Ship: PRIDE OF BILBAO
Company: P&O Ferries
Route: Portsmouth - Bilbao - Portsmouth
Apart from the International ferry business and small commercial berths, Portsmouth is primarily a naval base. As luck has it, the ferry terminal is situated at the far end of the naval base so the ferries offer an un-obstructive view of all naval vessels on the outer berths and a good view of the inner berths on their inward and outward passages through the harbour. Also, there are good views of the preserved ships VICTORY and WARRIOR as well as the local ferries serving the Isle of Wight.
The ferry terminal traffic probably accounts for the majority of harbour movements throughout the day. The terminal supports services to a number of French ports, the Channel Islands as well as two routes to Spain (three in the winter season). Besides P&O, Brittany Ferries, Condor Ferries, LD Ferries & Acciona operate from the terminal.
P&O offer four day three night mini cruises from Portsmouth to Bilbao and back sailing at 21:15 from Portsmouth arriving at Bilbao before 08:00 local time on the third day. Sailing again at 13:15 local time and arriving back at Portsmouth at around 17:00 on the forth day.
I did this trip during the summer so when we sailed the sun was beginning to set but there was enough light to see the naval vessels along the berths, these included operational vessels and a number of decommissioned vessels as well as the new HMS CLYDE that had recently been launched at Vosper Thornycrofts Portsmouth yard. The harbour was busy as we sailed with BRETAGNE (Brittany Ferries) preceding us out of harbour and MONT ST MICHEL & CHERBOURG EXPRESS (both Brittany Ferries) inward bound with NORMAN SPIRIT (LD Ferries) following close behind them.
The second day was spent at sea transiting the English Channel and the northern Bay of Biscay, not a lot to see shipwise but plenty of dolphins close in to the ship, it was time to relax and take in the ship.
The third day we were woken with an early morning call for breakfast as we approached Bilbao, passing the small anchorage and outer oil/gas berths just inside the sea wall. By 08:00, we were secure alongside our berth and preparing to disembark. Adjacent to the ferry terminal is the ship building yard of Astillelos Zamacona SA who specialise in tug building, any vessel on the slip or already launched are easily photographed from both the ferry or outside roads. After disembarkation, follow the path/road to the left, this will bring you round the marina to the river. From here, you can view all movements, stroll up river to the transport bridge and you will find the tug berths just beyond.
Once back aboard and you sail, excellent views of the commercial docks are passed, as you proceed outward, the container terminal (feeder ships) and the oil/gas berths are passed although probably to distant for any good photography then its out into the Bay of Biscay for the rest of the day.
The last day finds you passing up the English Channel joining the traffic separation scheme at about midday, as the PRIDE OF BILBAO is faster than other shipping a few vessels are overtaken before turning north to cross the channel towards Portsmouth. Approaching the Nab Tower to the east of the Isle of Wight, there are normally a few large vessels in the anchorage, turning into the Solent any movements can be seen as are any vessels in the St Helens small ship anchorage. Arriving back in Portsmouth, as mentioned earlier, a full view of the naval base is passed.
Built as OLYMPIA for Viking Line, renamed PRIDE OF BILBAO 1993.