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Voyage Report: Sea Containers


by John H. Luxton



Commander: Captain Crellin

22 December 1997

This was to be a trip of varying weather conditions! When I arrived at the IoMSPCo Sea Terminal on Monday there appeared to be more passengers around than on my previous trip on 13th December. The LADY OF MANN sailed at 08:31 with 184 passengers and 38 cars.

There was little traffic in the River Mersey. Apart from the ferry which had begun its commuter shuttle, the only craft of note was the floating crane MERSEY MAMMOTH in Langton Lock. The Q2 buoy was passed at 09:15 and the Bar was passed some way off to starboard at 09:24. With Captain Crellin in command the Lady was taking the southern route. At anchor off the Bar was the Sundan Lines container/cargo liner DARFUR. Little traffic was to be seen as the sunny haze gave way to more heavier cloud as the vessel travelled westwards. At 10:01 the MAR EUROPE was passed to starboard, heading for the Bar with containers. At around 10:30 the sun managed to break through for a short while but that was to be the last time it managed all day!

At around 11:30 SEAHAWK was seen on the horizon to the north, taking the more northerly track favoured by Captain Cowin when he commands the LADY OF MANN.

A few minutes later we passed about 3 miles north of Skerries rock and at this time it began to drizzle and the wind speed increased considerably along with the sea state with the Lady starting to pitch and roll. At 12:15 an RAF S61 Sea King Helicopter from RAF Valley's search and rescue department flew in from the starboard quarter, listening to the comms revealed that the helicopter skipper wanted to do a practice lowering of a winchman.

Some weeks ago I had seen a similar exercise carried out on the ISLE OF INISHMORE. But that it’s a much larger vessel, it even has a helipad on the top most deck. The LADY, however, is much more challenging. Not only was she pitching and rolling but her rigging means that there is very little clear deck space in which to perform such a manoeuvre!

The helicopter turned to port and flew sideways behind the LADY inching in closer and closer to the stern of the ship. The rotors appearing to come very close to the rigging line which stretches from the funnel/mast assembly down to the ensign staff. From the open door on the helicopter down came the winchman onto the stern of the Lady. By now quite a few passengers and some crew had appeared to watch the exercise. After freeing the line and hauling it back up the line was dropped again and the winchman returned aloft. A few moments later the exercise was repeated again.

Throughout much of this time the helicopter continued to fly sideways behind the LADY. It was certainly a great example of precision flying, which we all take for granted when the emergency services are called upon. To watch it at such close quarters was even better.

Of course the exercise has been well photographed and the pictures will appear on MSN as soon as I complete the present roll of film and have another Photo-CD made up.

The exercise was completed at around 12:45 and with the crew of both helicopter and ship exchanging Christmas greetings the helicopter sped off back in the direction of Anglesey.

The LADY continued westwards the drizzle turned to rain and the visibility decreased even more. At around 14:02 an off shore support vessel was noted wallowing in the heavy seas off a large jack up rig [ARDROW?] which has appeared in the last week or so.

The Baily was passed at 14:32 and a few minutes later the MERCHANT VENTURE passed to port on her afternoon Heysham sailing. Visibility was still poor, though monitoring the comms traffic revealed that the SEAHAWK seen earlier was reporting a position to Dublin Port Radio of 4 miles off the Baily and given the conditions was requesting a standby by tug for berthing. Also out at sea was the Dublin Corporation sludge boat SIR JOSEPH BAZALGETTE, she too requesting a tug.

As the LADY approached berth 49 the tugs CLUAIN TARBH and DALGINNIS were moving out into the River Liffey read to assist the two in-bound vessels. CLUAIN TARBH was bound for SIR JOSEPH BAZALGETTE and DALGINNIS for SEAHAWK.

Visible from Berth 49 were the following ships: JANE, KOLLEVIK, DELOS, ZIM LIVERPOOL and RENDSBURG. The LADY performed a port turn and came alongside the berth, the vessel being secured at 15:05. Due to the prevailing conditions the starboard anchor was deployed.

The LADY OF MANN departed at 16:27 with 99 passengers on board. On the return sea conditions remained rough for the crossing across St George's Channel. However, once in the lee of the land conditions moderated until there was only a slight swell off north Wales. Visibility also improved significantly too. However, return to Liverpool was slightly later than scheduled at 23:10.


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