Last week was P&O’s 175th birthday & to celebrate they’d spent a couple of years planning to bring all of their fleet of cruise ships to their home port, Southampton, Tuesday last week for a bit of a party. As it was another cool, miserable wet day of the summer-I’d-be-more-annoyed-with-if-I-could-go-biking – I thought it was worthwhile to pop down the road to Calshot (the headland where Southampton Water meets the Solent) to see all seven ships head out on their various cruises in formation. I didn’t really count on Southampton’s affinity for cruise liners & just how big a part of this city’s history shipping has been.
So I was surprised to see so many turn out on this rather bleak evening to watch the spectacle – the traffic stopped before Fawley powerstation. From listening to the local radio, I could tell I had a bit of a wait in the wind before the first ship emerged from behind the Calshot Activities Centre. Judging from traffic reports (Southampton jammed up & all roads around Hythe waterside closed), this event was even bigger than I imagined – it sounded like quite the party down at Hythe pier & even better if you happened to be out on the water. All the traffic build-up isn’t too surprising considering Southampton saw thirty thousand people either embarking on or disembarking from the seven ships that day.
Unfortunately the inclement weather had forced the Red Arrows to continue sitting at Bournemouth Airport & then cancel their display – aerial acrobatics aren’t much good if no one can see them. Eventually the vanguard edged out in to the Solent, it made sense Adonia led the fleet out as she is less than half, & in some cases almost a quarter, the size of some of the ships that followed. Once all seven filed passed and navigated Bramble Bank, they assembled in a nice flying-V – one could finally see all seven ships at once, even if my camera couldn’t capture it. By now the mist rolled in again & it was time to head home.
In the end I saw a lot of really big ships with plenty of people waving from the beach & decks. A different sight & one I’m not likely to see again. Something different for a Tuesday night, not sure the forty-five minute, few mile, drive home was a good way to finish it off – pity it wasn’t sunnier & I’m not bike fit or else it would have been faster to bike.
Naval ship that kept providing resounding salutes
Spot the Isle of Wight ferry