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12th June, 2017


Arrival into Belfast was another windy one with 30 knots as we approached the pilot station. With the pilot shimmying up the pilot ladder – not something I would like to have to do too often - he was on the Bridge at 0630 ready for our 8M run into the harbour. It was pretty shallow with only 1.5 meters under the keel at times so we kept our speed to 8 knots to avoid any squat (Squat is where the ship’s draft increases due to high speed in shallow water).

Although there was 30 knots outside and 20-25 in the harbour the wind direction was very good in that it was down the line of the berth, which made it suitable for backing up into the wind. After swinging the ship through 180’ we moved astern to our berth and were all fast by 0740.

Belfast (from the Irish: Beal Feirste meaning “the sandy ford at the river mouth”) is the capital of Northern Island and the province of Ulster. It is the second largest city on the island of Ireland, after Dublin. The city is flanked to the northwest by a series of hills, including Cave Hill which is thought to be the inspiration for Jonathan Swift’s novel, Gullivers Travels – he imagined that it resembled the shape of a sleeping giant safeguarding the city.

Belfast was famous for its shipbuilding industry and in particular the construction of Titanic in 1912. It has had its troubles over the years, however it has recently undergone significant rejuvenation and today offers a superb selection of shops, restaurants and bars as well as outstanding landmarks and buildings including the grand City Hall, Stormont, and the 19th century Opera House.

We had 5 shore excursions available today including “Antrim Coast and Giants Causeway”, Birthplace of the Titanic, Mount Stewart House & Gardens, Scenic Coast & Glens, and of course a City Highlights tour.

I had a busy morning “looking at the charts” helping to plan some close coasting for our run down the Irish west coast. During lunch I met with a lovely couple and the lady asked me if I’d been to Stormont before, to which I replied “No”. Well she said “you must as it is such a magnificent building”. I then knew that was my challenge and I would cycle there that afternoon in addition to my previous plan to visit Titanic, Belfast.

At 1400 hrs I set off with Google maps on my phone and headed out the 5M to Stormont. It was a lovely ride and especially as I approached Stormont Estate – wow what a beautiful building in such delightful surroundings – of course I had to take a selfie along with a few other pictures.

At around 1500 hrs it was time to pedal back to town and head to the Titanic exhibition. I was very excited to see this as I’d heard so much about it. Unfortunately once I arrived I realised I’d left my bike lock key back on the ship and so had to settle for a few external photographs. At least I’ll be back in 2 weeks on our “Land of Ice and Fire” cruise when I can attempt a visit again.

With everyone on board by 1630, we were ready to sail towards Killybegs. Staff Captain Tom drove out and did a very good job. Soon after leaving it was time for a quick change of clothing into formal wear ready for our Britannia Club party for our frequent cruisers. After the party I hosted the Captain’s table which I really enjoy. In fact there were a number of Senior Officers who hosted tables.

Captain Julian Burgess

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