Saga Ruby & National Geographic Explorer Southampton Debut
A surprise caller on the 1st May 2012 in the shape of National Geographic Explorer, a vessel which usually sails from Portsmouth when up this way.  She would be berthed starboard in 202 with no departure date listed, yet the next voyage would be the 15th from Portsmouth.  The 6471grt Explorer began life in 1982 as Midnatasol (III) for Troms Fylkes Dampskibsselskap, which merged in 2006 with Ofotens og Vesteraalens Dampskibsselskab to become Hurtigruten, until 2003 when she was laid up under the name Midnatsol II.  From 2005-07, she re-entered service as Lyngen before being sold to Lindblad Expeditions, where she remains to this day.  Meanwhile, there was an unscheduled visitor plonked in City Terminal.  Saga Ruby had arrived back from her world cruise the day before but had steering gear problems so her departure time was changed again and again and again.  Explorer was originally scheduled to arrive for 3pm but that was changed to 12pm and it was a very busy time.  Apart from the cute yacht Sea Rhapsody in 104, there were car carriers, beginning with Grand Colonia heading for 201, which resulted in the Hythe ferry, Great Expectations going behind while across the water was a squall.  Slightly ahead of Explorer was Graceful Leader, going into berth 40, which she passed with ease.
At the time of writing, divers had gone down in Explorer's berth while Ruby's departure time was changed several times, including to sometime on the 2nd, maybe before they confirmed she would be sailing at 9.15pm with the assistance of Phenix.
She was due in Lisbon on the 3rd to meet Pearl and Sapphire (on her way home from Valencia after engine problems curtailed the maiden voyage and second was cancelled).  So, would she still miss the party or make a grand entrance?  Sadly she did as she passed them and arrived the following morning.  To see departure photos of National Geographic Explorer, click here.

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© Patricia Dempsey 1st May 2012
Not to be reproduced without permission
14th May 2012