Pride of Kent

The sight of the familiar P&O ferry Pride of Kent blown aground while leaving Calais for Dover, is a shock.

The MAIB will report eventually, but the local French authorities say the ship had 200 passengers on board, but there are no injuries. Pas-de-Calais prefecture said she was “probably on a sand bank, but nobody was hurt and the ship was stable,” adding that all cross-channel traffic was interrupted while two tug boats were freeing the ship. But the incident had me thinking: “how many times had I been close to being at the mercy of the elements aboard a ferry while those on the bridge wrestled to persuade their ship to go in the correct direction in spite of the weather conditions…?”

Only last winter, in Shetland, I was surprised Hrossey sailed at all, given it was hard to stand up in the gale coming down Lerwick main street. We did indeed struggle to make an offing as even with all lines let go, the gale was pinning us into the quayside. Leaving Lerwick’s environs seemed to take far longer than it ought to. But whoever judged we could sale was correct. Once we struggled clear of the jetties of the port, the gale was on our stern and we were racing by Sumburgh with the Fair Isle light ahead.

We did have some fun later when calling at Hatston, Kirkwall. There at least, or so I thought, it would make a good story in Sea Breezes if Hrossey was blown ashore into one of the Kirkwall car parks and we passengers could walk off and maybe enjoy an unscheduled visit to some of the splendid shops and cafes in Kirkwall town, together with a look into glorious St Magnus cathedral. But it wasn’t to be. In the moderating gale, after another struggle, we docked safely at Orkney before being blown down to Aberdeen. And so an especially incident packed edition of Ferry World was avoided. I say this with much regret.

On another Northern Isles trip, this time just the short hop from Scrabster to Orkney, the Pentland Firth was extremely lively and Hamnavoe couldn’t have pitched any more if she had been a fairground ride. She threw spume over the bridge to land on the after deck. But I wouldn’t have had the crossing any other way as we entered the shelter of Scapa Flow for the long way round route to Stromness.

On all my many voyages, from the Tyne to Norway, I can only recall one gale which, though it hardly bothered my family, certainly distressed other travelling Brits. Such that we unofficially became leaders of a feral pack of abandoned youngsters as their parents and guardians succumbed to the ship’s gyrations. Admittedly, the weather must have been worse than we noticed as the pianist in the lounge, when not disappearing to the ‘heads’, was following his instrument around the floor.

More on this and other news in Sea Breezes Magazine - February 2018 Issue
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