Caribbean Princess, Aurora, (MS) Balmoral, Ventura & (MV) Balmoral
An early start on the 20th July 2012 as we had a rare event due - two passenger vessels with the same name were about to meet!  The Waverley Excursions-owned Balmoral was due to arrive after the more well known Fred Olsen ship.  The smaller Balmoral doesn't often come to Southampton.  Usually we see her famous fleet mate, the paddle steamer Waverley.  Balmoral was around on the 3rd July for P&O's Grand Event, though with predicted weather forecasts, that was in doubt.  This Balmoral was built in 1949 for Red Funnel, initially on the Southampton to Cowes route then coastal tours until these were withdrawn in 1968, and is a mere 750grt.  She was sold in 1978, after ten years doing trips around Bristol and also to the Scilly Isles.  She was withdrawn in 1979 after being based in Swansea before being chartered to White Funnel Steamers continue the Lundy run but it wasn't for long.  Plans to turn her into a floating pub and restaurant in Dundee failed in 1982.  She finally found some love in 1985 when the The Paddle Steamer Preservation Society bought her and she was operated by Waverley Excursions, retuning briefly in 2009 to to a cruise as she celebrated her Diamond Jubilee.  By then she had undergone a revamp years before and in 2012, both vessels were in drydock together.  Well, VTS didn't have a proper time of arrival, merely saying 1159, which is what they put (as well as 2359) when they haven't a ruddy clue but her AIS stated arrival time as 7am GMT.  All the way along the English Channel, she was keeping a good speed, often just one knot less than Big Balmoral, who was due for 6.30am along with Aurora and Ventura while Caribbean Princess was the 5am early bird.  I managed to get the Princess.
So off out for 5am after no sleep and no breakfast, only a cup of coffee before leaving and bottle of Lucozade in my bag for much needed energy!  But would I or Aurora reach the marina first?  That bitch did!  She gained on me, but then has an unfair advantage - engines!  I just had my poor feet and umpteen paths.  Still love her though.  Big Balmoral and Ventura followed her in.
And here she came, the star of today's show - Baby Balmoral!  We're so used to seeing the familiar shape of Waverley, she took us by surprise then sailed straight into that strange bright thing which has been mainly missing since April, making it hard to see her for a while.
And so home and it made a change the weather wasn't cold, wet, windy or all three.  The other ships left as usual while Baby Balmoral was due to begin a series of coastal cruises for the Olympics on the 23rd from Ryde.

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© Patricia Dempsey 20th July 2012
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