Archive for November 4th, 2011
Pirates Shiver As HMS Montrose Takes A Tenerife Break

Hey, fancy coming back to see my battleship? that’s got to be one of the most impressive chat up lines. Judging by the beaming smiles on the young ladies heading off the gang plank of HMS Montrose shore leave definately has its attractions. The 185 good men and women of the Type 23 Royal Navy frigate certainly deserved their four day break in Santa Cruz, having just left their Devonport base in Plymouth they were stocking up and gearing up for a six month tour in the South Atlantic keeping a watchful eye on the Falkland Islands and other outposts 8,000 plus nautical miles away.

PM Call Me Dave has just issued the go ahead for commercial ships to carry arms and security staff when sailing the pirate infested African seas off Somali. A year ago Montrose patrolled that area and blasted a roque pirate ship out of the water. Just looking at the 32 Seawolf missiles and the imposing 4.5 inch gun turret was enough to dispel any thoughts I had about getting an eye patch and a parrot. Lieutenant Commander Sam Law, the ships public relations officer gave me a guided tour below decks, I was surprised how relatively spacious it was, even the junior messdecks have a chill out area with Tv, DVD and Hi Fi. Up on deck I resisted the urge to reset the main gun to face Gran Canaria.

The bridge was very compact with clear views out onto Santa Cruz dock, I even got to swivel in Commander Jonathan Lett’s chair. A helicopter had definately been mentioned in the research I had done so where had they hidden it? That was easily answered as my guide pulled open the hanger door up on deck to reveal a Lynx helicopter with rotor blades folded and ready to pounce like a coiled spring. Even this bit of hardware packs a hefty punch, Sea Skua anti ship missiles, Stingray torpedos, depth charges, and machine guns could soon teach an opponent the error of their ways.

The current Montrose, the third to proudly bear the name was built on the Clyde and launched in 1992. capable of 28 knots it’s driven by 5.2 mw of power but the bit of information that impressed me was all its vertical surfaces have a 70 degree slope which makes it appear the size of a fishing ship on radar. Suitably impressed I left the ship hoping that the manly absent crew enjoy all the excesses that Tenerife can offer, even with summer creeping in at the South Atlantic it’s a long trip away – fair winds and tides to them all.

Queen Mary 2 Holds Court In Tenerife

Was it Carnaval time again in Tenerife? The streets of Santa Cruz were bristling with people, police and Unipol cars were visible on all corners and there was even an eye in the sky in the police helicopter. Anyone would think royalty had come to call, well it had in the majestic form of Queen Mary 2, tucked in behind fellow cruise liners Voyager Of the Seas and Liberty Of The Seas on the far quayside. Heading into the flow of dissembarking passengers I headed down the ramp at the ferry station to gaze across at the illustrious visitors.

Security was tight on QM2’s maiden voyage call seven years ago but now it was tighter than ever, glued to the phone earlier in the week neither the Tenerife port authority, Cunard in Southampton or their various press and PR agencies were offering a close up and personal tour. The previous day the port carried out a bomb threat simulation around the Costa Deliziosa to test security but the Fred Olsen cruise ship Balmoral was parked up on the near pier so at least I got to cozey on up to that, no mean ship itself with 1,750 crew and passengers.

Queen Mary was undoutedly the star and even at a distance she was attracting a large fan club, I headed down to the old jet foil station for a closer look from their small jetty. Small fishing boats seemed to be looking up in awe at their regal visitor and I’m sure the Fred Olsen ferry’s blast on the horn as it passed had a tone of respect about it. At this point maybe I should fire a few QM2 stats at you. At 1,132 feet (345 metres) long the QM2 covers 3.5 acres, weighs 151,400 tons and has 17 decks making it as high as a 23 storey building. At full stretch she can do 30 knots and on this visit brought 2,200 passengers and 1,100 crew.

Despite only being seven years old and having had a few minor touches done in Greenock before this cruise, the QM2 is heading to Blohm in Germany for a refit after taking in Gran Canaria,Lanzarote, Lisbon, Vigo, and dropping off back in Southampton. Bringing a healthy boost to Santa Cruz the four cruise ships between them carried 10,550 passengers and 3,400 crew – ker ching went those tills. There was no respite for the port, the next day four more liners were due, Marco Polo, Adventure Of The Seas, Thomson Destiny, and Costa Mediterranea. Never a dull moment.