Black Prince (II), Arcadia (IV) & Oasis of the Seas UK Debut
It was announced on the 29th October 2009 that Royal Caribbean's new 220,000grt mega monster ship, Oasis of the Seas, would be making a technical stop in the Solent on the 2nd November.  She would only be dropping off three hundred shipyard technicians en route to Fort Lauderdale.  But no one knew where or what time.  VTS's movements weren't updated from 11.50am on the 30th so no one could keep an eye on them.  The AIS on the 31st said 12.30pm, which would be when she'd pick up the pilot at Nab.  So we decided the best place to be would be the Isle of Wight.  We arranged with my friend Fay to catch the 9.45am Red Jet so we headed out early for the Hythe ferry.  Black Prince was still in and Arcadia had returned from a two night to Zeebrugge.  The forecast had said 12C maximum but it was so mild I felt overdressed in three tops and my new coat!
Interestingly they were in the process of changing ferries!  Great Expectations had some workers board the vessel, including someone from Balfour painting (unless he used to work for them and kept the overalls) while the crew hopped across to Hotspur.  Excellent!  Plus we had never done one of these change overs before.  But then you could really smell the diesel coming from the other one.  Ick!

Black Prince was still flying the Fred Olsen house flag which made us wonder exactly what was going on.  It had been more than two weeks since she arrived from her farewell cruise.

I checked the AIS and discovered Oasis would now be picking up the pilot at 2.30pm.  Due to the extra time we had a bite to eat then went for the 10.15am hi-speed ferry.  We boarded Red Jet 4 and no sooner had we sat down than my friend Andy phoned.  He'd read the same rumour I had about the ship docking instead so I explained how VTS had said she would be steaming at either Alpha or Bravo whereas this particular person who does ship news surmised it would be Charlie.  Because there was an American warship in Charlie, he put two and two together and came up with twenty.  Andy said he would phone me if he heard anything and I would do likewise.  As we sped to West Cowes we spotted a miracle - the Gruesome Twosome were leaving at long last!!!!!!  Tokyo Car left first then the tugs returned to aid Triumph.  I'm using some of the photos since it will be the last time they'll be in my shots!  Woo!!!

Fay met us at the terminal and we drove to Ryde after the long trek through Cowes to her car.  One half of the Gruesome Twosome had caught us up after lunch!  Triumph had passed the USS Ramage and was heading out.  Tokyo Car was miles ahead and good riddance to both!

We then headed up Culver Down which overlooked Nab Tower and heard on the radio she was due for 3.30pm.  We kept an eye out for her and finally saw her somewhere off Selsey.  Visibility was terrible due to the cloud cover.  There had been a few squalls around but none over us.  It was bitterly cold and windy though.  Nice to be able to wait in a car for a change.  As this vessel which makes QM2 look almost anorexic neared, sone of the crew asked VTS about the pilot and which was the ferry and NYK Terra.  The pilot of the NYK came on to say they were the container ship which would be passing them.  HMS Illustrious had been out doing something with aircraft carriers and headed back in five minutes before Oasis.

Andy decided to phone, asking if I could see her yet.  I told him she was right in front of me.  Of course, talking to him meant I had to take photos one-handed in that wind.  Shortly after he hung up it began to rain.

We got back in the car and headed back towards Ryde.  Thankfully we were leaving the rain behind.  A few people turned out but many had a quick look them left.  By now it was nearly 4pm so the light was fading.

An almost identical photo to the one above except there are more lights on and a slightly different angle as she followed the channel starboard.

We decided to go rather that wait for her to reach Bravo for 5pm, unload her technicians then bugger off an hour later.  It was cold and horrible.  We pulled into the car park we'd used earlier for a few last shots and then, as a man collared me to ask what ship it was, the heavens opened!

Fay dropped us off back at the Red Funnel terminal where we waited for the 5.45pm.  Arcadia was coming and I took the following few crappy photos through the grilled window.

It was Red Jet 4 to take us back to Town Quay.  The windows were very wet so I struggled to get any half-decent shots as she sailed by.  Oasis left before her but I couldn't get those two together.

Back in Southampton we waited for the 6.30pm ferry to Hythe and it was Great Expectations.  Pah!  Black Prince looked so forlorn and unloved.

We got home just before 7pm and were glad after such a long day.  A pity Oasis didn't come in.  You couldn't really judge her scale in the middle of the Solent.  She looked no bigger than the Freedom class from that distance.

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© Patricia Dempsey 2nd November 2009
Not to be reproduced without permission