With uncertain weather in prospect I decided to take a trip on the LADY OF MANN to Dublin - yet again- just in case Monday's final trip is cancelled, if it isn't Ill be on it!
As with previous winter trips I have only bothered to keep a detailed log of observations on the outward journey due to short hours of daylight.
Somehow, it feels strange arriving down at the Liverpool Sea Terminal on dark winter's morning. Departures from here are always associated with sunny summer's days. It is rather good, however, being able to indulge in one's hobby even in the midst of winter this year thanks to the new Liverpool - Dublin service. Its a pity it has to end for a few weeks until the SUPERSEACAT II arrives which somehow, I don't think, will turn out to be as comfortable or as interesting as the LADY OF MANN. With the completion of Friday's trip I have undertaken thirteen round trips, with hopefully my fourteenth being on Monday. I would have made at least a couple more but unfortunately the LADY's mechanical difficulties in November put paid to that!
Departure from Liverpool was at 08:35, a slight delay being caused by the arrival of a vehicle arriving at the last minute just before the ramp was about to be removed. The LADY OF MANN sailed with 108 passengers and 24 vehicles. However, on the return journey things were much busier!
There was little traffic to be seen around in the River Mersey. With things just starting to get back to normal after the New Year holiday. In the channel only one vessel was passed the CERVANTES which was inbound for Gladstone Lock. The Bar was passed at 09:40 with a rig support craft being noted at anchor. As the small Hamilton platform was approached the jack up rig - IRISH SEA PIONEER was seen jacked up alongside together with its support ship.
A small, unidentified tanker was seen to the south heading towards the Mersey. The weather, which had started out rather overcast had changed to cloudy bright and was now brilliant sunshine with virtually no cloud. It was to remain like this all the way to Dublin.
Once again with Captain Cowin in command we took the northerly track towards to the way-point off the Skerries when course is then set for Dublin Bay. A few miles to the north a familiar sight came into view at 10:26 with the KING ORRY to be seen in bound with the 08:30 Douglas to Liverpool.
Skerries was passed at around 12:05 and it was apparent that we were some time behind schedule. As we crossed St George's Channel the LADY started pitching a bit and the second officer announced that the stabilisers were being deployed.
A large Cast Line container ship was passed heading northbound at 13:55. The large jack up platform ARDROWAN[?] and her support ship were still in position of Dublin Bay. Just before passing the Kish light HSS STENA EXPLORER passed by heading at around 14:58 - presumably the delayed morning sailing from Dun Laoghaire. She didn't appear to be making very rapid progress either perhaps either due to the choppy sea-state or mechanical problems.
At 15:14 the Baily was passed. Over the Wicklow mountains there was very heavy cloud behind which the sun disappeared leaving rays breaking from the cloud and providing a rather attractive scene. The LADY OF MANN was made fast at around 15:40 rather later than usual.
On entering the Terminal it was apparent that things were rather busy! The upstairs departure lounge and Cafe were now open. Spacious and bright it is too. Upstairs there were a large number of people. Boarding commenced sometime after 16:00 and it was obvious things could be a tight squeeze.
In all 612 passengers boarded. The best loading I have noted on my trips on the LADY to Dublin, in fact the last time I saw so many on board was on a Liverpool bound sailing at the end of the 1996 Manx TT Motor Cycle Festival. Cars were packed tight on the stern ramps with 114 cars and one van quite impressive, though I guess some might have been diverted Stena passengers.
At the quays around the terminal a number of ships could be seen. MERCHANT BRAVERY was the Merchant Ferries Terminal, also identified where James Fisher's tanker TANKERMAN, container ships RAL ROSTOCK, RENDSBURG and EMMA and of course SIR JOSEPH BAZALGETTE at her usual berth across the River Liffey.
Though passengers and cars were boarded smartly, the falling tide necessitated the repositioning of the car ramp to a different level along with the need to await delivery of a new driver-less car.
Dublin departure was at 16:47. Liverpool was reached at 23:10 and for the first time Captain Cowin took the more southerly route and we passed to the south of the Douglas Gas Platform.
All in all a thoroughly enjoyable day even though the Lady was a bit congested on the return, but good to see her doing such good business!