The Ghost Ships of Torbay

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!

 

POSTED – JUNE 2021

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18 thoughts on “The Ghost Ships of Torbay

  1. Toonsarah

    Lovely to read about one of the unexpected (and rare) silver linings to this pandemic. And it’s so nice that crews and locals managed to build up that rapport without ever being able to meet 🙂

    Reply
    1. Easymalc Post author

      Thank you Luisa. I’m not even sure if I’m going to like the new ‘normal’.

      Reply
  2. TheRamblingWombat

    Great story on what we hope will be an only once in our lifetimes occurance. Will b e great to see this industry getting back to normal. It has, unduly, suffered more than most …

    Reply
  3. Francisco Bravo Cabrera

    Great story Malc! And a great human interest piece as well, with brilliant photography as you have accustomed us to see in your postings. Well I guess the tourist industry has regained steam…all the best my friend and a great week ahead.
    Cheers,
    FBC.

    Reply
    1. Easymalc Post author

      Thanks as always Francesc. Your comments always give me a lift. Take care, and have a great week.

      Reply
  4. equipsblog

    Lovely story. I like the caption of 4 Dams and a Princess. I have took a Holland American cruise to Alaska and was lucky enough to take it at the Concierge level. I also took a Princess Cruise to New England and the Canadian Maritime provinces at the same level. Holland America provided much better value than Princess did. Holland America had a concierge on duty almost 24 hours a day. Princess only had one in the evening and that person was usually monopolized by two loquacious ladies of a certain age. Both ships provided nice food. I love your story of the final ship lit up to say good bye on its last night.

    Reply
    1. Easymalc Post author

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but generally speaking, I’m pretty sure that Americans take more cruises than us Brits. I’ve only ever been on one proper cruse and that was around the Greek Islands.

      From sea level, the ‘Dams’ looked better up close than most of the other ships I saw, so in a way I’m not surprised at what you’ve said about the Holland America Line. Mind you, I don’t think we can blame any company for having to deal with ladies of a certain age. I know where you’re coming from, I’ve come across them myself 🙂

      Reply
        1. Easymalc Post author

          Maybe it’s because I’ve spoken to more Americans who have been on cruise ships than British people I suppose. I bet that trip to Alaska was great though.

          Reply
  5. Alli Templeton

    Hi Malc, I can see exactly why you’d feel sad to see the ships all depart, one by one, as they will have been a sorely-needed constant during such a horrific time. It’s nice that the crews and locals managed to build a rapport despite the restrictions, so no wonder you’ll miss them. I remember when I took Maddie on the Moonfleet last year we sailed past loads of them, all anchored and looking strangely spectral, so I know what you must have seen all those months. A time to remember in a time we’d all rather forget.

    Reply
    1. Easymalc Post author

      Very true Alli. Portland is the other place where these ships have been laid up. In fact they move between the two so that their anchors don’t get broken – or at least that’s one of the reasons. Portland is more expensive than Torbay which is why they kept coming back. I suppose we’re going to have to get used to the cargo ships and fishing boats again soon.

      Reply

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