It was the longest day of the year, 20 June, when the Alresford Giles Group monthly outing went out on the Alison MacGregor launch, from Hythe, for a trip around the Solent, which in this case meant around the docks in Southampton and up the River Itchen for a look round there. Despite the rain all morning, which made two with faint hearts drop out, the weather was marvellous, and no-one got wet, even from the spray. The Giles Group (www.GilesGroup.org.uk) is just one of several organisations in Alresford who take advantage of this charity run boat trip, and the Thursday Lunch Club and Ellingham residents have also organised similar trips, using the Town Minibus, which is just the right size, as the Alison MacGregor can only take 12 passengers.
The Alresford Town Minibus set off early to meet the boat by 2pm, and after a little messing about in the Marina we managed to find a toilet with disabled access, in the Marina Restaurant: many thanks to them for opening up for us specially! Then we set off out of the lock gates, although since the tide was in there was not much change in water level. This made the trip all the better, as we could see more on the docksides – which mainly was taken up with thousands of cars, Minis and Range Rovers, being exported in big car transporters.
Cars awaiting export on Southampton Docks, and a new Hovercraft, which was later that week announced as the latest vessel to be purchased for the Portsmouth to IOW run.
You have to wonder how leaving the EU will affect the traffic in and out of the port – but there were a lot of JCB excavators as well, and JCB were one of the companies supporting the ‘Out’ campaign. Other notable items being prepared for export shipping were several large wind turbine blades, which the skipper described as ‘the last ones made on the Isle of Wight’, as production had been transferred to Norway – or maybe it was Sweden.
The commentary from the skipper describing the passing sights was really useful in understanding what we could see: whether it was related to the history of the port, or the old ships now being restored and used for pleasure trips, or the new docks for the large cruise liners – filled that day with yet another car transporter. Apparently these big ships with their multiple decks of cars get unloaded and loaded up again within 24 hours! The new cruise ship embarkation building has the old Calshot Spit light vessel on the rear of the dock: other old restored vessels were also moored around the harbour, and still offer pleasure trips – one example is the Shieldhall sludge boat from Glasgow, now cleaned – and fumigated!
Everyone enjoyed the trip, and, as a result of all that fresh air, all fell asleep on the Minibus on the way back, except for the driver: we arrived back home in time for tea, well refreshed by an afternoon on the water!
This story about the Giles Group trip on the Alison MacGregor around Southampton Docks and Hythe had an interesting follow up! Just as we were returning to Hythe Marina, a very smart “Superyacht” was seen moving up Southampton Water into the Port area, between two tugs.
The picture I took of this Superyacht, called the “Lady A”, was spotted on FlickR by Charl van Rooy, Editor of the SuperYacht Times: he has now supplied links to two stories that his magazine has published, explaining that this yacht, which is owned by Lord Sugar, had probably just emerged from a 9-month refit and repaint at Burgess Marine, a shipyard in Portchester.
The links are