A large crowd braved the cold at the Castle Drive viewing enclosure above the docks to watch the Fred Olsen cruiseship Bolette drydock at the start of this prestigious shiprepair contract, awarded to A&P Group by the shipping company Fred Olsen Cruises.

From Southampton Bolette had a bone in her teeth as she steamed at full speed to make the tide achieving a speed of 24.5 knots at times.

Under the direction of Falmouth pilot Nick Gilbert, assisted by fellow pilot Paul Smith, the pilotage act was carried out without a hitch, with three tugs in attendance.

The 237 metre (778 ft ) long ship briefly stopped in the Middle Ground anchorage just north of the Black Rock beacon to lower away her tenders, which will allow the ship’s launching systems to be tested whilst in the drydock.

Teams of dockyard workers started work almost immediately as the drydock emptied with the refit work programmed to be completed by early next week.

READ MORE: Largest passenger vessel to drydock in 63 years is on her way to Falmouth

The Queen Elizabeth drydock is 259 metres (850 feet) in length by 41.5 metres (136 feet) breadth between the side walls. The width at the entrance is 39.6 metres (130 feet). At high water the docks holds 110 million litres (28 million) gallons of water with pumps capable of emptying the dock in three hours.

Work to construct the drydock began in 1956 when the 34 metre high cliff at the dock-head was moved back over 50 metres to where the railings on Castle Drive stand today.

The dock was hewn out of solid rock the amount being removed being 230,000 cubic metres (300,000 cu yards). This spoil was then distributed throughout the Docks estate for land reclamation.

The late Duke of Edinburgh formally opened the new dock in May 1958 and rededicated it in 2008 on the 50th anniversary.

Repair work on Bolette includes ranging (laying out) the anchors and cables on the dock bottom for cleaning and inspection, general maintenance to the thrusters, propellers, rudders, sea chests and Azipods.

The hull has been Ultra High Pressure water washed back to bare steel after which a new paint system and anti-fouling paint is being applied.

The Mission to Seafarers centre at the docks has been busy entertaining and assisting crew members from the ship.

Bolette coming in to drydock Image: Sandra Hinkley/Packet Camera Club

Bolette coming in to drydock Image: Sandra Hinkley/Packet Camera Club

The Bolette follows in the wake of the liners Oriana, Transvaal Castle Southern Cross, Uganda and Nevasa all of which dry-docked in the Queen Elizabeth drydock in years gone-by.

Fred Olsen ships have been calling at Falmouth for decades on cruise calls and for drydocking.

Bolette will resume cruising on March 9 from Newcastle on a Northern Lights cruise, which will take her to the ports of Alesund, Tromso then to the small port of Alta 250 miles inside the Arctic Circle from where passengers have a good chance of seeing the Northern Lights. Her Norwegian itinerary concludes with a call at Kristiansund.

The Olsen family business boasts over 170 years of seafaring heritage, having originated in 1848 when the first Fred. Olsen acquired two small ships operating from Hvisten, Norway. Since then, through five generations of the Olsen family and two World Wars, the company has gone from strength to strength, sailing cargo vessels and cruise ships around the world.

Bolette was acquired by Fred Olsen from Holland America in 2020 and named after his great grandmother.

Launched as the Amsterdam in 2000 the ship was the fourth and last ship of the Rotterdam Class which included the Volendam, Rotterdam and Zaandam. The Rotterdam was purchased at the same time becoming the Borealis for Fred Olsen.