Timeline Events (TLE) organised some boat trips at very short notice to go out into the Solent to see the USS George H W Bush (CVN-77). The super carrier is so big that she had to be anchored in Stokes Bay for her port visit.
I was lucky to be available at short notice to be able to go on one of the trips and my booking was on the first trip of the day. This left at 10.15 am from a quay inside Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard. I parked in Gunwharf Quays and walked to the dockyard gates.
As I waited by the Victory Gate the queue for the dockyard was already forming. This image is of one of the benches that sits close by the Hard and the statue of Portsmouth urchins. Sitting on them gives a great view of HMS Warrior.
At 10 am the dockyard gates were opened and the TLE guests were ushered in. We walked to the quay at the side of Boathouse 4 where our boat was waiting.
TLE had booked only 10 guests for each of the trips. This would give lots of space to take images of the super carrier. After our safety briefing we were warned that it would be a little choppy out in the Solent. Plus there was a security cordon around the carrier sand this was being enforced by both police launches and a police rib – all armed!
As we pulled out from the quay at Boathouse 4 we could see the USS Philippine Sea docked in the military port. She is a guided missile cruiser, part of USS George H W Bush’s carrier group.
Out to Stokes Bay
After passing Gunwharf Quays, the Spinnaker Tower and Old Potsmouth one of the Isle of Wight hovercraft passed us as it made its way to shore,
then we passed yachts tacking out the harbour.
This was when the trip became bouncy with a good helping of spray as the boat pushed through the rollers and rounded the point into Stokes Bay.
This was when we had our first sight of USS George H W Bush.
USS George H W Bush (CVN-77)
The carrier is the tenth (and last) of the Nimitz class of super carriers. She had been on station launching missions over Syria launching missions over Syria and Iraq and was now on her way home to her home port.
At her side she was receiving jet fuel and at the stern crew were being taken off for shore leave.
We circled the carrier a couple of times staying well clear of the exclusion zone and these are some of my images of the parked aircraft on her deck.
Afterwards I read that the hanger deck had been cleared for ceremonies and was the reason for such a crowded flight deck. The ship was the largest that I had had ever seen and was just magnificent.
After the courtesy visit to Portsmouth she would be joined by other NATO ships to take part in “Saxon Warrior” naval exercises. This would allow Royal Navy personnel to join the ship and gain practical experience of carrier operations.
Around the carrier
The carrier indeed did have a couple of police craft circling it and making sure that no-one came too close. Look close at the guys on the rib and they are indeed armed.
Back to the dockyard
We passed more yachts on their back from the Solent,
another hovercraft coming back from the Isle of Wight, and
as you can see form the view of Gunwharf Quays and the Spinnaker Tower the weather wasn’t that great. The later boat trips out to see the carrier all had rain so we were the lucky ones.
The USS Philippine Sea had been joined by a Norwegian frigate – the HNoMS Helge Ingstad (F313).
She too had been part of the carrier group. Her presence was signaled also by the Norwegian flag also flying alongside the Stars and Stripes.
The HNoMS Helge Ingstad was a different generation to the USS Philippine Sea and was sleek and perhaps a little better at avoiding radar detection.
Our last image as we came back into the Historic Dockyard was off this boat.
Altogether different to ones we had seen earlier in the morning!