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urpert

St Clare 2015 refit

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Travelled on the Clare for the first time in a year today. The refit is pretty impressive on Deck 4 - though I don't know what it says about Wightlink's standards that the addition of Greggs has vastly improved the quality of their catering...

 

Unfortunately it all looks very much like window dressing as there's still dripping rust on pretty much every visible surface on the car deck and some pretty bad vibration on the passenger decks even on a very calm day.

 

My outward crossing was on the Cecilia which is in a shocking state, particularly the outside deck where there is more rust than metal in many places. The PA system didn't seem to be working properly on either ship so we were asked to return to our vehicles by a bellowing member of Wightlink maintenance staff.

 

Took a fun route around the forts because of very low tide:

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Well refit or not she is over an hour late first Summer weekend of school holidays. 6 weeks of lateness has commenced on the P-F route at weekends.

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Was at Gunwharf yesterday and saw St Faith leave at 1300 with the 1230 double mezz. St Clare arrived 1312 and left 1347 after unloading triple deck and then reloading. Far to slow again though and way over the 25 minute turn round time. For some reason Wight Sun was not waiting to come in and then when it did took forever to get alongside. Cones had to be put out as she does not fit in the jaws on the offside.She took over 30 minutes to come in and turn round yet only took about 30 cars, 2 artics, and several motor homes, mini buses and car and caravan. Not sure why they faffed around so much. St Cecilia was waiting then but service was 50 minutes behind. Later in the day 1hr 15 minutes behind. I also do not understand the people coming to gunwharf Quays who sit in traffic for ages when park and ride is available and avoids the queues. People still keep coming back to Wightlink as there is not real alternative with a good regular service as RF do not seem to want to take them on.

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You seem a bit angry over this.

Ships get slower, not faster with age as machinery gets older, and ships get heavier as the daft greengrocer stay run these companies add sofas and gimmicks. Not all sailing delays are WL fault. They get delayed and held by QHM and other Solent commercial and leisure traffic.

As for loading delays, both companies got significantly behind schedule.

What do you suggest? Leaving behind unbooked traffic? Or even booked traffic to meet timetable? Is it better to take what the yard has to offer and deviate from timetable but ensure everyone gets across? The latter is my gut instinct. There comes a time where suddenly the peak dies off and the service catches up.

 

The Clare can't maintain timetable in her current form. We know that. It hasn't changed in all the time she's been here.

The Sun is tiny. She is too small for the route, and a newcomer. The crews don't know her so there will be more faffing around. Smaller ships are trickier to load.

I'd just give them a break. It's normal for summer and has been since ferrying begun. nothing but a total and radical rethink/redesign of the whole cross Solent infrastructure is going to change this.

And let's face it, not many of us come here cos we are bridge enthusiasts.

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I did ten trips on red funnel last week and they were rammed even on th new fitted ships there were no seats most sailings were not on time ten mins late being the norm but they were packing the decks with all sorts even slotting in cars sideways to get one more on .a lot of sailings on Friday were car only with all mezz decks being used .there was not one complaint from any of the holiday makers that I spoke to which is good .it was nice to see the iow booming

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I feel a need to defend Wightlink a bit. I use Ports-Fish regularly and there has been a definite improvement over the last 6 months, if anyone who works for them reads this forum I say you're doing well. I was booked on the 2pm yesterday but thanks to the horrendous M25 missed the boat...last time this happened a few years ago the guy on the gate snorted and said "No chance mate" when asked if I could get the next one, which is hardly good customer service (though I cheerfully admit that being late is my problem, not theirs). A wait in the terminal for some spare space followed, and I was dreading a repeat. This time however, the cheerful gate guy commiserated with me on the traffic and promised to "get you away as soon as we can", which turned out to be the 2.30pm. This (St Faith) was loaded quickly and left on the dot of 2.30, and made excellent time, arriving off of Wooton in under half an hour. We did have to wait for Cecilia to clear the terminal but it was only a small delay. The staff were cheerful and the ship clean, and I can say it was a perfectly good crossing.

 

There's still room for improvement, of course. I really wish Wightlink would "get it" that first impressions count, and the scabby condition of Faith's outer decks is a real shame. If she were actually painted - properly! - she would otherwise be very presentable, toilets excepted, and remains far smoother than her newer fleetmate. Frankly I'd be half tempted to turn up with a can of Dulux and do it myself at this rate.

 

As Sailorboy says, the Clare is what it is - I have tried to like her, but she is just a rubbish boat with poor design and (judging by the vibration) poor build as well. She has four years to go to outlive her equally flawed predecessor Cuthred and I'm sure she will, though probably not on merit. The Sun confuses me a little, as she really is too small, plus she doesn't fit the berth all that well. I've said before that I'm not sure why a C-class sized ship was deemed viable thirty years after Caedmon and Cuthred were replaced with larger ships. I personally think selling Helen so soon was frankly daft, and a knee-jerk response to the collapsed mezz deck and accusations of her being an old ship. It seems a very strange decision and she was more effective on this route than the Sun is, elderly or not. Perhaps Delcomar insisted they needed her soon as possible or the deal's off...

 

However, above criticisms not withstanding, Wightlink are doing far better these days. I hope they keep the momentum up. Oh, and just paint the damn Saints, seriously ;-)

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I hope if they design the new tonnage on the Saints and not Clare or W. Slightly wider, longer with a bridge each end would be good. W class are big for what they take. Sometimes I think Portsmouth try and get too far ahead with traffic and get say 0930 traffic on the 0900 which is the Clare and she is already late. Just load what you have to on her and be off when its half hourly service. Don't faff trying to pack her when you have already got all the booked stuff on as you shoot yourself in the foot later in the day and 10 minutes red funnel is hardly noticeable but over an hour each week Wightlink is not good at all. You have the Clare and know what she is like so why not work out the quickest way to load her (2 lines of cars from lanes 14-21 so straight down the link span). Forget booking her to capacity as its the last 10 or so cars upstairs cause the delays by backing and filling to get out. There are several solutions but none used.

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Inspite the problems with Wightlink. Wightlink is going to invested in new ferries. So let us try and give them the support. Because there are groups who opposed what Wightlink is doing. And Wightlink is only asking customers what exactly do they want from them.

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If I were Wightlink I think I would try and sell St Clare to Red Funnel. With their turn round times 35 minutes she would not run late and they need to invest in more ships if they are to compete seriously. Get rid of the Wight Elephant. People still go Wightlink even though they are often delayed year on year both ways rather the RF who seem to run on time. I would also like to see no freight on Saturdays or Sundays during the day. You sometimes see artics during the day at weekends and wonder why they are not booked overnight when holiday makers don't want the space. Booking system should also book vessels differently. Wight Sun just cars for quick turn round, other two double mezz with just cars and no high stuff with St Clare just loading large downstairs and cars up. This way may speed her up until you can get rid of her. I can just see planning permission for double linkspan getting long winded and opposed.

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The trouble with that would be that you could only have one line of traffic on the prow/linkspan at any one time - she doesn't take any longer with the mezz deck in use as they can have double lines of cars. The delay is when they have to hold up the upper deck traffic to get lorries on or off. Yesterday, she did a 21 minute turn round with all 3 decks in use both ways, which is pretty good really. It was the Wight Sun causing the delays, with Cecilia not helping by doing a trip round the fort when everything else was using the swashway, even at the low tide point. Fishbourne doesn't help either; with a narrow channel at low tide, it can take 10-15 minutes between one ship leaving and the next one arriving, which is bound to have a knock-on effect on timetables. At least at Pompey, the ship is only sitting just outside the entrance to the Camber, so it takes about 5 minutes at the most. Why it takes 25 minutes to turn the Wight Sun round, I don't understand. They should unload the main deck, then lower the garage deck while the lane under the mezz deck and the mezz deck are emptied - it would probably save a bit of time.but they seem to dither about so much. I think it's fair to say that she is not particularly successful on this route, but I imagine we will be stuck with the status quo for next year at least, and possibly well into 2017 until the new-build gets here. You do make a good point about the freight though - far too many Sainsbury's Tesco, Morrison's etc at peak times at weekends.

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