10th November, 2019
It was a bright sunny morning as we neared the Isle of Wight from the western approaches, before transiting the narrow channel just west of the famous chalky Needles. We were running a few hours’ behind schedule, having been set back by high seas encountered in the Atlantic during our northbound run home.
Saga Sapphire drew alongside the famous QE2 Berth in Southampton at 13:00, just as guests were enjoying an ‘extra’ lunch on board. Disembarkation for our turnaround operation commenced at 14:00, and with the ship deep cleaned as usual, our incoming guests started embarking for the next voyage – a ‘Mediterranean Canvas’ – excitedly embarked from 17:00-19:00. As soon as our important safety drill was completed, we slipped our mooring lines and were on our way down through the Bay of Biscay again.
3 days at sea followed, with the first two providing perfect ideal conditions to allow our fresh new guests to acquire their sea-legs. There were an abundance of activities and entertainment on board throughout the days and evenings as usual – with one of my notable favourites being the ‘Lunch n Learn’ curry sessions, where our Asian chefs demonstrate how to cook various curries in the dining room at lunchtime before the Captain eagerly devours them.
At 07:00 on Sunday morning we commenced transiting the Gibraltar Strait, and about an hour or so later we broke away from the traffic flow to head north into Gibraltar Bay. Picking up our pilot at 09:00, we made our approach to a very windy berth at about 09:30. The wind was forecast to be from the west at a Force 5-6 on the Beaufort Scale, but instead it blew a good Force 7-8. Still, luckily we were due to berth on a west-facing quay, and were therefore able to drift at a controlled rate down onto the berth, landing nicely on the fenders just before 10:00. The alternative would have been to wait an hour or so for tug assistance, which would have delayed us significantly.
Once alongside some guests were keen to get ashore for the local Remembrance Service being held by the British Forces stationed in Gibraltar. We had held a small service as an act of Remembrance in the morning, with our full service being scheduled for tomorrow on Armistice Day whilst we are at sea. Other guests were keen to get off after 3 days at sea and stretch their legs by wandering into town nearby.
Our organised excursions today took those who wished to the Fortress and WW2 tunnels, into caves, dolphin watching, to see the views at the atop the famous Rock or for afternoon tea with a view at Europa Point – the southernmost tip of Europe. The weather was favourable and although rather windy, the sun shone for much of the day and it stayed nice & dry with temperatures reaching the high teens.
Come 18:00, with all aboard for pre-dinner drinks, it was time to sail again. We used a tugboat to pull the stern off into the still near gale force winds, whilst allowing the bow to swing close to the pier before pointing it eastwards – into the Mediterranean Sea. Overnight we would steam through the Alboran Sea towards Spain’s south-eastern tip, Cabo de Gata, before trundling at a gentle speed towards the little gap called Bonifacio located in between the islands of Sardinia & Corsica. Next stop, Italy. Or would it be..?
Captain Kim Tanner
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