The Ghost Ships of Torbay
This pandemic has had a devastating effect on everyone, me included, but at least my days have been cheered up by looking out at the ghost ships that have been living in the bay for the last year or more.
Torbay doesn’t get many cruise ships normally – maybe a couple a year will drop in for a quick overnight stop and that’s about it, but it’s been different since the pandemic arrived. People living in Fort Lauderdale or Piraeus might not get over-excited about seeing a cruise ship turn up, but here in Torbay it’s somewhat different. We’re more used to seeing fishing boats and cargo ships rather than luxury liners, and when the first cruise ship anchored in the bay last year, little did we know that more were to follow.
I can’t remember which ship it was exactly, but it was a ‘Dam’. That I do know, because there were any number of ‘Dams’ that were first on the scene. They were here of course because they had no passengers, and although they would normally be tied up in a port somewhere, I can only hazard a guess as to why they chose Torbay as a resting place as it doesn’t have the facilities to cater for large ships in the same way. I assume one of the considerations must have been cost, and although it’s a safe haven for shipping during a south-westerly gale, dropping anchor here would not have been without its pitfalls, especially if being laid-up for a long spell.
I suppose this was why there seemed to be quite a large turnover of ships sailing in and out of the bay, but whatever ships were around, there always seemed to be a ‘Dam’. Westerdam, Volendam, Nieuw Statendam and Zaandam are all part of the Holland America Line and became a regular part of the scene. There were as many as six ships anchored in the bay at any one time and they were joined by two or three more around the other side of Hope’s Nose at Babbacombe.
During the time they’ve been here a rapport has been built up between the locals and the ships. The crews have been quarantined of course, but they’ve blown the ships’ horns to commemorate Armistice Day, New Year’s Eve and other occasions, and in return locals have sent Christmas parcels and made friends.
With the pandemic easing off (supposedly), the ships are now starting to leave the bay, and so I thought I would put together a gallery of some of the ships I’ve been able to capture on camera before they’ve all gone. Unfortunately, I’ve not got any pictures of those special moments like waking up to see the ships on a peaceful misty morning hovering above the sea like ghost ships or the moon shining down on them last thing at night. Those moments are priceless, and if nothing else it goes to prove that there can be some good things that happen in times of adversity.
This week, Oosterdam was the last ‘Dam’ to leave the bay: The night before it left, the ship was lit up in a way that spelt “We love you Torbay” and the following morning the ship’s captain was on local radio saying how he was leaving with a lump in his throat, but he would be back with his family sometime in the future to meet the people of Torbay.
He and his crew may miss Torbay, but many of us here will also miss the ships. Bon Voyage!