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  1. Rouen is a very attractive city to visit, plenty of good restaurants available after you have done your cultural duty by going round the wonderful cathedral. For BF enthusiasts, easily accessible by train from Le Havre, where the station is walkable from the BF terminal if you miss the shuttle bus.
  2. Not only ships - POO is also the code for Poole station under the 3-letter system used by the railways.
  3. Mea culpa - it looks as though the crossings have indeed got slower, without me noticing. Perhaps the Fastcats seemed no faster because of the very slow turn they used to make to tie up at the harbour when I was getting nervous about the train connection. As confirmation I have rooted out a Wightlink timetable from 1992 which gives a crossing time of ‘approximately’ 15 minutes. For interest the ‘approximate’ times for the other routes are shown as 35 minutes for Portsmouth - Fishbourne, and 30 minutes for Lymington -Yarmouth, confirming the picture of a general slowdown. One thing I have noticed on all routes is that crossings are noticeably faster if they are at the end of the crew’s shift! Since this thread is supposed to be about Lymington -Yarmouth, it’s interesting to note that the 1992 summer timetable gave crossings every half hour, amounting to an impressive 28 or so each way. A standard return for a small car plus driver was £39.40, with passengers paying extra. More expensive than I would have expected compared with present fares, which do not charge extra for passengers. Clearly there was never a golden age when taking a car across the Solent was a cheap undertaking.
  4. Can I put in a word in defence of the cats. As a regular user of the successive cats over 25 years, I am not aware that the crossing time has changed much if at all. (Frequency and provision of late crossings is another matter). But the Wight Ryders are very well designed for the route and weather-related cancellations are now almost non-existent. They do have ongoing problems of mechanical reliability, though much less than when they were first introduced, and Wightlink seem to have abandoned any attempt to charter replacements when there is a problem. But when running they are by far the best vessels we have had. It’s a nice idea to try to find a new landing to replace Lymington, but the reality is that there are no practical alternatives to the present ports, on either side of the Solent. That is why it is very difficult to see a third operator being able to enter the market and challenge the present duopoly of Wightlink and Red Funnel. Where new operators did succeed in entering markets, as with Norfolk Line (DFDS) at Dover or Western Ferries on the Clyde, fares came down. But that is not going to happen on the Solent.
  5. A really zealous gendarme will also have noticed that after Brexit the GB sign in the circle of stars on rear number plates will no longer serve as the required nationality indicator. The latest UK govt advice is that you must have the old-fashioned white disc as well. Good news for Halfords at least.
  6. Hence the joke that NL stands for ‘Nur Limonade’ (only lemonade in German). That’s all they buy locally, having brought everything else with them.
  7. This is a legacy of the three engine fires on the ‘W’ class. Apparently the ships will not run in winds stronger than 20 knots (gusts to 25 knots), presumably because that would involve the engines working harder, with an increased fire risk. Wightlink were reported as looking at technical fixes that would solve the problem, but appear not to have found any. If the restriction is permanent, it will not do anything to improve the viability of the Yarmouth-Lymington route. I for one will not be using the route if my plans are liable to be upset by what is no more than a strong breeze, and in the windy periods of the year there will be more cancellations than crossings. Good news for Red Funnel.
  8. I’ve often worn these. I have my doubts as to whether they work, but if you’re as bad a sailor as I am you try anything. The problem is of course that you can’t tell how awful you would have felt if you hadn’t been wearing them. i still need to follow the usual strategies of lying in a darkened cabin dosed up with Stugeron, or sitting on a windy deck trying to watch the horizon. i have friends with greater intestinal fortitude who tell me mal de mer is all in the mind, which is of course a great help.
  9. Depends partly where you want to go - obviously if you are travelling to the West Country you would tend to choose Southampton, and for Chichester Portsmouth would be better. For journeys to the Midlands and North via the A34 both are ok. For London it depends which part of the city you’re aiming for - I find the A3 a quicker way in to central parts than the M3. Another consideration is that it is usually much quicker to get through Portsmouth to the motorway than it is from Southampton, whose traffic congestion seems to get worse all the time, whether you’re going through the centre or via the western docks. As for unloading problems, I agree that the new Wightlink arrangements are not satisfactory, and particularly the merging procedure at Gunwharf is quite scary. But the problems at Red Funnel’s Southampton terminal are worse, and it can take a very long time to get out on to the main road. There was a comprehensive road improvement there a year or so back and it is surprising that the opportunity was not taken to put in lights at the terminal exit. As it is, Red Funnel only avoid delays because they have a half-hour turnaround, unlike Wightlink’s 20ish minutes.
  10. Yes, I’d recommend the Thames trips, normally done in October, so sometimes a need to wrap up well. They lack the splendid coastal scenery of the IOW or the Jurassic Coast (indeed sometimes you can hardly see the coast at all) but fascinating nonetheless. A particular surprise was the Blackwater estuary, where we were supposed to be heading after our ill-fated Clacton call - an extensive and very deep estuary which very few people seem to know about.
  11. So far so good, but there’s still going to be much fundraising needed. If all those who normally take a trip on the ship would this year give a donation equivalent to the fare that would help a great deal. Let’s hope that Waverley will be able to come down south in September next year to carry out her normal programme based on Weymouth, Southampton and Portsmouth. The inability to call at Bournemouth is a serious blow, given its large number of holidaymakers and wide catchment area. As I understand it, the problem is not just the state of the pier but that silting up has severely limited the states of the tide at which berthing would be possible. Maintaining elderly piers in a fit state to take such a large vessel is always going to be problematical; it’s hard to justify spending money to permit berthing which is only going to take place a handful of times a year. Many piers where Waverley used to call are now closed to it, eg Sandown and Worthing. Last autumn, I was on board the ship when we tried to berth at Clacton, where the pier looks in an even more decrepit state than Bournemouth’s. One of the bollards to which the ship was attached came away, as did part of the pier. The call had to be aborted. It is hard to see where the money to repair such piers is going to come from. The benefit to the tourist industry of Waverley’s operations is clear, but that doesn’t translate into funds for maintenance.
  12. Another island for completists is Chausey, which is geographically though not politically a ‘Channel Island’. It’s easily accessible from Granville, giving a very enjoyable day out, with a restaurant and shop and some nice beaches. A few people live there all year in some charming cottages. It’s surrounded by a huge area of dangerous reefs which are exposed at low tide, so some similarities with ‘our’ islands further north. Of course it might be argued that the Isle of Wight is also a ‘Channel Island’, but the only people who really believe that are companies trying to extort extra charges when asked to deliver here.
  13. I agree that there is much to like about Victoria of Wight. Certainly a great improvement internally on St Clare, which has always struck me as resembling a floating motorway service station. And externally VoW makes a fine sight as it proceeds in stately fashion across the Solent. There is a bit of a ‘big ship’ feel about it. The attractive forward-facing sloping windows do have one drawback, though. At night they reflect the bright jazzy carpet, so it’s very difficult to see anything outside. In an ideal world, where ferries were run to meet the needs of the public rather than to fill the pockets of the owners, Wightlink would now be ordering one if not two sister ships. As it is, the policy is obviously to reduce capacity, so, as has been pointed out, we are less likely to get special offers; and there will be an incentive to reduce the crossings for which Multilink tickets can be used. The long gaps in the service are also a pain, but the summer timetable does contain a modest piece of good news (once you have managed to decode the complicated key): on Mondays, Tuesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, there is now a ferry from Gunwharf at 0100. This restores the possibility of an evening out in London and returning the same day which we lost when Wightlink took the axe to the evening services about ten years ago. But only on those days, and only in summer!
  14. Thanks for the info - not sure that the ‘ease and joy’ of ferry travel is a description that those of us who rely on ferries for our everyday travels would recognise (I see Wightlink have cancelled again this morning). But in the spirit of the offer I will certainly be applying in the hope of a trip to some attractive Scottish island or the IoM.
  15. I used them on Thursday too. The gates were held open while the stream of arriving Wightlink passengers went through. On my return journey later in the evening I was met by a closed gate and was asked by the gatekeeper ‘Wightlink’?, to which I responded yes (truthfully, as it happens) and was let through. I have yet to explore what happens in other situations eg when you leave the platforms, try to use the station toilets only to find that they are out of action (a very common state of affairs) and need to return through the barrier to use the Wightlink toilets. Incidentally, although Wightlink have placed a notice at the entrance to their ramp to the effect that their passengers can go through the barriers, there is no such notice where it is more needed, on the ‘landward’ side of the barrier, so that those unfamiliar with the layout do not waste time looking for an alternative route to the ferry avoiding the barrier.
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