Sunday, 15 August 2010

I have been to … Spain, Croatia, Italy, Montenegro, Greece, and Gibraltar

Six days after a my wife and I arrived in Southampton from our cruise to Norway aboard P&O’s MV Ventura, we were on our way back to the port to board P&O’s MV Oriana to go to the Eastern Mediterranean and the Adriatic.

Day 1: Southampton
Despite the Friday traffic on the M25 and M3 motorways, the journey took under three hours, including a stop for brunch at the Costa Coffee section of MOTO’s Winchester Services. We arrived at the Ocean Terminal almost exactly at midday and thanks to our Gold status (P&O’s reward for being regular cruisers), we were whisked aboard ship without a hitch, and by 12.20pm we were sitting in the Crowsnest Lounge drinking champagne and eating sandwiches; it is, without doubt, a much more civilised way to travel than flying!

After unpacking we went to obligatory safety talk at our emergency muster station, tried on our life-jackets, and then went to the Promenade Deck for ‘sail away’. As the ship moved away from her moorings to the sound of the New Forest Band playing ‘Sailing’, we drank another glass of champagne and waved to the onlookers.

Our passage out of Southampton took us past the No Man’s Land Fort … again(!) … and I attempted to take a clearer photograph of St Helen’s Fort ... without much luck!.

I also photographed the No Man’s Land Fort’s partner – the Horse Sand Fort – that we passed on the port side of the ship. Unfortunately it was too far away to get a very clear picture, but nonetheless it makes a change from including an image of No Man’s Land Fort!

The ship then sailed out around the Nab Tower and into the English Channel, where we took a south-westerly route towards Ushant.

During the evening I began to read the first of the four ‘Detective Inspector Colbeck’ novels by Edward Marston that I brought with me to read during the cruise. The first book is entitled THE EXCURSION TRAIN, and it is set in 1852. The Detective Inspector – along with his trusty assistant, Detective Sergeant Victor Leeming – works for the Metropolitan Police Detective Division, and specialises in solving crimes that occur on the British railway system … hence the nickname he is known by: ‘The Railway Detective’.

Day 2: At sea
We rounded Ushant and passed into the Bay of Biscay early in the morning, and although the weather was overcast, the sea was quite calm for the time of year.

There is always a lot to do on what are usually called ‘sea days’, and today was no exception. During the morning I went to an illustrated lecture by Alan Crisp about ‘The Battle Fleet of Charles II’. It concentrated on the shipbuilding methods used during that period and the role of the Royal Navy in the Anglo-Dutch Wars. I found the lecture interesting, but some of the slides were rather too dark to see easily in the lecture theatre.

During the afternoon I started word-processing the text of Joseph Morschauser’s HOW TO PLAY WAR GAMES IN MINIATURE into a format that John Curry can use as part of his HISTORY OF WARGAMING project. I hope to this will enable him to re-publish this book – with the addition of some of Joseph Morschauser’s other wargames rules – in the very near future.

Day 3: At sea
The weather was somewhat better today, and although there was a slight Atlantic swell as we passed round Cape Finisterre and down the coast of north-western Spain and Portugal, the sun kept appearing through the clouds during the morning, and by the late afternoon it was positively warm.

I had intended to go to another of Alan Crisp’s lectures – this time on the early history of P&O – it clashed with another meeting that I went to. The latter was to help organise a social event that will raise money for charity, so I felt that it should have precedence.

During the afternoon I managed to word-process the text of the first two chapters of Joseph Morschauser’s HOW TO PLAY WAR GAMES IN MINIATURE. It is interesting to note that doing this has made me read what he wrote much more thoroughly than normal process of reading would have involved, and I have noticed things that I had previously missed.

I also finished the first of the ‘Detective Inspector Colbeck’ novels I brought with me, and I have started to read the next in the series, THE RAILWAY VIADUCT. Whereas THE EXCURSION TRAIN was a reasonably straightforward ‘whodunit’ (with a couple of nice twists to the tale), THE RAILWAY VIADUCT – which is also set in 1852 – seems more complicated. It centres on the building of a railway in France by a British contractor, and the attempts that are being made to sabotage the project, starting with the murder in England of one of civil engineers working for the contractor.

Day 4: Malaga
We arrived in Malaga early in the morning, and after a leisurely breakfast we went ashore and into the town. We had originally thought of going on the whole-day excursion to the Alhambra in Granada, but we missed the deadline for booking a place and so decided to visit the ancient Moorish castle – the Alcazaba – that dominates the older part of Malaga.

We walked up to the entrance of the castle, only to find that as it was Monday, it was closed! As our intention to spend some time exploring the castle had been thwarted, we set off for a walk around the town. We visited the Cathedral, which is unusual because its original design has two towers, but only one was built, leaving it looking a little lopsided.

After the Cathedral we went for a walk along one of the main shopping streets, which had awnings rigged across the street so that visitors were able to walk in the shade. I am not sure, but I seem to remember reading somewhere that the Romans used a similar method of shading the main streets in their large towns and cities, and if this is true, I can attest to its effectiveness.

By 1.00pm the temperature was nearly 30° Celsius and the humidity was getting higher and higher, and after a drink in a pavement bar in the shadow of the Cathedral, we returned to the ship. On our way back to the MV Oriana we passed a patrol boat of the Spanish Navy that was moored in the harbour. As we were in a coach it was difficult to take photographs of the vessel, but I gave it my best shot.

The patrol boat was the Izaro (P27), and it is one of a class of such vessels that have been built for the Spanish Navy. They are fairly uncomplicated, are armed with an old 3-inch gun and a 40mm Bofors anti-aircraft gun, and they do general patrol work.

After a light lunch – and another much needed drink! – I wrote up my blog and carried on working on the transcription of Joseph Morschauser’s HOW TO PLAY WAR GAMES IN MINIATURE. I hope to get at least one more chapter done today, and with a couple of ‘sea days’ coming up I should be able to get a lot more done before we arrive in Dubrovnik.

As we sailed out of Malaga we passed what looked like a military transport ship. I am not sure what nationality she is – she was flying no national ensign – but she looked very similar to the roll-on, roll-off supply ships used by the Americans.

Day 5: At sea
The weather today was slightly cooler and a lot less humid, which meant that it was much more pleasant. The sea was calm and the skies clear for most of the time. We saw a few other ships, but almost all of them were all quite a way off.

I attended another meeting this morning to finalise the details for the social event that will raise money for charity, and other than that I spent most of the day up until 4.00pm sitting in the warm shade of the balcony or terrace bar reading, with the occasional break for something to eat and drink.

I managed to finish reading THE RAILWAY VIADUCT, and the denouement involved privately sponsored espionage and sabotage of the railway line that was being built. I have not yet started the next book in the series – IRON HORSE – but hope to do so tomorrow.

I continued work on transcribing of Joseph Morschauser’s HOW TO PLAY WAR GAMES IN MINIATURE into an electronic format, and I feel that I am beginning to make serious progress. At the current rate I should be able to complete the process by the end of the cruise, by which time I will hopefully have a detailed knowledge of Joseph Morschauser’s work.

Day 6: At sea
Having sailed along the north coast of Africa yesterday, by this morning we had reached Sicily. During the morning the weather remained warm, with a gentle breeze that kept it from being too hot. I started reading the third book in series of ‘Detective Inspector Colbeck’ novels that I brought with me – THE IRON HORSE – which starts with the discovery of a severed head in a hatbox at Crewe railway station. There Is a strong horse-racing theme so far, and it seems that the Epsom Derby will feature quite a lot in the story.

Just after lunch, at about 1.30pm, the ship picked up the pilot that they have to carry as they pass through the Straits of Messina. This was done at a speed of 17 knots, which is very fast for such a manoeuvre.

A pilot is needed because the straits are very narrow – just over a mile wide – and therefore dangerous (they are the location of the mythical Scylla and Charybdis). They are also very crowded with both local and international shipping. During our transit of the Straits we saw another small liner …

… a hydrofoil passenger ferry …

… a small roll-on, roll-off vehicle ferry …

… and a larger roll-on, roll-off vehicle ferry. The latter appeared to have no lifeboats on its davits, and one wonders quite what it was doing. Unless it was travelling empty – and the picture indicates that she might have been – she must have been in contravention of the international SOLAS (Safety Of Life At Sea) regulations.

After we had passed beyond the Straits of Messina we went back to the cabin, and I continued the transcription of Joseph Morschauser’s book.

Day 7: Dubrovnik
We arrived in Dubrovnik on time, and moored alongside the cruise ship terminal in the ‘new’ town. We then took the shuttle bus to the ‘old’ town (which is called the Grad) and alighted near the main gate. Before entering the ‘old’ town I took some photographs of the town’s fortifications. These date back to the era when Venice controlled most of this coastal area, and are very extensive.

The main gate is called the Pile (pronounced ‘pea-lay’) Gate, and is, in fact, made up of an outer gate that is reached by a bridge over a dry moat …

… and an inner gate that you have to go down a ramp or steps to reach.

It is easy to see why this entrance to Dubrovnik would have been easy to defend, as both parts of the gate are overlooked by other fortifications and could only have been assaulted by a small group of attackers at a time.

The gate is guarded by a ceremonial guard who are dressed in uniforms that date back to Renaissance, and are similar in style to those worn by the Vatican’s Swiss Guard.

We walked down the main street of Dubrovnik – Placa-Stradun to the harbour, which is also heavily fortified, as the following photographs show.

After having a much needed drink in one of the harbour-side cafes – the temperature was well over 30° Celsius at 11.00am – we took a gentle stroll through the less crowded side streets. These were much cooler because they are so narrow and are therefore always in shade. In addition, they seem to be orientated so that they catch any cooling breeze.

After lunch we settled down to relax and keep cool. At 4.00pm we prepared for the ‘sail away’ from Dubrovnik to Venice … but nothing happened! Apparently the ship’s computer system had developed a fault, and would not accept any steering instructions. As this made it impossible for the ship to sail, we sat alongside waiting for something to happen. At regular intervals the ship’s Captain – Captain Hutley – made reassuring announcements that they were trying to solve the problem, but by 6.00pm we were still tied up alongside, and it was becoming apparent that our arrival in Venice was going to be delayed. As this is the highpoint of the cruise, I am sure that we will get there. The question is … when?

7.00pm came … and went. So did 8.00pm … and then, just as we were going into dinner at 8.30pm, the Captain announced that the computer problem was solved, and that we sailing almost immediately. There was, however, a problem … we were sailing four hours late, and this meant that we would be late arriving in Venice. Instead of picking up the pilots that were needed to negotiate the way through the main canals – the Canale di San Marco and the Canale della Giudecca and into the harbour at Venice at 6.30am, we would not be doing so until 10.30am. The upshot of this was that were would not be leaving Venice until the late evening to ensure that everyone aboard was able to spend as much time as they wanted ashore.

Day 8: Venice
After a night of thunderstorms, we arrived at the mouth of the entrance to Venice almost exactly on time. The weather was mild rather than hot, and we were looking forward to what was to be our third visit to Venice.

We were overtaken as we entered by a fast ferry …

… and had to make room to pass one of the ubiquitous dredgers that work tirelessly to keep the channel navigable for large ships.

Once we had picked up both the pilots – one for the ship and one to control the tugs that help control the cruise liner in the confined waters and narrow channels of the harbour – we entered the main canal – the Canale di San Marco. On our starboard side was the San Andrea fort, which was built to defend the seaward entrance to Venice.

As we passed along the main canal to our mooring at the Station Maritime, we passed the World famous Saint Mark’s Square, with the Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale) on the right, Saint Mark’s Basilica (Basilica di San Marco) just behind that, and the bell tower – the Campanile di San Marco – to the left. The entrance to the Square is dominated by two columns, one of which is surmounted by statue of San Teodoro (Saint Theodore), and the other by a statue of San Marco (Saint Mark).

We finally tied up at our berth just after midday, and we were able to go ashore at 12.30pm. We took the shuttle water-bus to a stop near Saint Mark’s Square, and set off to walk to the Rialto Bridge (Ponte Rialto). This took us some time as the narrow lanes were very crowded, and we finally reached the bridge just after 2.00pm. We crossed over and found the restaurant we had lunch in last year, and ate an excellent meal next to the Grand Canal (Canal Grande) and within sight of the Rialto Bridge.

After lunch we walked back to Saint Mark’s Square and along the water’s edge towards the Naval Museum – the Museo Storico Navale. When we finally got there we found that it was shut! (The guidebook stated that it was open from 8.45am to 1.45pm, and then from 4.00pm to 6.00pm … but apparently it does not now open in the afternoon).

We overcame our disappointment by having a welcome drink at a café, and then we walked back to the shuttle water-bus stop and returned to the ship … just in time to avoid a thunderstorm that arrived about thirty minutes after were got back aboard.

I managed to do some work on transcribing Joseph Morschauser’s HOW TO PLAY WAR GAMES IN MINIATURE. So far I have transcribed the first seven chapters (and I am half way through the eighth) and this leaves me seven more chapters and four appendices to do.

We finally sailed out of Venice for Split at 10.00pm. This late sailing meant that we would not arrive at Split until 10.00am the following morning.

Day 9: Split
We dropped anchor off Split at almost exactly 10.00am, and having had our breakfast we went to collect our tickets for the tender in to the port. We were allocated to group number 27, and we did not actually step ashore until just after midday.

The seafront of Split is dominated by the remains of Diocletian’s Palace but our minds were set on going to the Croatian Maritime Museum (Hrvatski Pomorski Musej) which is located within the old Gripe Fortress. After a few minor delays, we reached the museum with about an hour to spare before it closed.

It cost us 10 Kunas (the Croatian currency) each for entrance, and we started by visiting the military maritime exhibition. This is spread over three rooms, but the last room was shut off. This meant that we were only able to see the rooms that covered the period up to the Second World War, and missed the Second World War exhibits, the torpedo collection, and the exhibits from the Croatian War of Independence. This was disappointing as first successful locomotive torpedo was initially developed by Ivan Lupis, a Croatian, and built by Robert Whitehead, a British engineer who later added refinements which considerably extended its range and reliability.

Despite this, the two rooms we were able to visit contained some excellent models of warships that were associated with Croatia. These included the destroyer Zagreb (which served in the Royal Yugoslav Navy) …

… the battleship Viribus Unitis (which sailed under the Austro-Hungarian flag before becoming part of the Yugoslav Navy for just a few hours before a team of Italian frogmen sank her!) …

The river monitor Drava (which was also an Austro-Hungarian vessel) …

… the destroyer Dubrovnik (another Royal Yugoslav Navy ship) …

… the cruiser Dalmacija (which began life as part of the Imperial German Navy, then became a unit of the post-war German Navy before being sold to the Royal Yugoslav Navy, from whom she was captured by the Italians, who then handed her over to the Croatian Navy!).

Outside the main museum they have preserved the fore part of an old steamship, the Bakar.

Behind the Bakar is a preserved patrol boat from the Second World War – PC-22 Streliko – and a collection of naval weapons including some torpedoes …

… and individual light weapons from former smaller warships up to and including destroyers.

These were unlabelled and some are difficult to identify, but they seem to be a mixture of Russian, French, and British guns.

By the time we left the museum the temperature was well above 30° Celsius, and after a slow walk back to the seafront and a cold drink in one of the numerous cafés there, we returned to the ship in time for a late lunch.

After lunch we just ‘chilled out’ for a few hours dozing and reading, and I spent some time writing up my blog and making further progress with transcribing Joseph Morschauser’s book.

Our departure from Split was slightly delayed by a change in the weather. The wind began to get up, and this made the seas rougher, which made it more difficult for the ship’s tenders to be recovered. Eventually the Oriana turned so as to create a calm lee for the tenders to move into, and once this had been done, they were quickly attached to their falls and hoisted back aboard.

Day 10: Kotor
We were moored alongside the quay in Kotor just before 8.00am, and after a leisurely breakfast my wife and I went ashore. It was only a five minute walk to the main gate into the ‘old’ town of Kotor – the Stari Grad. Kotor is a very interesting walled town that contains a mixture of Byzantine, Venetian, and Austro-Hungarian architecture, with the latter being most prevalent amongst the ‘official’ buildings.

Unlike Dubrovnik, whose streets and alleys seem to follow a gridded pattern, those in Kotor seem to wander hither and thither within the walls. As a result it was quite cool in most places even thought the temperature by midday was over 30° Celsius.

The Cathedral of Saint Tryphon was most impressive, and is very much in the Byzantine style. It is surprisingly lacking in decoration inside, although the main altarpiece very ornate.

Equally impressive were the walls and defences around the town. The ‘old’ town is surrounded by thick stone walls that have been modified over the years to accommodate new weapons.

For example, this photograph shows the original walls near one of the small gates have been modified to include an anti-tank gun position and slits for machine guns to fire through.

The town also has a set of outer defences that go up the mountainside behind the town, and these are surmounted by a small fortress.

The walls that connect the defences together are not very clear in this photograph …

… but all the town’s defences have been highlighted below.

As we sailed back down the fjord from Kotor to the sea we passed another cruise liner, the Orient Queen.

We then sailed around the island that is the home of the ‘Our Lady of the Rocks’ church, where the ship paid the customary respects by dipping her flag three times and sounding the ship’s horn. The Church replied by tolling its bell three times.

We have been very busy over the past few days, and although I did manage to finish reading THE IRON HORSE and began reading the next book in the ‘Detective Inspector Colbeck’ – MURDER ON THE BRIGHTON EXPRESS – I have not managed to make much progress with transcribing Joseph Morschauser’s book. The problems have been that the heat in both Split and Kotor, coupled with the walking we did whilst we were in both, left us exhausted when we got back aboard ship and all we wanted to do was rest and recover. In fact on both days I have only had the inclination to write up my blog in the evening, once the heat of the day had begun to dissipate.

With luck, once we have been to Corfu tomorrow, I should be able to crack on with the transcription as we will have two ‘sea days’ before we reach Gibraltar.

Day 11: Corfu
The last time we visited Corfu it was very hot and very humid; this time it was just very hot … which was, in fact, much easier to cope with.

We moored alongside on schedule, and decided that, because the predicted midday temperature was at least 33° Celsius (it actually reached 36° Celsius!), we would make our way ashore as earlier as possible.

The shuttle bus dropped us off outside the gates of the Old Fortress, and we decided to pay it a visit as – unlike almost everywhere else we might have gone other than the shops – it was open despite it being Monday. The Old Fortress has at its core a Byzantine fortress that was extended by the Venetians after they annexed Corfu in 1386. When the British took over in 1815, they modified the existing fortification, and built two large barrack blocks. When the fortress was handed over to the Greeks when Corfu was reunited with Greece in 1864, the fortress was decommissioned.

We entered the fortress via the outer gate …

… and crossed the bridge over the sea moat. To the right …

… and the left we saw the two main outer bastions (the Savorgnan and Martinengo Bastions respectively)

The bridge was not the original one …

… and the inner gate showed evidence that it had once had a drawbridge.

Once inside the inner gate we crossed the dry moat that separated the outer defences from the inner defences.

We them passed through the larger of the two British barrack blocks and out on to the old parade ground.

Just above the parade ground two artillery pieces were on display. The first was a Venetian mortar, which was cast in 1684 by Thomas Weston of Brede, Sussex. It had a calibre of 20-inches, and a range of 555 yards.

The second was a smooth-bore cannon from the period of the British Protectorate. It was a 24 pounder, cast in 1774 by John Wilkinson of Bersham. It had a calibre of 5.8-inches and a range of 2,600 yards.

By this time it was getting very hot, and we decided not to climb to the top of the oldest part of the fortress, which is surmounted by a lighthouse. Instead we made our way back into Corfu town, where, after a reviving drink in a café, we spent some time shopping. We then returned to the ship for another drink (or two), some lunch, and a much needed rest.

During the late afternoon I managed to write up my blog and to do some work on the transcription of Joseph Morschauser’s book.

As we sailed out of Corfu we passed both the New Fortress …

… and the Old Fortress.

Our passage across the Ionian Sea was not as smooth as we had hoped. The wind and wave direction meant that the ship developed a rather unpleasant movement for a couple of hours, and although neither of use was affected by it, some passengers retired to their cabins until the ship entered more open waters.

Day 12: At sea
After the last five days of somewhat hectic activity, today was a day for relaxation and inactivity. We spent the morning sitting in the shade on one of the decks that form the ship’s rear terrace area. We read, drank, chatted with fellow passengers, and watched the shore of southern Sicily pass on the starboard side of the ship.

After a barbeque lunch, we went below to prepare for this evening’s charity fund-raising event. I also managed complete transcribing the first eleven chapters of Joseph Morschauser’s book, and began work on the twelfth.

Day 13: At sea
Today began with the ship travelling through a series of fog banks as it passed along the coast of North Africa. As the day progresses the sun eventually burned the fog away, and the air temperature began to rise. Even though we were more than thirty miles offshore, the heat coming from Africa could be felt.

It was another fairly restful day spent eating, drinking, chatting, and reading. I finished MURDER ON THE BRIGHTON EXPRESS whilst sat on the cabin balcony during the afternoon, and began reading an electronic version of H. G. Wells’ FLOOR GAMES that I had previously downloaded onto my iPhone. From what I have read so far, it makes an admirable companion to his book LITTLE WARS.

I also managed to do some more work on transcribing the twelfth chapter of Joseph Morschauser’s HOW TO PLAY WAR GAMES IN MINIATURE into an electronic format.

Day 14: Gibraltar
We arrived off Gibraltar and picked up our pilot at 7.20am. The sun was just beginning to rise behind ‘The Rock’ as we sailed through the myriad of ships that lay at anchor in Gibraltar Bay.

Because of the heat haze that was already making itself felt, it was possible to photograph the sun just as it appeared from behind ‘The Rock’.

As we moved towards our mooring, the local police RIB (rigid inflatable boat) stopped to let us past.

After a leisurely breakfast, we made our way ashore. We walked from the harbour to Casemates Square – a walk of less than 20 minutes – and from there we made our way up Main Street towards the Governor’s Residence. On the previous two occasions that we have visited Gibraltar, we have made a point of visiting the 100-ton Gun at Rosia Bay, but this time we decided not to as the temperature was predicted to be over 32° Celsius by midday. We also hoped to watch the Changing of the Guard ceremony outside the Governor’s Residence, and we felt that there was just not enough time to do both and to have some lunch.

We arrived at the Governor’s Residence at 11.30am, and because we were early, we had a drink outside the pub next to Guardroom. I suppose that we should have noticed that there were no soldiers on guard outside the Residence …

… and that when no one came out of the Guardroom at midday …

… the ceremony was not actually going to take place. We made up for our disappointment by making our way back down Main Street to Casemates Square, doing the odd bit of shopping as we went. We had a very nice lunch in one of the many outside restaurants in the Square, and we noticed that the digital thermometer on one of the shops was indicating that the air temperature was 36° Celsius … and we understand that this was 5° Celsius less than yesterday!

Once we had returned aboard ship we had several reviving cold drinks and sat on the terrace area at the stern of MV Oriana as she left Gibraltar.

We were escorted part of the way by a large pod of dolphins, but despite my efforts, they proved too elusive to photograph. We then passed out through the Straits of Gibraltar and into the Atlantic Ocean. The seas became somewhat less calm as we did so, and the Captain informed the passengers that as we sail further north after rounding Cape Saint Vincent later tonight, the seas will become noticeably rougher.

After dinner we sat on the ship’s terrace area in the hope that we might see the Pleiades – the annual meteorite shower that the Earth passes through at this time of year – but the ambient light generated by the ship and the fact that we are quite far south of the UK meant that we saw nothing.

Day 15: At sea
The Captain was quite right when he predicted that the weather would change; it did … with a vengeance!

We awoke this morning to find that we were sailing though typical Atlantic weather for this time of year. Moderate seas and Force 8 winds made the ship’s passage ‘lively’ and there were noticeably fewer people about in the public areas than there were even yesterday. The top deck was closed to passengers because the over-deck wind speed was over 50 knots, and the ship’s movement was jerky.

After breakfast we spent some time on the terrace area, where the heat from the sun and the relative shelter from the wind made for very pleasant conditions. We then attended an illustrated lecture by Alan Crisp about ‘Olympic, Titanic, and Britannic’ in the ship’s theatre. This was quite well attended, but although he is very knowledgeable, his delivery tends to be somewhat distracted. He begins to talk about something, sidetracks himself, and then seems to lose his place. The result is a bit of a ‘dog’s breakfast’, with lots of interesting information being presented in a rather haphazard manner. He also overran his timeslot, and the end of the lecture was disrupted by people who came into the theatre expecting to see a presentation about life backstage aboard the ship.

We returned to the terrace area, and it was noticeable that the weather had deteriorated somewhat whilst we had been away. A small cargo ship that we were passing was shipping water right over her bows, and some of the waves were breaking on the superstructure just under her bridge. By midday things had improved slightly.

After lunch we went to hear an interview with the ship’s Captain – Captain Ian Hutley – conducted by the Cruise Director. Captain Hutley talked about how he decided to go to sea, how he had risen through the ranks to become a captain, and the various ships on which he had served. This was a far more entertaining and informative session than this morning’s talk, and we both thoroughly enjoyed it.

During the latter part of the afternoon I finished transcribing the last of the chapters of Joseph Morschauser’s HOW TO PLAY WAR GAMES IN MINIATURE, and all I have left to complete are the four appendices. I had been experiencing some problems with the template I was given, but I cured this and I made much faster progress once I had.

During the evening the weather became colder and the wind increased, and it was only just possible to remain on the open deck if one found some form of shelter. The Captain had informed the passengers that the weather tomorrow should be slightly better.

Day 16: At sea
As predicted, the weather had improved somewhat, but it still remained cold on the open decks. We found a quiet place to sit after breakfast, and spent our time reading, talking, drinking tea, and I managed to do some transcription work on the first of the appendices to Joseph Morschauser’s book.

Just before midday we sighted what looked like a warship off the port bow. MV Oriana caught up with the ship, and was gradually overtaking her on a converging course …

… when the warship began to increase speed …

… and crossed MV Oriana’s bows, and sailed off in the general direction of Brest.

The warship was the French anti-submarine frigate Latouche-Tréville (D646), one of the Type F70 Georges Leygues class of frigates.

After lunch we began the inevitable process of packing our luggage so that it could be collected during the late afternoon and evening. Once that was done we settled down to relax for a couple of hours before our last evening meal aboard. This is when we say farewell to all the crew who have served us during our cruise, and it can be quite an emotional time for all concerned.

Day 17: Southampton
When we woke up we were already moored alongside in Southampton, and had been for some hours. We had plenty of time to pack our hand luggage before saying a final farewell to our cabin … and our Cabin Steward. We both enjoyed a cooked breakfast in the self-service restaurant and went ashore just before 8.45am.

There was a minor crisis in the baggage reclaim area when it looked as if one of our bags had been mislaid, but we eventually found it and made our way to collect our car for the drive home. This took just over two hours, and we reached home just after 11.15am.


  1. Blimey - sounds hectic, Bob!

    I think the big grey monster in Malaga is either the USNS Charlton/Pomeroy/Red Cloud/Soderman/Watkins or Watson (no identifiers on the ships so you can't tell 'em apart)

    Apparently they are part of "Military Sealift Command's nineteen Large, Medium-Speed Roll-on/Roll-off Ships and is part of the 32 ships in Military Sealift Command's Prepositioning Program." These ships are part of a fleet of 8 that specifically support the US Army (of the others, 16 support the Marines, and the other 8 are jack of all trades including support of the USAAF)


  2. Steve-the-Wargamer.

    It was actually quite relaxing! The 'sea days' at the beginning and end of the cruise make it possible to just sit, relax, read, eat, and drink ... or be more active if you want to.

    Thanks for the 'heads up' about the 'ship with no name' moored just outside Malaga. I have since done a bit of research and think that she is actually the USNS Sisler. She is part of Maritime Prepositioning Ship Squadron One which is based in the Mediterranean.

    All the best,


  3. Think you might be right... they're all part of the same class and Sisler was in Majorca on the 7th August...

    General Characteristics: Watson Class
    Builder: National Steel and Shipbuilding Co.
    Power Plant: 2 GE Marine LM 2500 gas turbines; 64,000 hp (7.7 MW); 2 shafts, cp props
    Length: 951.4 feet
    Beam: 106 feet
    Displacement: 62,644 long tons (63,969.2 metric tons) full load
    Cargo capacity: 393,000 sq. ft.
    Speed: 24 knots (27.6 mph)
    Ships: No homeport assigned
    USNS Watson (T-AKR 310)
    USNS Sisler (T-AKR 311)
    USNS Dahl (T-AKR 312)
    USNS Red Cloud (T-AKR 313)
    USNS Charlton (T-AKR 314)
    USNS Watkins (T-AKR 315)
    USNS Pomeroy (T-AKR 316)
    USNS Soderman (T-AKR 317)
    Crew: 30 civilian crew (up to 45); up to 50 active duty military

  4. Steve-the-Wargamer,

    I saw the ship that I am pretty sure is USNS Sisler on Monday 2nd August. As Majorca is only a day's sailing from Malaga, it would seem to confirm that it is her.

    She is a large ship, and the fact that ship is powered by gas turbine engines indicates that she is intended to move rapidly from one place to another when required.

    All the best,



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