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29 June 1997



 SEACAT ISLE OF MANN has been allegedly causing problems this week for Merseyside yachtsmen. "They Anchored in Safety for Decades then the big CAT pounced" - The Liverpool Daily Post headline read, the accompanying article goes on to explain how two New Brighton yachtsmen found that their classic yachts of the Seabird Half Rater design the BOBOLINK [1930] and the VALMAI [1902] had been capsized.

The Steam Packet's marine Superintendent Captain Peter Corrin, has pointed out that this is the third season that SEACAT ISLE OF MAN has operated and that there were no problems in 1994 or 1995. Over two thousand pounds worth of damage is reported to the vessels, which included the snapping of masts and the loss of equipment. The speed of the SeaCat is limited in the River Mersey to around 20 knots until the Rock Light, just beyond New Brighton, is passed once beyond the Rock the vessel increases to the 36 knot cruising speed.

Last week I reported that I had seen the KING ORRY departing Douglas on an unscheduled evening departure on the 21st June. I have since learnt that this was a special charter sailing from Douglas to Port Erin for staff of Skandia Life.

This week the first SuperSeaCat entered service on the cross channel route between Dover and Calais. The present conventional SeaCat will, according to Sea Containers, be transferred to the IoMSPCo route. Presumably this is the Cat which will supplement the new ro/pax ferry due to be delivered by Van Der Geissen in twelve months time. In the meantime one wonders what routes it will serve. Sea Containers have stated that they are intending to establish two new routes in South America - Brazil and Argentina. This would keep two vessels busy during the northern hemisphere's winter.

The SuperSeaCat cost 22 million ponds to construct at the Fincantieri shipyards in Italy, and entered service on the Dover-Calais route on June 23. The ship has a cruising speed of 37 knots, and will cross the Channel in just 50 minutes.

The arrival of the SuperSeaCat, which carries 774 passengers and 175 cars, reinforces Hoverspeed's position as the leading fast ferry operator. The SuperSeaCat will operate on the route in conjunction with the two hovercraft, PRINCESS ANNE, and PRINCESS MARGARET, and will replace the first-generation SeaCat which is to be redeployed to Isle of Man services.

The mono-hull SuperSeaCat is 100 metres long - 25 metres longer than the first generation of SeaCat

Geoffrey Ede, Hoverspeed managing director, says:

"SuperSeaCat looks and performs like a huge powerboat. There will be nothing quite like her on the Channel. We have invested a great deal of research and development in this craft, and are confident that we have an excellent vessel, which will be well suited to the Channel.

"Hoverspeed pioneered fast ferry travel in the UK and the introduction of the SuperSea Cat will take our service to new heights."

Facilities on board SuperSeaCat include guaranteed seating for all 774 passengers on two decks. There is a First Class lounge, duty free shop, amusements, café-bar and Mother and Bay room. The ship also includes a bridge observation area as provided on the original SeaCat. There is a lift to facilitate access for disabled passengers from the car deck to the main passenger area.

SeaCat Hoverspeed Great Britain will continue to operate on the Folkestone-Boulogne route. Sea Containers have already stated that it is there intention to introduce a SuperSeaCat on the Liverpool to Dublin service. The Liverpool linkspan has already been modified to ensure compatibility with the new craft. The interesting question is - when will we get to see a Super SeaCat on Merseyside - even if it is only for berthing trials?


PEEL HOLDINGS PLC - the owners of The Manchester Ship Canal have announced a 20 million pound deal to purchase Liverpool Airport from its current owners British Aerospace.


The preserved Alexandra Towing Company's tug BROCKLEBANK is to make a journey to Dublin next week. This well travelled little tug, very much an ambassador for Merseyside will carry gifts an greetings from the Lord Mayor of Liverpool to the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Liverpool's twin city.


There are no changes this week to the ship's currently in CAMMELL LAIRDs. In Laird's this week: IoMSPCo PEVERIL, Drill ship DEEPSEA WORKER and JAMES FISHERS/RFA's OAKLEAF.


22 June 1997





Once again, with the summer season underway a range of special offer fares has been introduced substantially reducing the cost of travel to and from the Isle of Man. In fact it is now becoming a foolish person who books their journey's too far in advance and pays a higher fare!

The following fares apply 23 June to 22 September.

Five-day return: Adult 29.00UKL, Child 14.50UKL. Car and 2 passengers 149.00UKL. Motorcycle and rider 79.00UKL

Day Return Special: Adult 25.00UKL, Child 12.50UKL and Car 49.00UKL. Unfortunately the Car return is for vehicle only unlike the very attractive Car+2 passengers for 49.00UKL operated last autumn. These fares are available on all routes to and from Douglas.

I have also been forwarded notes by David Stewart concerning other fares this season which highlight the attractive fare structure and lay to rest the constant moans that IoMSPCo fares are expensive.

"The cost of getting to the Island by train boat/SeaCat has gone DOWN in price this summer.

e.g. Coming from Edinburgh/Glasgow the peak fare is now only 69.00ukp and that is either via Heysham/Liverpool. Considering that on the peak sailings the foot passenger fare return is 59ukp (King Orry) and 66ukp (Seacat) is can be a bargain. Though I think if foot passengers book 48 days in advance they get 20% discount on the boat/seacat fares. However it would appear that for a peak sailing you are probably cheaper having a rail/sea ticket than just a sea ticket. Railcards holders get a further discount, and children accompanying family railcard holders go for a flat-fare of 20.00ukp from anywhere.

Looking at the coach fares it seems to be the same arrangement.

From Manchester a return coach/seacat Sunday to Wednesday is 36.00ukp whereas even a short-break return from Liverpool is 49.00ukp."


This week the Royal Naval Reserve on Merseyside unveiled the plans for their new HQ to replace HMS EAGLET, which is currently located at Trafalgar Dock. The new HQ is to be located in the South Docks at the Brunswick Dock business park. The HQ will also be equipped with berths for the locally based Archer Class patrol vessels HMS CHARGER [P292] and HMS BITER [P270].


There are now changes this week to the ship's currently in CAMMELL LAIRDs. In Laird's this week: IoMSPCo PEVERIL, Drill ship DEEPSEA WORKER and JAMES FISHERS/RFA's OAKLEAF.



15 June 1997





 The CLAYMORE, a recent acquisition to the fleet, which has been undertaking support during the TT season before moving to her own route between in Campbeltown and Ballycastle in July operated a coastal cruise from Douglas on 3rd June. She departed Douglas at 20.00 and returned at 23.30. SEACAT SCOTLAND also put in an appearance at Douglas with a trip on Saturday 31st May. CLAYMORE's final IOM run was to be a 10.00 Douglas to Ardrossan sailing on Sunday June 8th

The modifications to the Liverpool linkspan used by SEACAT ISLE OF MAN have been made to accommodate the new SUPER SEACATS. SEACAT ISLE OF MAN was off service on 2nd June due to technical problems.

The big news this week is the inauguration of the Liverpool to Dublin service on the 12th June. The LADY OF MANN commenced began the service with the 08.30 departure from Prince's Landing Stage under the command of Captain Cowin. The inauguration was covered well by the local media.

The ship and passengers were given a send off by an Irish Pipe band. The weather in Liverpool at departure time was appalling - very heavy rain. The LADY's, departure was delayed by some 32 minutes because of difficulties loading a caravan which had to be left behind. However, the ship completed the crossing in the scheduled 6.5 hours.

The ship was greeted in Dublin by an group of folk musicians. Despite the late arrival the ship was ready for departure at 16.30, however, the late arrival of the pilot delayed departure by 9 minutes. The return journey was made in heavy cloud and failing light. [Thanks to Dick Clague for providing me with these notes as unfortunately I had to go to work - though somehow I don’t think my heart was in it that day - I know where I would rather have been! I had to wait until the 14 June]

The local press reported on the morning of the 14 June that bookings for the first day were around 500 passengers. The following day the newspaper reported a loading of around 400.





08 June 1997

 Welcome to Mersey Shipping News. This week has seen the first visit of an Irish Navy ship to Liverpool as part of the Mersey River Festival. Also the largest ship in RN/RFA service, the  OAKLEAF, has been taken into Cammell Laird's for a refit. Next week Sea Containers commence the IoMSPCo Liverpool to Dublin service.



LADY OF MANN, SEACAT ISLE OF MAN, KING ORRY and BELARD are all in service. The CLAYMORE is currently supporting TT traffic out of Heysham. She will also be undertaking at least one Douglas to Belfast sailing at the end of the TT season. PEVERIL remains laid up in Cammell Laird's wet basin.

On Thursday 12 May the Liverpool to Dublin service commences. Unfortunately work prevents me being on the inaugural sailing on Thursday, however, I will be aboard on Saturday 14th June. Voyage report next week!

I have been forwarded an interesting tale about Tom, a Super Sea Cat who took refuge aboard one of Sea Container's new Super SeaCat. Apparently Tom, the ship yard cat from the Fincantieri yard, had stowed away aboard the new vessel as she was making her delivery voyage. The ship is due to operate on the SeaCo Frederickshaven to Gothenberg route. However, the cat had stowed away. As the new ship sailed up the English Channel communications systems began to go wrong. On the removal of an electrical panel, Tom was discovered hiding behind. Quarantine restrictions prevented him being landed at Dover. The crew, apparently wish to adopt him and keep him on board!

Sail and Save's extended! The Isle of Man Steam Packet frequent traveller "Sail and Save" scheme has been extended. It is now also valid on the CLAYMORE's new Campbeltown to Ballycastle service and between Stranraer and Belfast on SEACAT SCOTLAND.

A large full-page advertising feature appeared in the Liverpool Echo this week for the new Liverpool to Dublin service.

Latest gossip in the Coastal Cruising Society Magazine suggests that the MANXMAN may now be moved from Hull to East Cowes, Isle of Wight.


This weekend sees the start of the Mersey River Festival. There are a number of events planned including the Great Ferry Boat Race and Parade of sail on Sunday 8 June. There are also a number of interesting visiting vessels including the L.E. CIARA, H.M.C.C. Seeker, the sailing ship LORD NELSON and a variety of small craft.


Noted berthed at Canada Dock this weekend was the French frigate AMYOT D'INVILLE [F782].


To mark the twinning of Liverpool and Dublin the Irish Naval Service despatched the L.E. CIARA [P42] to Liverpool this weekend to be present at the start of the Mersey River Festival. She berthed in the Canning Half Tide Basin opposite the main entrance to the Merseyside Maritime Museum.

The L.E. CIARA [L.E. means Long Eireanach - "Irish Ship"] is the sister ship to L.E. ORLA. Originally constructed in 1984 for the Royal Navy by Hall Russell, these two vessels, along with three others formed the Peacock Class. The L.E. CIARA [H.M.S. SWALLOW] and L.E. ORLA [H.M.S. SWIFT] passed to the Irish Naval Service in 1988. Her official commissioning by the then Taoiseach Mr. C. Haughey took place on 16 January 1989.

This ship takes her name from a Tipperary woman who was born around 611AD. In her teens she took holy orders and founded a convent near Nenagh, Kilkeary. The ship's coat-of-arms depict three golden chalices which represent the three ancient Diocese among which Tipperary was divided. Also featured is a Celtic cross a representation of the North Cross at Athenny, County Tipperary. The coat of arms incorporates the Tipperary colours of Blue and Yellow as well as the background or field colours of the Tipperary Arms which is Ermine - white with a pattern of black arrowhead shaped points.

The L.E. CIARA has a cruising speed of 25 knots and a sprint speed of 30 knots. The crewman showing visitors around pointed to the cartoon mascot on the funnel of the "Road Runner" character, saying it was chosen to signify that the L.E. CIARA is the fastest ship in the Irish Navy.

 The ship's principal armament is a 76mm OTO Melara Gun with a 9 mile range which can fire 85 rounds per minute. There are also 2 single 12.7mm heavy machine guns and four single 7.62mm machine guns.

The ship's statistics are:

Length: 63metres

Beam: 10 metres

Displacement: 750 tonnes

Draft 3 metres

Engines: Two Crossley Pielstick 18PA6V 280 Diesels

Range: 2500 miles at 17 knots

She is equipped with Navigation, Communications and Surveillance equipment, a fishery protect information system which is regularly updated via a satellite link with the Irish Naval Service base at Haulbowline Island, Cobh.


Norse Irish have been in the news this week. Firstly there was the official public unveiling of the new MERSEY VIKING. This was followed by colour advertisements in the local press. This new superferry will slash crossing times from 11.5 to around 8 hours. This faster vessel will also allow for day-time sailings to be introduced. Initially these will be on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

A large model of the new ship was to have featured in the Liverpool Lord Mayor's Parade on Saturday 7 June. Unfortunately the company decided to withdraw their float as information had been received that dismissed former Mersey Dock employees would target the NIF float for disruption during the parade. The former Dock employees deny this, however, the company have reported the matter to the police.


The flagship of the now much-enlarged James Fisher fleet arrived at Cammell Laird last weekend. The RFA OAKLEAF, which is on charter to the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, entered dry-dock for refit. Though a James Fisher ship, the OAKLEAF has the distinction of being the largest ship in RN/RFA service and featured prominently on the cover of the company's 1995 Annual Report.

The RFA OAKLEAF [A111], and ice strengthened tanker was constructed by Uddevalla in 1981 and is a most impressive vessel in terms of size. She weighs in at 49,310 tonnes, more than twice the weight of the Royal Navy's aircraft carriers.




The THAMES VITALITY was noted berthed at Mc Tay's quay ion the East Float, Birkenhead. She had been seen on trials on Thursday 28 May.


I understand that the former CALEDONIAN PRINCESS [TUXEDO PRINCESS] which has been berthed on the Clyde as a floating disco, and was noted as being readied for a move in last weeks edition, is to be moved to Newcastle Upon Tyne.



01 June 1997




 LADY OF MANN, SEACAT ISLE OF MAN, KING ORRY and BELARD are all in service. The CLAYMORE is currently supporting TT traffic out of Heysham. PEVERIL remains laid up in Cammell Laird's wet basin.

On Saturday evening at about 18.30 I dropped into Heysham, just on the off chance that I might just see the CLAYMORE. I did catch a glimpse of her but was too late to get a photo. She had just passed the end of the south pier outbound for Douglas. From what I could see through the binoculars the Caledonian lions have been removed from the funnels. The former IOMSPCO Douglas linkspan was noted to be in position in Heysham Harbour, to the north of the two existing link spans. The original IOMSPCO Heysham linkspan, which is adjacent to the terminal, was occupied by Belfast Freight Ferries SPHEROID, so presumably the CLAYMORE had boarded at the former Douglas link span.

Large numbers of bikes and vehicles were still waiting near the check-in for the next sailing - the 02.00 by KING ORRY. A pub, near the harbour appeared to be doing good business with bikers!

I have a copy of the Argyll and Antrim Steam Packet Company's timetable for 1997. Services commence using the CLAYMORE on July 1st and run through until October 19th.

Departures from Campbeltown are 07.00 and 15.30 with return departures from Ballycastle at 10.45 and 19.15. Two fare bands are in operation. The morning sailings from Campbeltown and the evening sailings from Ballycastle being at a lower tariff rate. Some sample fares - Tariff E adult return 45.00UKL, 3 day return 25.00UKL, 6 day return 36.00UKL. Pensioner, Student and Child Concessions are available. Car fares from 122.00UKL single for car and driver. 3 day return 129.00UKL and 6 day return from 138.00UKL.

From the timetable leaflet it appears that the Argyll and Antrim crews will wear the new "Career Line" designed IOMSPCO uniforms. The fact that the new Day-Glo high visibility jackets and vests just carry the words "Steam Packet" make them suitable for both Argyll and Antrim Steam Packet and Isle of Man Steam Packet. I spotted an engineer on the SEACAT the other day wearing a boiler suit with what looked like the IOMSPCO circular logo. However, instead of the "Legs of Man" in the centre were the letters AA. I presume that the words around the outside band would read Argyll and Antrim Steam Packet though I wasn't close enough to verify this.


I decided to pay a visit to a former part of the Sea Container's empire on Saturday 31 May - The Windermere Steamers. The Windermere steamer operation has a long history. Much of it dominated by the railways, first the Furness Railway, followed by the London Midland and Scottish and finally British Railways - Sealink. When Sealink was privatised the Windermere vessels passed to Sea Containers along with the rest of the fleet.

The Windermere fleet consisting of:

MV Swan built by Vickers, Barrow in 1938

MV Teal built by Vickers, Barrow in 1936

MV Tern built by Forrest & Sons, Essex 1891 [steam to 1958]

MV Swift built by Seath of Glasgow 1900 [steam to 1956]

James B. Sherwood's Sea Containers resurrected the Windermere Iron Steamboat Company to operate the services on the lake even though none of the vessels were steam powered. Though two of the existing craft were originally steam. Sea Containers retained the Windermere operation along with Hoverspeed and Wightlink when the rest of the ferry services were disposed of to Stena Line. However, Sherwood sold the Windermere Iron Steamboat Company about three years ago, this was followed sometime later by Wightlink. The Windermere company being bought by the Bowness Bay Boating Company.

Though its is some years since the Sea Container's disposal Sherwood's quality stamp remains on the enterprise. I recall, travelling on the lake steamers in the 1970s on two or three occasions as a teenager and using the "Travellers' Fare" refreshment rooms. Things were typically "British Rail"! Sherwood certainly turned things round.

The 106 year old TERN, has been beautifully restored, her ornate saloons are comfortably furnished in traditional style with much polished brass, varnished wood and traditional and well upholstered furniture. Tern's modern funnel has been encased by a wooden structure and a fluted trumpet stovepipe is now used as an exhaust, exiting the encased modern funnel and passing through and enhanced canopy covering the entire promenade deck. The wheel house, originally located at a low level ahead of the vessel's funnel has been moved forward to the front of the promenade deck and raised above the canopy it now becoming a conventional bridge structure offering the master much better visibility.

The much newer SWAN and TEAL have also been heavily rebuilt since BR days. There is much more enclosed and semi open accommodation than originally provided which makes the vessels more suited to the vagaries of the weather; the rebuilds being again to very high standards.

Sea Containers, however, never did anything for the MV SWIFT. For years she has languished at the south end of the Lakeside Terminal pier. On my visit a couple of years ago she was in use as "The Campbell Legend" exhibition centre which featured the exploits of the famous speed aces Donald and Malcolm Campbell. On her promenade deck, covered by a canvass awning was Malcolm Campbell's famous speed record car "Bluebird". On this visit I noted that the Campbell Exhibition Centre has gone though the canvas awning remains. The SWIFT appears to be used as stores and workshop for the Windermere Lake Cruises a title, which appears to be being used more to unite the operations of the Windermere Iron Steamboat Company and Bowness Bay Boating Company. Close inspection of the funnel revealed the BR double arrow symbol lurking beneath the paint.

The guide book issued by the company states that one day SWIFT might be returned to service. However, the copyright date for this publication is 1990 and it appears that no attempts have been made to affect the vessel's reintroduction to service. She looks as though she is in need of considerable work and one would guess that her long-term future is in doubt.

If you ever find yourself in the Lake District, do take a trip on one of the remaining "Great White Birds" SWAN, TEAL and in particular the beautiful TERN.


The THAMES VITALITY was undergoing trials in the Mersey on Thursday 29 May. This unusual vessel certainly made an interesting sight. Someone standing next to me said - "It looks like some kind of barge!" This interesting craft will join a similar vessel THAMES BUBBLER. Their function is to inject oxygen into the Thames when Oxygen levels fall below a prescribed limit.


Following my comments last week concerning the plan to find a new use for the soon to be retired P&O veteran CANBERRA; and the fates that have befallen ships re-used as pubs, hotels, leisure centres etc. Josh Reynolds informs me that the former BR Sealink vessel CALEDONIAN PRINCESS which has been berthed on the Clyde as a floating disco appears to have fallen into disuse and is probably going to be moved to pastures new as her gangways have been removed and windows plated over.


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