On 16 May 2018 Hamish and Walter Bowie were driving through Gourock when the cruise ship Queen Victoria — the first of two Cunarders to visit the Clyde this summer — hove into view. Hamish stopped the car and recorded the occasion with his camera. The 90,000-ton ship was on her way from Greenock’s Ocean Terminal to the open sea just as Ali Cat was approaching Gourock on one of her regular passages from Dunoon.
The juxtaposition of ‘little and large’ on the Clyde came less than a month after Hamish and Walter caught sight of another Ali Cat during their holiday on the Isle of Wight (see picture below).
The Solent version, registered as Ali Cat of Cowes, entered service on 26 June last year under the flag of Solent and Wightline Cruises, which commissioned her Clyde namesake in 2000 and chartered her to Caledonian MacBrayne two years later. Since 2011 the Clyde Ali Cat has been registered in Glasgow and operated by Argyll Ferries Ltd.
Like the Clyde Ali Cat, her Solent namesake is a catamaran. The difference, apart from ‘of Cowes’ and a modified livery, is that the £1.6m Solent vessel’s hull and superstructure are made entirely of aluminium.
Ali Cat of Cowes (the last two words appearing only on the stern, not the bow) was built by Manor Marine at Portland, Dorset, and fitted out at Solent and Wightline Cruises’ base at Thetis Wharf, Cowes.
She joins a fleet that includes Solent Cat, which the Bowie brothers also saw during their recent holiday. Solent Cat was built in the same year as the Clyde Ali Cat and is almost identical.
Ali Cat of Cowes and Solent Cat are regularly to be found undertaking hourly cruises round Portsmouth Harbour. They also serve hotels on Spitbank Fort and No Man’s Fort in the Solent.
The only other Cunarder to visit the Clyde in 2018 will be Queen Elizabeth on 21 July. The biggest Clyde visitor this year is the 171,589-ton MSC Meraviglia, which berthed at the Ocean Terminal on 4 May and returns there on 29 August.
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