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SAILING UPDATES: 2019 Latest News

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24 minutes ago, Yorkshire Pete said:

Hello, I'm seeking advice please. We're due to sail on Saturday's 0845 crossing from Portsmouth to Santander. Since Tuesday the weather forecast for the south coast/channel has been pretty horrendous - strong/gale winds. I'm convinced that the crossing will be cancelled but can't really do anything (change plans / look at alternatives) until it officially is. Does anyone know what the chances are of the crossing going ahead? I.e How bad does it have to be to get scrubbed? Also - with the forecast being so bad (since Tuesday) why do they leave it so late to cancel crossings? It's less than 48 hours to go now and the website still just says that everything is running to schedule. I'm worried that they'll leave it to the last minute and we'll be left high and dry! Many thanks, Pete.  

The conditions are certainly forecast to be unseasonably windy, but I'd be very surprised if they were bad enough to cause cancellation.  Currently there are force 8s and 9s in the shipping forecast, but the BF ships sail in those conditions through the year routinely.  I'd start to worry about cancellation if you start to see force 10s appearing in the forecast.

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Niton Extended Outlook 08/08/19

On Friday evening low pressure over southern Ireland, 985, will move northeast to be centred near Forties, 989, by midday Saturday, then move into southern Norway while continuing to fill by midday Sunday. High pressure west of Fitzroy, 1028, will slowly move northeastwards to extend a ridge over Fitzroy during Monday. On Sunday, low pressure will develop north of Iceland and move southwest to be centred over Iceland, 1005, by midday Monday. Low pressure may develop near Tyne on Monday, moving southeast into Humber. Gales or near gales are expected in all areas at first, moving northeastwards, clearing Biscay and Fitzroy by midday Saturday and all other areas on Saturday night. These gales may be severe for a time in Lundy and Fastnet on Friday night, and in Thames, Dover and Wight on Saturday. Thereafter no hazardous winds are expected.

Make of that what you will but it seems that the worst of the weather will move north as you are going south. These are not unusual low pressure conditions for mid August.

Edited by Millsy

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Thanks Millsy.  Just talks about "gales or near gales".  That means force 7 or 8.  That's nothing that would cause BF to cancel.

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I am sure that they are carefully studying the forecast at all points of the route and deciding whether it is safe or not, unfortunately I believe that the ship is the BDS which does get cancelled more often in high seas. However at least it will be incoming from Le Havre which should not be delayed.

 

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Many thanks for the responses Gents. I feel slightly reassured. I'd assumed that given the forecast there'd be no way they'd be sailing and they were just delaying the inevitable. We'll just have to hope that the forecast doesn't deteriorate any further. How long would they delay a crossing such as this before they just cancelled it instead? There doesn't seem to be much downtime in the scheduling during the summer, so I guess they can only afford a delay of a few hours at most? Another question, if I may - if they do cancel a crossing, do they cancel the return trip too or do they send the ship empty? Just wondering as my mum coincidentally happens to be due to get on the return the trip. Many thanks again, Pete. 

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It's worth remembering that ships are built to be able to sail in just about anything that you might experience in the English Channel.  Just look at Marine Traffic on a day when there is a storm blowing, and you will see that it is still full of vessels plying up and down it.

A slight complication with ferries compared with other types of vessel is the open-plan nature of the vehicle deck and the danger that would be posed by cargo shifting around in it.  But vehicles are chained down when there is any kind of heavy sea expected, and the chains do a remarkable job of securing vehicles in place.  So any "safety" considerations that David referred to do not relate to the safety of the vessel itself, it relates to the safety of passengers on board.  Conditions become unpleasant, and potentially hazardous, for passengers long before the vessel itself becomes in any danger.  Most of the time that sailings are cancelled it is more to do with passenger comfort than anything else.  But it would be very rare for such a cancellation in August, and would certainly require more severe conditions than the ones that are currently forecast. 

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21 minutes ago, Yorkshire Pete said:

How long would they delay a crossing such as this before they just cancelled it instead? There doesn't seem to be much downtime in the scheduling during the summer, so I guess they can only afford a delay of a few hours at most? Another question, if I may - if they do cancel a crossing, do they cancel the return trip too or do they send the ship empty?

If they cancelled, they would cancel the return sailing as well. However it is more likely that the Captain would just choose a longer course to keep away from the storm (like they do on planes). BF know exactly where the problems are predicted to be - note that they moved tomorrow's Santander to Cork crossing forward an hour to keep ahead of the storm. 

 

It is more likely that the Normandie Express and possibly Balfeur will be cancelled !

Edited by David Williams

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Barfleur and Normandie Express have been cancelled. I was booked on Barfleur Cherbourg-Portsmouth tomorrow. BF tried to rebook me onto Caen-Portsmouth, but given the forecast it doesn't sound  too pleasant out there, so have got a refund and booked onto Eurotunnel instead. Both my outward and return legs have been affected by weather for this year's summer trip. Not what you expect for July/August. Not the fault of BF, I blame climate change.

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How come they cancel the Barfleur?.She was built as an all weather ship and has been used on the Spanish route in the past. If the Caen ships can cope I would have thought the Barfleur could.

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That’s been discussed a zillion times Paully.  There are differing views but mine is that her bow thruster is underpowered and she struggles to get off the berth at Poole.  If you search the forum you’ll find tug provision at Poole discussed, as well as a suspicion that BF may use weather as an excuse to cancel sailings that are lightly loaded.  It’s certainly nothing to do with her ability to cope with a little chop.  But cancelling Barfleur when the Caen ships  continue to sail is almost routine practice for BF - it happens frequently.

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9 minutes ago, Gareth said:

 There are differing views but mine is that her bow thruster is underpowered and she struggles to get off the berth at Poole.

So that makes it a zillion and one times then Gareth....🤣

My view too, backed up by an ex Barfleur captain a few months ago who said exactly the same

Chris

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I take it there must be a good reason why Barfleur isn't diverted to Portsmouth during bad weather. Berth availability? 

It's a shame the Southampton International ferry port is no longer there. Would be 20 minutes home for me. 

Edited by adc82140

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Partly berth availability, partly BF already run a service from Portsmouth, and partly Poole is where Barfleur is.  She spends the night there.

What's not entirely clear is what this underpowered thruster is attributable to.  Some think it's scrubber-related, and some think it goes all the way back to when she was lengthened during her construction.  Maybe it's a combination of the two.  I don't remember it being an issue during her earlier years.

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43 minutes ago, Gareth said:

Partly berth availability, partly BF already run a service from Portsmouth, and partly Poole is where Barfleur is.  She spends the night there.

What's not entirely clear is what this underpowered thruster is attributable to.  Some think it's scrubber-related, and some think it goes all the way back to when she was lengthened during her construction.  Maybe it's a combination of the two.  I don't remember it being an issue during her earlier years.

I think it is purely down to weather in Poole.  Armorique has had trouble berthing in strong winds as well, and I was on her at the time she did.  Took ages to dock.  The winds do really whistle through Poole.  Scrubber related, she has really had minimal change compared to the others, not sure how much extra weight is carried with those.  Either purely down to the strength of the wind in Poole, her lengthening, or just rubbish thrusters.  Maybe when she goes for her refit they might sort the issue out  

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4 hours ago, Gareth said:

That’s been discussed a zillion times Paully.  There are differing views but mine is that her bow thruster is underpowered and she struggles to get off the berth at Poole.  If you search the forum you’ll find tug provision at Poole discussed, as well as a suspicion that BF may use weather as an excuse to cancel sailings that are lightly loaded.  It’s certainly nothing to do with her ability to cope with a little chop.  But cancelling Barfleur when the Caen ships  continue to sail is almost routine practice for BF - it happens frequently.

I don't think it was due to light loading - there was no cabin availability on Barfleur from Cherbourg tomorrow. 

Great service and communication from BF. I was surprised they didn't suggest Caen or Le Havre and let me choose the route I wanted instead. Now going from St Malo and have been able to get a cabin which we couldn't in Barfleur. Was also given a sizeable chunk of compensation for the re route of ports. Thought they handled it brilliantly.

However I'm confused as to why Normandie Express isn't cancelled tomorrow afternoon (is Saturday) and Barfleur is?? Also Armorique still sailing on the exposed western channel?

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Yes, Poole Harbour is a very large flat expanse that provides no hindrances to the wind.

The potential issues with scrubbers are twofold - firstly the windage on the superstructure (which I agree, Barfleur has only been minimally affected), but secondly the onboard electrical power supply.  The effect that scrubbers have had on that for Barfleur is an unknown, but my perception is that her problems with wind at Poole have been worse in latter years.

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2 minutes ago, quibby said:

However I'm confused as to why Normandie Express isn't cancelled tomorrow afternoon (is Saturday) and Barfleur is?? Also Armorique still sailing on the exposed western channel?

I don’t know how we can make it clearer that Barfleur’s issues are nothing to do with sea conditions.  They are to do with handling in Poole Harbour.  There is nothing in the sea conditions that would require any cancellations.

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Well that is always true.  If we start to see cancellations across multiple routes and multiple ships at the same time then that may be related to sea state.  Generally when NEX is cancelled that is to do with sea state, but her tolerance for wave height does not require much chop for her to be cancelled for regulatory reasons.

As a general rule, weather cancellation of Spanish sailings tends to be sea-state related.  Cancellation of Plymouth-Roscoff is often more to do with the safety of berthing and unberthing at Roscoff in exposed conditions, but can occasionally be sea-state related.  It takes a lot (weather-wise) to cancel Ouistreham sailings, so if they get cancelled for weather reasons you know it must be bad out there.

When Barfleur is cancelled and nothing else is (or only NEX is), you know that is nothing to do with sea state.

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Morning Gents, just under 24 hours to go now and no sign of cancellation for our 0845 crossing to Santander. Am I being too optimistic to think that we should now be in the clear? Presumably the powers that be at BF now have a pretty good idea of what the conditions are going to be and therefore if they are okay to sail or not? Just out of interest, what kind of wave height / sea state would they go ahead and sail in? On the Marine Weather website it gives figures of 1.5 for sea state and wave height of 4.5, but I don't really know anything about what that actually means in real terms. Many thanks again for all the info. Cheers, Pete.

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You’ll be fine. 😉

They may start to think about it if the forecast wave height gets to about 6-8m I would think.  But it’s not just wind speed and wave height that matters, it’s direction.  A passage that would involve the ship being beam-on to a heavy sea would be more vulnerable than one where the sea is in running in front of or behind the ship.  So it’s not a simple case of what the wave height will be.

At 4.5 metres you have nothing to worry about.  Enjoy your holiday! 😀

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To put things into perspective, the day Epsilon sailed into trouble, the decision to sail was predicated on a belief that the sea state would not exceed 8m.  8m was taken as the cut-off limit for safe passage.  In practice what they experienced was something in excess of 10m.

(Nothing else sailed that day as it happened, and the reason for that is because the forecast actually went up to 13.5m!  But the master of Epsilon was expecting to be clear of the area by then.  Not intending to turn this into a discussion of that incident, but the reason for mentioning it is the use of the 8m figure as the criterion for sailing.  I suspect that is also somewhere close to BF’s criterion too, although the precise limit probably varies from ship to ship).

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Plymouth - Roscoff tonight delayed until 1200 tomorrow and the 0830 Roscoff departure and 1500 Plymouth tomorrow cancelled. Weather must be getting worse. Sailing from St Malo today was very calm...

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Looks like PA is holding off from sailing to Cork till later this morning as still on her berth and Ais has her as arriving Cork at 17.30pm.

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