Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Steaming out of Cowes

Cowes to the right, East Cowes to the left
With a 9am ferry to Southampton and the possibility of a non-starting car and icy roads slowing access to East Cowes I set my alarm for 7am. Naturally I woke at 4, 5.15, and 6.15 and was ready to pounce on the alarm when it finally sounded.

East Cowes to Southampton

The roads were quite clear but I made a wrong turning at Newport and wound up in Cowes rather than East Cowes. This shouldn’t sound disastrous and it wasn’t but I hadn’t noticed till then that the harbour (River Medina) into which the cross-Solent ferry chugs runs all the way down to Newport without any bridge crossing it. That belatedly explained why Newport was such a traffic bottleneck. As it happens there’s a chain ferry crossing the narrow harbour just south of the ferry terminal and it was poised waiting for me to drive straight on for the perilous one minute voyage. That, as a gruff £2 toll collector explained was their bridge (and the satnav does not register it as a ferry service).

While waiting at the terminal I read that the increasing size of ferries over the last century and a half had forced expansion of the docking facilities and rearrangement of the town centre.

As our main ferry set out, the captain reported gale force winds across the harbour entrance, so he’d be taking it slowly. I was half expecting an iceberg to make an appearance during the crossing since the wind was as fiercely cold as it had been in previous days.

Southampton to St Austell
From Southampton it was a straightforward but lengthy journey westwards to Cornwall. My favourite part of the journey was the A35 between Bridport (Dorset) and Honiton (East Devon) although I made the mistake of pulling off the road at a farm store and got a coffee that tasted like scalding mud with a head of foam. I intended to break the journey longer somewhere but it was still so damn cold and windy out that the car was the most comfortable place to be. We arrived at St Austell at exactly 2pm, welcomed warmly by Tony and Maureen, who I haven’t seen since immediately prior to moving to France in July 2010.
Postscript Mar 14: Cmdr Hadfield on the International Space Station posted this picture of the Isle of Wight, tweeting that "The Isle of Wight looks like a jigsaw piece that needs to be moved up and in."

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