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eagleeye

Victoria of Wight

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Took St Clare to the island, and St Faith back last week. The former quite shiny but vibrates like anything. The latter a bit tired …. Being the first time I used the route, coming back the next morning to the mainland, I had planned to disembark rom the Pont Aven +/- 18:50, and leave my car in the car park opposite the Wightlink car ferry terminal. Found the car park OK, and parked next to a ticket machine. Managed to turn it on, in the dark, and enter my Reg number, but it would only take coins, of which I had none. The other machine was the same. Headed for the terminal where a charming young lady smiled, pulled out her IPad 9or similar) and sorted it (not even charging me....). She laughed and said she wold have to make me pay for the ferry. All the personnel I came across were exemplary.

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On her right now. Bit bumpy against wind and waves today but still doing 12kts. Coming back very smooth. Love the layout which because of the different styles does make it look a huge mass produced lounge area.

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I would like to sample her but Wightlink day return fares with a car are now very expensive. I guess the new schedules and capacity mean that they don't need to make offers these days.

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I totally forgot the nt after does in my post of 12.30 Thursday. Doesn't make it look like a mass produced large lounge...….

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A few pics of VoW, having travelled on her twice over the weekend. She is quite impressive, feeling more like a small cross-Channel ferry than the shuttle service we have been used to so far. There are two car decks (the lower one being double-height, surprisingly with no Mezzanine that I could see), with two passenger decks above. The upper car deck loads from the shore ramps and feels very Channel-like driving in from Fishbourne beneath the lounge and bridge.

The main lounge (Deck 4, Deck 3 being the upper car deck and Deck 2 being apparently non-existent) features a Wight Taste servery and comfy sofas in the middle with the usual snacks and drinks, a pets area, fruit machine room and spacious toilets at the stern, and a "panoramic lounge" at the bow with huge windows and disappointingly uncomfortable aircraft-type seating. It's nicely finished with dark wood-effect and turquoise mood lighting in the ceilings. The usual flatscreen TVs are dotted around showing the usual adverts.

The upper lounge is a smaller version of the main one, with more table-and-chair seating, a Costa Coffee in place of the servery, no pet area and green mood lighting instead of turquoise. There is even a movie room, sadly it is aimed at kids rather than adults. It was closed off on the 10pm Friday sailing but open on the 6pm Sunday sailing, presume this is due to crewing and/or passenger numbers.

Outside there are no less than three open decks, one off of each lounge with tables and chairs plus an extra viewing platform on the funnel deck, a nice nod to St Faith. There are two pairs of fixed binoculours, neither of which were particularly useful but a nice idea nonetheless.

She seems fast enough and managed both trips in 35 minutes, much like the original Saints - interestingly, like the 1980s ships, she is unidirectional and swings off Fishbourne beacon on the return journey. Wightlink quote 45mins but I suspect this is more to allow scope for the useless Clare to shudder across the Solent than any deficiency in the new ship. The engines shut down entering Portsmouth and from there on she was on electric power.

All in all, she is very impressive. I much prefer her to St Clare, which I never warmed to from day one. There are a couple of problems however, and Wightlink still don't seem to have rediscovered the superbly efficient design of the original Saints. The sheer size of her makes her time-consuming to load and unload and both my sailings left 15mins late, despite the terminal screens desperately trying to convince us we were on time. Perhaps this will improve with crew familiarity. She also has a surprising amount of vibration, with Clare-style vibrating outside staircases, but at least your coffee doesn't dance across the table unlike on the Clare. There is a surprising amount of roll - I think she'll struggle in poor weather, to be honest - and she heels over quite noticeably when swinging off Fishbourne. Perhaps my greatest concern is her build quality however...several bits of paintwork are already looking shabby, the stainless steel lift doors on the car deck are rusting - badly - already, and I noticed a couple of ceiling panels starting to sag and collapse, which is a shame.

These points aside though, she is well worth travelling on. I would still choose an Eighties Saint over her, although I'm probably in the minority there! Wightlink have definitely seized the opportunity to provide an interesting ship though, and I stand corrected - as long as she proves reliable, she should have a long and successful career. But Wightlink, please, change your mind about reducing the number of sailings - two hours between sailings of an evening is just not good enough, sorry.

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Edited by Pigeonrat
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1 minute ago, cvabishop said:

Must try and sample her then!

She's worth a try. Amazing to think that just 50 years ago the service was in the hands of Fishbourne and Camber Queen, with their small capacity and tiny under-deck lounges. We have come a long way!

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13 minutes ago, cvabishop said:

But 50 years is a long, long time. One would hope for some improvements.

Very true. But between the mid-1920s and Cuthred's arrival in 1969, a not dissimilar time-span, not much changed at all...

Anyway, we should applaud Wightlink for snatching victory from the jaws of victory for a change. I feared another decidedly mediocre ship like we had in 2001 (and, to a lesser extent, the rather underwhelming 2009 trio). I just wish they'd stop deliberately downgrading the timetable, though there's little chance of that I'm sure. And I do think her name is a bit clunky, perhaps "St Victoria" might have been better. Here's a couple of extra pics that breached the forum limit;

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Edited by Pigeonrat
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Her turn round time is more at Fishbourne as the problem is if lower deck finishes unloading first (normally does as top linkspan ramp takes an age to start lowering) then you cannot start to load lower deck as traffic from top deck has to cross over the load line for the lower deck. Portsmouth completely separate so issue does not arise. 

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49 minutes ago, adicat said:

Her turn round time is more at Fishbourne as the problem is if lower deck finishes unloading first (normally does as top linkspan ramp takes an age to start lowering) then you cannot start to load lower deck as traffic from top deck has to cross over the load line for the lower deck. Portsmouth completely separate so issue does not arise. 

This is true. I have to say however that Portsmouth has its own problems in this regard. I will reserve judgement until I've done it several times, but certainly on this occasion, the merge between the upper deck traffic and the lower deck traffic is so close to the road that it was something of a free-for-all the other night. From the upper car park I managed to beat a lorry to the "hole in the wall" to exit the terminal, but both before and after there were people from both decks trying to turn left at the same time onto Gunwharf Road. Depending on the common sense of the drivers in question, some were slotting in one-by-one, others from the upper deck traffic ended up driving along the hatching on the wrong side of the road with the left indicator on, trying to force their way in...

I'm not sure what Wightlink can do about that realistically, the ramp down from the upper car park is just too close to the perimeter wall/Gunwharf Road really, but it's too late now. Perhaps the hatching on the road could be replaced with a merge-in-turn lane up to the right-hand bend and the inbound lane going the other way replaced by taking some land from Wightlink's car park, I don't know.

The car park thingy with all the metal beams also buggers up the reception on the car radio for Sam FM (one of the things which keeps me sane waiting for a delayed sailing!) when parked on the lower level too, but I can't imagine Wightlink being too concerned about that one!

Edited by Pigeonrat

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 Yes I was going to add about disembarking at Portsmouth is an issue. Unless Wightlink get exit priority but all pedestrians crossing stop the flow as well. 

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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!

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