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Portsmouth

Saga Sapphire blog - Captains' blogs

23rd June, 2018

After a quiet overnight passage from Guernsey to Portsmouth, we embarked the ‘Queens Harbour Master’ Pilot off the Nab Tower at just before 0600. It was an interesting departure from the ‘norm’, especially as we have just finished our Southampton Winter turnarounds. Why a departure from the norm? Well, over the winter I have been used to picking up pilot at Nab Tower and sailing on by Portsmouth and then on up to Southampton. Yesterday, I turned right at the Forts and headed for Old Portsmouth. What a great historic maritime destination.

Saga Sapphire is quite a large ship to get into the Naval and Ferry Port of Portsmouth, the Ferry Port being at the far north end of the harbour. Once through the Blockhouse, the entrance to Old Portsmouth, we set ourselves up for the turn into the Ferry basin. Once there I swung the ship ‘bow to port’ – swinging 15 meters clear of the Marina ahead of me and just a few meters clear of the Royal Naval ship behind me, imagine the headlines! I backed on to our berth. Memories of distant past - I used to come in here several times a month in another life, all so familiar.

By 0800 we were all tied up and ready for the day’s events. The Port of Portsmouth is known for its rigorous security and clearance procedures, but we were clear within 15 minutes and ready for the Guests to go ashore. Great start to the day and what a lovely day. Blue skies and calm conditions made for a lovely morning, even a rather hot day, for our overnight in Portsmouth.

One of the fantastic experiences, amongst many, for our Guests in Portsmouth was the complimentary Mary Rose exhibition. This was an evening event along with evening drinks. The feedback was fantastic, but along with HMS Victory, HMS Warrior, the National Museum of the Royal Navy, what a great stay and so much to do.

The other highlight was the arrival of HMS Queen Elizabeth. I had raised the sceptre of this potential event at my Welcome Cocktail, party - I had inside information!

This morning, I awoke thinking, “is the HMS QE coming in today”, it’s often all a bit ‘hush hush’. I was on the bridge for 0600 and was pleased to hear the Queens Harbour Master announce on the VHF that the ’port’ was closed due to the arrival of HMS QE! Whilst this was great, I then had concerns if it would delay my departure for Portsmouth!

Shortly after all my Guests were back on-board I slowly lifted Saga Sapphire off our Portsmouth berth. The exciting bit was passing the HMS QE. We had to take it slow, at around 3.5 knots. You can’t drive Saga Sapphire that slow, so we had one engine turning astern, as a ‘brake’, whilst the other engine was turning ahead. A jolly tricky bit of manoeuvring.

Once passed the HMS QE, 75 meters off – a great spectacle for the Guests - we ran both engines ahead to make our way out of Portsmouth.

The next delight was Mr Denis Steel. Our lecturer on Maritime Heritage. What a mine of information. My passage plan took us west along the Solent, north of the Isle of Wight, out to the Needles before turning a full 180 degrees left to head back east along the south and SE coastline of the Island. Denis was speaking from the Bridge so I can testify to the marvellous running commentary he gave about, what seemed, absolutely everything.

By 1930 as my Guests settling down to dinner, we passed south of St Catherine Lighthouse, the southern point of the Isle of Wight, with a lovely sunset astern. Course was then set for the Dover along the Dover Straight and it was time for bed, it was an early Pilot. Night night…

Captain Stuart Horne

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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