Europa (VI) at Cowes, Isle of Wight
Another trip over to Cowes on the 6th September 2010.  Hapag-Lloyd's 28,890grt Europa was anchored there before returning to Kiel.  This was the sixth ship to bear the name, debuting in 1999.  I had only seen the previous one in 1987, which currently sails as Bleu de France for Pullmantur.  The weather this day was meant to be better so I decided to take the slow boat across.  The ship was at tender from 7am-1pm which was slightly cooperative than c.Columbus eleven days earlier so at least I didn't have to rush.  I caught the 10.10am ferry over so I could get the 11am Red Funnel for photos this time around.  It was very windy and cool as we bounced towards Town Quay, the ferry I was due to catch going ahead.  That was fine.  The paddlesteamer Waverley was back for her usual September excursions.  This year she was docked in 49 so it was better for photos.
I went to the Red Funnel portakabin and boarded Red Eagle after buying my ticket.  It was the first time I'd been on one of their ferries since we said goodbye to QE2 on the 11th November 2008, and it was the same one.  This time it was just as cold but there was no dad, no Fay and no Lizzie.  Despite the weather many people opted to sit on the open deck.  As we waited, I saw Waverley's little stern disappear behind the buildings at Town Quay so waited for her to come back into view so I could get some shots.  We left on time and I couldn't help cast my mind back to that November night when we pulled out for our farewells.  The QEII Terminal seemed very empty as we passed.  In fact, the entire docks were pretty much.  Shieldhall was docked at her new home over at Ocean Village not running as many trips as she used to a few years ago.
I couldn't help but look forlornly down at the car deck since on that November night we'd been fighting for space among people who weren't taking photos at all!  Hard to believe it was almost two years ago.  It was spitting a little and it was funny watching some yachts without sails.  This was ideal sailing weather yet so many were using the motor.  Cowards!  What's the point of buying a bloody yacht then, apart from showing off?  As we rounded Calshot I started to look for the ship.  She was anchored further down, past West Cowes, probably for shelter.  It was damn inconvenient!  With the mist it also made it difficult to see her.  A few minutes out of Cowes we had an announcement we would be slowing for a commemoration.  This wasn't the best weather to scatter ashes.  As it was going on somewhere around the boat, a car alarm was going off madly.
And so we arrived ten minutes late.  Fay met me.  It had been twelve years since I'd last gone to East Cowes and it had changed a bit.  Actually, it also changed between 1990 and 1998!  Fay drove us to the front to wait and get a good view.  We watched the tenders come and go, and so did 1pm!  It really didn't help we not only couldn't see her, but also the battery in my Blackberry was on its last legs after eighteen months so even checking the AIS killed it faster.
My brief phone call to my dad finished off the battery.  Smartphones are dumb and the battery life should not only be greater considering all they do, but also should last the lifetime of the phone.  Roll on my Nokia replacement upgrade!  I never had any trouble with those in the past.  At 2pm we had an unexpected bonus - Waverley tootled past at speed!
I'd intended to catch the 1.30pm ferry back and was about to miss the next one too.  I decided to catch the 3.30pm regardless of whether the sod had gone or not.  My dad had said (via Fay's phone) the AIS had gone off so he wasn't able to tell us if she was moving or which direction she was heading.  Just before 2.30pm - almost ninety minutes late - Fay spotted a bow emerge from behind the Island!  She was coming - hooray!  And it wasn't raining - double hooray!
And then she was gone so Fay dropped me off by Red Funnel for the ferry back.  Eerily enough, it was Red Eagle again!  Europa is scheduled to visit Southampton in July 2011.  To see a video of Europa and Waverley, click here
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© Patricia Dempsey 6th September 2010
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