Gary Parsons updates an earlier tale...
If you read our 'Seaking meets Seacat' article back in '99, you'll know how we missed out on some fantastic shots as a Belgian Air Force Sea King made a practice approach to the Stena Line Seacat we were aboard as we made our way to the Beauvechain airshow. Well, on a recent return trip to the land of chips & mayonnaise, we were obviously a little more prepared...
Optimism was running rather higher than hope as we boarded the Seacat at Dover early one sunny morning, much discussion as to what the chances were of a repeat performance from one of 40 Smaldeel's Mk 48 machines. Had it been a lucky once-in-month encounter last time, or did it happen every day? Most votes went for the former, given the natural pessimists aviation enthusiasts usually are.
Still, once on board, the debate was all about whether or not to take the cameras. If we did, it wouldn't show. If we didn't, an early morning airshow was guaranteed. So, there being four of us, two decided to leave the cameras in the bag and the other two (me included) stuck a short lens on the Canon and tucked it under the jacket.
Breakfast was consumed in orderly fashion, so as not to be caught out unawares. Silly really, as there was a good hour before getting anywhere near enough to Ostend to attract the interest of a passing helicopter. The time drifted past in idle gossip, ears pricking up whenever the tannoy sounded, just in case the word 'Elicoptere was heard.
With little more than twenty minutes of the voyage left, hopes were fading. Time for a pee. The queue in the gents wasn't too bad, a couple of minutes passed before a vacant urinal was reached. Just as things started to flow nicely, a thump-thump-thump sound could be heard, getting louder from the stern of the boat. Bastard!
With little more than a cursory shake, things were zipped and a mad dash made back to the accommodation deck. There, appearing through the spray, was RS05, a camouflage Mk 48, just as ordered. Some rather ungentlemanly pushing & shoving was necessary to get out of the door to the observation platform, but as you can see the results were well worthwhile. Just as before, a crew member was dropped off and later collected, the mighty Sea King no more than fifteen feet above our heads, the roar of the engines and the rush of the wind making it one of those moments to remember.