08:30 LIVERPOOL to DUBLIN
13 December 1997
LADY OF MANN
Commander: Captain Cowin.
Weather: Fine, high altitude cloud, good visibility, slight swell.
Arriving down at the Pier Head it was noticeably quiet at around 07.30. There were very few cars in the marshalling area outside the office and only a handful of passengers in the departure lounge. For the first time I noted that the buffet bar counter was open. It's been there since the summer but has never been operational when I have passed through the terminal. Not that there was much business to be done! Boarding commenced before 08:00 however, it was obvious that passengers numbers were not going to be high.
The LADY OF MANN has a large banner on her starboard side stern ramp railings advertising Duty Free Christmas Lunch Cruises for just £15.00 day return. Excellent value for money. Many of those on board appeared to be day-trippers as "Doogie" the baggage tractor hauled a single, half full, baggage trailer on board.
Final figures were just 101 pax with 13 cars and 1 motor cycle with 49 crew. Probably some of the problems have been caused by the lengthy break in service following the LADY's breakdown early last month.
On board great efforts have been made to give that Christmas feel. Lots of decorations etc. In the bar it was noticed that the Casino facility has been removed. Seasonal refreshments were also available. Both a Christmas Brunch for £5.99 and a Christmas Dinner for £7.99 were on sale.
Christmas Dinner is excellent value and it is that meal which is included in the Christmas Lunch Cruise day trip fare. A choice of soup or melon to start followed by a main course comprising roast and boiled potatoes, stuffed bacon roll, turkey, vegetables etc. The main course is followed by: either Christmas Pudding in brandy sauce, or apple pie and cream. To conclude, tea or coffee and a mince pie. One has ordered, the food is served at your seat. For what amounts to a £5.00 supplement to the ordinary day-trip fare it is fantastic value. If you can spare the time between now and Christmas do take a trip. Possibly your last chance to have Christmas Dinner on a classic, conventional packet ship. Next year, glitz and hi-tech will feature as on so many other routes!
Down in the duty-free shop the range of goods has been expanded for Christmas with a wider variety of drink and also electronic goods at competitive prices.
Whilst the travel on the LADY OF MANN on the Dublin route probably offers the cheapest fare payable per mile in the Sea Container's empire. There is the opportunity to purchase a little bit of luxury from probably the most expensive means of Sea Containers travel - The Venice Simplon Orient Express. For sale on board the LADY is Venice Simplon Orient Express Single Malt 12 year old Scotch Whiskey. Presented in a an elegant dark blue glazed pottery decanter contained within a classic travelling case complete with gilt handles and lock! - A must have for any Sea Con. enthusiast perhaps even if you only intend to look at it rather than drink it!
Departure from Liverpool was at 08:32. On the trip out against the flood tide a good crop of vessels were to be seen between the Landing Stage and the Bar.
Heading towards the landing stage, to berth after the LADY's departure, and probably to assist a VLCC coming up channel was Cory's tug NORTON CROSS. Heading up river was the 1950 built TAFFGARTH - HENTY OIL's bunkering barge, following a few yards behind was Carmet towing's BEAVER GEM. MERSEY VIKING was clearly visible in her Langton Dock berth, whilst a rig support vessel was to be seen in Langton Lock. Passing the rock the Pilot Launch DUNLIN was passed inbound whilst off the radar tower, two Cory tugs, one of which was STACKGARTH awaited a VLCC.
At C9 the first of a number of in bound vessels passed commencing with CHUQUOI a container vessel. At C7 the VLCC DIATO passed, being followed by Crescent Shipping's coastal tanker BARMOUTH which was passed at C5. At C1 Kosan Gas's KNUD KOSAN gas tanker passed closely followed by Stolt Neilson's STOLT PETREL. Also around C1 the LADY overtook the outbound dredger CAVESAND which was ladened and heading for the spoil ground.
In Queen's Channel at Q7 pilot launch SKUA was passed inbound whilst Mobil's tanker STELLA VEGA passed inbound at FORMBY light, shortly followed by J&A Gardener & Cos' small chemical tanker SAINT KEARAN a regular Mersey visitor.
At the Bar and preparing to move off was the VLCC WILMA YUKON. This did in fact move and followed some miles off behind the LADY for much of the journey along the Welsh coast.
With Captain Cowin in command it was obvious that the LADY would head out to sea rather than hug the coast. The Bar was passed at 09:32 and the Douglas Rig around 30 minutes later. Just before passing Douglas the SEAHAWK on charter to P&O was heading inbound for Liverpool. SEAHAWK was running somewhat later than usual. She usually locks in at 01:00 and has departed back to Dublin by 06:00, her delay may have had something to do with a desire to avoid any farmer's protests as her arrival in Liverpool in the early hours attracted protestors to the docks earlier in the week.
At 10:26 a Shell coastal tanker was seen heading towards the Mersey. The weather conditions were very good. The cloud base was very high with the sun continuing to try and break through, which apart for the first two hours of the trip it never really managed.
The LADY passed about 10 miles north of Holyhead. To the north the outline of the Calf of Mann was just about visible without binoculars. To the north west the faint outline of the Mountains of Mourne started to appear.
At 12:25 the ISLE OF INISHMORE passed some miles to the south closely followed by STENA CHALLENGER. Also travelling eastbound was a Merchant Ferries vessel heading for Heysham.
I disappeared below to get a Christmas lunch at around and then came back on deck at around 13:30. By now Lambay Island and Howth Head were in view. P&O's IBEX was passed at 14:00. Like SEAHAWK, apparently running late. The LADY usually passes IBEX near Anglesey.
As Howth Head approached the container vessel EMMA was seen heading north-east. As the Baily Light was passed at 14.24 container ship RENDSBURG could be seen at anchor off Dun Laoghaire. At Poolbeg Light, MERCHANT VENTURE was passed at 14:38.
At the oil berth at Poolbeg Power Station, James Fisher Plc's TANKERMAN [formerly P&O Tankships] was berthed. A little further on, was SIR JOSEPH BAZALGETTE at her berth. The pungent smell indicating that she was loading sludge the loading boom being connected. [In case anyone is wondering about the name, a few days ago I was listening to a programme on BBC Radio 4 which was examining the fascination people have with sewers and the history of public health. Apparently Sir Joseph BAZALGETTE was a famous Victorian sewer engineer!]. The LADY swung onto berth 49 at the terminal. Other ships also to be seen around the port included COASTAL BAY and KATHARINE B in the container berths with the DELOS on the south quay.
Work on the new Dublin Passenger Terminal has progressed considerably since I last arrived on the LADY OF MANN eight weeks ago. The ground floor departure concourse is now open. It looks as though it has just opened, as workmen are still doing all sorts of jobs around the place. Check-In desks for Irish Ferries and IOMSPCO are now operational, though refreshment facilities are rather rudimentary at present being limited to a kiosk affair. A new café will feature in the upstairs departure lounge, which will be accessed via escalators from the concourse. The building is very smart and impressive. [Why can't we have something like this in Liverpool??!!] At the present time departing passengers pass through the arrivals hall.
With departure from Dublin at 16:30, at this time of the year keeping an accurate log of observations is impractical due to it being dark on the return journey.
The LADY OF MANN departed from Dublin on time at 16:30. I think we would have got away earlier but some straggling day trippers came along at the last minute and had to board via the car ramp as the gangway had been removed.
The Bar was reached at 21:34 and with a flood tide the LADY was along side the stage at 22:40. There had been some delay in the channel as we could not immediately overtake two slow inbound vessels the STINA and PETROCUS TAK[?] due to the MERSEY VIKING's approach. This is the fastest run I have recorded using the northerly track favoured by Captain Cowin.
Loadings on the return were very dismal with just 79 pax, 10 cars accompanied by 49 crew! Many passengers being returning trippers.
En-route at around 18:30 a large passenger liner was seen heading south down St. George's Channel. Most of its lights were on, it had a large flood-lit yellow funnel P&O style towards the stern. It turned out to be P&O's ARCADIA.