Originally Balmoral was due to set sail back to Dover on the 12th February 2008 at 3pm, ready for her new maiden voyage at 5pm the next day.  By lunch it had changed to 5pm.  As I was still using my dad's camera we'd planned to head over to Mayflower Park first for closer photos.  It was a mild, sunny day with barely a cloud in the sky.  You'd be forgiven for thinking it was summer, especially as the bumble bees were out!  After a chat with the woman in the ferry ticket office about cruising and ships which we had to end due to a queue forming behind, we strolled down the pier to await the ferry coming back.  Hotspur IV looked gorgeous gleaming in the sunlight.  I wish they'd use her for harbour tours, especially when we have the big ships in or some event, and that they'd put the outside seats back during her loooooooong refit!  Great Expectations does the job but Hotspur is the better of the two and it's unbelievable she's 62 this year.
Once we got off at Town Quay we made the short walk to the park.  They're building a new playground by the cafe for the kids which is making good progress.  It was quiet by the dock gate but several people were taking photos of the ship in the park before quickly leaving.
There was some sort of announcement by the captain around 4.30pm but I couldn't hear most of it.  As the zoom was too short at 5x for a close-up on the mast and name, we decided to go back to Town Quay fifteen minutes later.  She'd come fairly close which should help.  The sun was beginning to set so it would make for a fabulous departure.
There were several like-minded people, as well as some fishermen despite the sign saying no fishing.  Five o'clock came and went as the sun sank further and further.  The crane was still loading so she wouldn't be going yet.
The adorable little tug Willpower pushed her cargo up to Western Docks.  It' a pity no one pushed Balmoral!  I was rapidly going off this ship as the temperature rapidly dropped and the light disappeared.
That was it.  6.15pm and we'd had enough so went to wait for the ferry.  It had got so much colder and there was still no sign of her moving.  No sooner had we got home than we discovered it was now 7.30pm.  She did cast off on time but took her time moving off, passing here ten minutes late at 8.10pm.  So goodbye, Balmoral.  Nice to see you.  Pity they decided to waste fuel by having her return to Dover only to come this way again but I hope it's not the last we'll see of her in Southampton.  For photos of her arrival on the 4th click here.

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© Patricia Dempsey 12th February 2008
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