Oceana (II), Black Watch (III), Queen Mary 2, Independence of the Seas & Grand Princess
A rare event in Southampton on the 29th August 2009.  We had FIVE ships in.  Four is almost as common as three so nothing to get excited over.  But three of the five were over 100,000 tonnes, including two of the largest in the world!  Originally Queen Victoria was due in this day for a four-night cruise.  Then she was moved to the following day, trip reduced by a day.  Mary was in her old home of QEII, Oceana was facing outwards from Ocean, Indy was in City, Grand in Mayflower while little Black Watch was in 104.  Only Indy was port so, apart from Oceana coming out forward, it would mean the rest would need turning.  I decided to go over to Town Quay to take some photos before lunchtime.
I had noticed the ferry was running late so had hung back on the pier until it went.  Then headed towards the landing stage where several people were already queuing.  As I waited I noticed for surprisingly the first time, Hotspur's original name lettering painted over.  I can't believe I hadn't seen that before.
The train diver yelled down the 11.15am was cancelled because of too many people at Town Quay or some such daft excuse.  The truth turned out to be they were off schedule and so pulled one to get back on it.  Why we couldn't have been told that is a mystery.  There were four people going to a wedding which started at 11.45am so would miss part or all of it.  Not being local, they'd been told to take that ferry.  But thankfully they were amusing so we didn't become bored as we waited.  Finally the ferry turned up.  Typically it was Great Expectations, the WORST for photography and outside areas!  Also unusually there were two ferry men, including Andy.  Andy had a clicker, as did Patrick the skipper, as they let the new hoardes on.  The queue was massive, worse when the train brought more but many had to wait until the next one.  That buggered up my plans.  I'd have to get the noon one back instead.  Grrr!  I suppose this caught them out as much as the rest of us, despite all the advertising in various media.  It certainly hadn't been this busy since Lizzie left in November when they ran both for the first time in my memory.
Pam told me that a couple of Mary's tenders were on the slipway at Husband's shipyard.  I hadn't noticed anything missing when we went by.  But then I was having a laugh with Andy between snapping away.  He had to tell a woman I'd been talking to in the queue and who was next to me during the crossing as she gave him odd looks as we bantered that it was okay, we did know each other.
I turned to get a lovely shot of Mary, as I had done in the past, only the Gruesome Twosome were ruining the view of her as well as Oceana!  Why oh why couldn't they have buggered off on the 1st???  Or at least put them out of sight like near Ocean Village.  How much longer do we have to put up with them being the most photographed car carriers in the world????
Bentley had recently become Svitzer Bentley and this was the first chance I'd had to get a photo of the new paint job and name since I'd forgotten my camera six days earlier.  He was snuggled up with his sister Lady Madeleine but I didn't realise just how cosy those two were when parked.
Andy decided to be cheeky again, asking why I was taking more photos of Oceana.  I replied I didn't have her that way round and three weeks before when Juanita and I went for our cruise on Equinox, her bum was facing us.  He couldn't disagree.  He said he'd only seen QV facing out.  I told him Oceana had once or twice before and they should do it that way with Mary instead of having her ugly stuck-on bum pointing at us.  He laughed at my description of the ship.  Mary's gorgeous but the stern ruins the look somewhat.
Since Andy told me I wouldn't be allowed to stay on this time, I had to go and join the queue.  The end was partway up the tunnel which was a relief.  It was again packed and I managed to get this shot just about before we set off, the Gruesome Twosome hiding Mary!  Andy asked when he saw me if I'd got off and I said yes but he had a disbelieving look.  He gets cheekier by the trip!  I had to go the other side and got a quick snap of the other three in Western Docks.
Home for some lunch then back out again.  Since it was going to be heaving, we caught the 2.55pm bus so we were down in plenty of time.  As we were walking towards the marina, a familiar voice called out.  I turned and saw John.  He couldn't miss the five but was skipping the four tomorrow as well.  It was already fairly packed down the marina but we managed to get our usual spot.  Oceana and Mary were down for 4.30pm, but Mary did her muster at 3.45 so we knew it wouldn't be that time.  Oceana's muster was 4pm.  Indy was down to sail at 4.45pm, Grand 5pm and Black Watch changed from 4.30 to 5pm.  As it built up, some people came and took my dad's spot when he was in the toilet.  I told the bloke where he was and he turned around and replied, "A feeble excuse."  Fairweathers!!!!  A lot are really nice but others are so obnoxious, acting like they own the place over the locals when they wouldn't even be there if it hadn't been publicised so much.  If they were there more often they'd see us always sat there when we go down.  The bloke quickly buggered off when my dad came back, saying absolutely nothing.
Oceana moved a mere five minutes later, still sucking in her ropes before blasting.  Meanwhile Mary started casting hers.  Oceana certainly came out faster than Norwegian Jade a month before.
While everyone's attention was on the happenings at Eastern Docks with Oceana and Mary blasting away merrily to each other, Black Watch decided to slip out earlier than anticipated and headed towards the turning circle.
Instead of giving the three short blasts before moving to signal to other vessels you are going to reverse, Mary was already well backed up before she did so.
Indy was firing up having lost her ropes.  This was really getting interesting and you didn't know what to look at from one moment to the next, hence so many photos in this review.  It was all too exciting for ship nuts and becoming the UK's equivalent of Fort Lauderdale's 'Cruise Ship Rush Hour'!
Indy gave a solitary and very disappointing blast up the end as she moved herself into the shipping lane ready to follow Mary out.  Meanwhile Black Watch was emerging and, as she passed the Princess, Grand blasted to her and she responded!  That was a first.  Fred Olsen, like Saga, NCL and generally Royal Caribbean, tend to ignore other lines.  Although the captains of Indy blast at anyone and have since her maiden in 2008.
Mary gave three hoarse blasts as she turned.  She needs to see the ear, nose and throat doctor again.  Maybe have her tonsils out.  Either that or she's caught flu from this crappy summer.
Once Black Watch was safely out the way, the Princess sloped off silently down to the turning circle.  Yet again all the attention was what was going on in front of us.
As Indy neared the pier, she surprised everybody by letting out three very loud blasts.  That was a lovely gesture and much more appreciated than the feeble effort after leaving the dockside.
Grand lagged miles behind and gave some blasts as if to say, "Don't forget about me!  I'm still here and just as photogenic even with a flat bum and handle!"  The weather by now had turned much colder and windier but at least there was no rain, despite too many ominous clouds gathering overhead.  Many people had also left now but there were still about half remaining until the bitter end.
So that was the end of a wonderful ship stalking day.  Just a shame it was so chaotic in many places.  They really need to open the toilet block up when there's so many people around.  Berth holders can go on their boats!  I look forward to the day when five become the norm instead of four.  We need to beat Barcelona!!!!!

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© Patricia Dempsey 29th August 2009
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