time for coffee and a walk around in the sunshine, before walking back to the end of the Pier and catching the JENNY BLUE back to Town Quay in Southampton. That was a delightful way to spend a morning before heading back to the hotel to collect luggage and then get a taxi to Mayflower Cruise terminal to join the good ship ORIANA for her 7 day Iberian Cruise.
Ships seen: Red Funnel ships going to and from the Isle of Wight, Jenny Blue going to and from Hythe Pier
To be continued...