Scottish Branch goes Forth

Supporting the preservation and operation of paddle steamers Waverley and Kingswear Castle

Scottish Branch goes Forth

With its new paint job, the Forth Bridge looked splendid on the glorious summer evening that PSPS Scottish Branch and the Coastal Cruising Association has chosen for their chartered cruise up the Firth of Forth on 14th June. Normally the branch’s charters are on a well-known Firth on the West of Scotland. Indeed, it was in 1984 that the branch last sampled the pleasures of the East.

Maid of Forth passes Forth Bridge. She has particularly appropiately coloured exhaust stack.s

Maid of Forth passes Forth Bridge. She has particularly appropiately coloured exhaust stacks.Paul Semple

Good company, calm seas and a fine sunny evening alone would have made this a great cruise, yet there was much more on offer for the 63 passengers on board. Our charter left South Queensferry’s Hawes Pier at 16:40 from where, up to the opening of the Forth Road Bridge in 1964, ferries carried all vehicular traffic across the Firth. The local museum, which is well worth a visit, has information about these ferries and the Firth’s paddle steamers. After an abortive attempt to berth at North Queensferry’s old town pier (too much seaweed on the pier) the cruise headed up the Firth for a rare opportunity to cruise to within two miles of Grangemouth.

Numerous photographs were taken of the close up views of the Forth’s 2½ bridges, the half bridge being the new cable-stayed road bridge due to open in 2016 that is to be the new “Queensferry Crossing”.

Queensferry Crossing under construction.

Queensferry Crossing under construction.Paul Semple

There was also the opportunity to get close to the Royal Navy’s two aircraft carriers under construction. The first, Queen Elizabeth, will be handed over to the navy in 2016 and, at 65,000 tonnes will be the Royal Navy’s biggest ever ship.

Aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth under construction at Rosyth dockyard.

Aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth under construction at Rosyth dockyard.David Shirres

Other attractions seen on the cruise included the Royal Fleet Axillary Fort Austin, the ancient port of Bo’ness (the last ship to dock there was MV Balmoral in 1989), Blackness Castle and Hopetoun House. On the way back, the charter sailed under both (complete) bridges, past Hound Point oil terminal to offer distant views of Edinburgh and Inchmickery Island whose WW1 forts were built to make the island resemble a battleship to fool German submarines. The expert commentary of Iain Quinn and skipper, Aly Oliver, greatly added to the interest of the cruise.

Blackness Castle.

Blackness Castle.David Shirres

There was more shipping to be seen than on the other Firth to the West. As we turned between Bo’ness and Grangemouth, the 4,000 tonne container ship Marus could be seen leaving Grangemouth docks. Despite our 10 knots she had overhauled us by Rosyth dockyard. At Hound Point was the 114,000 tonne oil tanker, British Kestrel, and the Forth port tugs which included the tug Hopetoun. With 2 x 10,000 hp diesels, she is reputed to be the world’s most powerful tug with a bollard pull of 124 tonnes. The 5,400 tonne LPG carrier, Happy Bee, passed us as we turned to return to Hawes Pier.

Marus goes under bridges. British Kestrel at Hound Point Terminal.

Marus goes under bridges. British Kestrel at Hound Point Terminal.David Shirres

LPG Carrier Happy Bee approaches the Forth Bridges.

LPG Carrier Happy Bee approaches the Forth Bridges.David Shirres

Our vessel for the day was the Forth Belle. She was built by J Bolson & Sons of Poole in 1977 and was originally the Poole Belle. She is 93 ft. long with a 22 ft. beam and a displacement of 49 tonnes, just within the 50 tonne pilotage exemption limit for Poole and Southampton Waters. She was sold in 2006 to Forth Boat Tours and renamed the Forth Belle.

Forth Belle arrives at Hawes Pier.

Forth Belle arrives at Hawes Pier.David Shirres

The charter eventually returned to Hawes Pier at 19:50 after a highly enjoyable three hours. The branch and CCA would like to thank everyone who supported this cruise, including the Glasgow Speakers Club and skipper Aly Oliver for giving use such a great day.

Passengers leave Forth Belle at Hawes Pier.

Passengers leave Forth Belle at Hawes Pier.David Shirres

In addition to the photos in this report, a full set is available on Flickr here.