6 June 1998
08.15 Liverpool - Dublin
13.45 Dublin - Liverpool
Commander: Captain Padevan
WEATHER Winds 3-4, drizzle, rain, sea mist, sunny spells. Visibility: moderate/poor
It had been my original intention to travel to the Isle of Man on the LADY OF MANN on this date. But unfortunately this year I had left it too late to get a ticket during the TT festival peak, when I tried to book back in March. Consequently I had to settle for a trip to Dublin. Unfortunately it was not to be a pleasant trip! I have enjoyed many, many trips with Sea Co/IoMSPCo over the past few years but this was the first one to be endured rather than enjoyed due to the presence some "away day lager louts". The only satisfaction was to see the Mersey Docks police handcuffing a number of them after our arrival back in Liverpool following disgraceful behaviour which caused distress to passengers and crew.
I arrived at the Pier Head a few minutes after seven o'clock and things were quite hectic with plenty of TT bikers around. The LADY OF MANN had just departed on her 07.00 sailing to Douglas a few minutes behind schedule. A very long queue of Dublin bound passengers stretched out of the terminal building and towards the car park gates. However, within a few minutes the queue started moving and despite its length it moved quite quickly with books of card, rather than computer, boarding passes being issued.
Vehicles for Dublin had been marshalled down Princes Parade. This, unfortunately meant that there was a delay as vehicles were brought down the parade and into the car park before being sent down onto the stage. Furthermore foot passengers could not be boarded as these have to cross Princes Parade to gain access to the bridge down to the landing stage.
Despite the delays, caused by the sheer volume of people, things appear to have been quite well planned and there was no atmosphere of total chaos which can prevail down at Princes Landing Stage during the TT.
I made my way up to the Blue Riband lounge and settled down in a port side window seat. Just before departure a number of men entered the lounge via the door off the outside deck. They had apparently heard about the complimentary drinks offered in the lounge paying for their upgrades, sitting on the sofas at the rear of the lounge.
Apparently they appeared to be part of a larger group, the remainder not coming into the lounge. During the outward journey they were noisy but not an actual problem. Though some passengers were not too happy and the young lady who appeared to be working the Blue Riband lounge mainly on her own [normally two crew work the lounge] had to ask them to be quiet on several occasions. On the return journey, however, they were to become a major problems.
Whilst SSC2 waited at the stage there was interesting activity over at Alfred River Entrance, Birkenhead. The ro/ro freight ship AIDA GORTHON was heading outbound from Vittoria Dock. Once she had cleared the tanker STOLT DIPPER entered the lock. Arriving off the lock as the STOLT DIPPER entered was the multipurpose coaster MARIE with another load of stone for the new Wirral groynes, and the stone barge VILLE which conveys the stone from Mortar Mill Quay to the groyne sites. Passing up river to the ship canal was the tanker SARA THERESA.
A number of passengers, meanwhile, had found their way on to the fo'csle and had to be chased. I had spotted a man and a small child standing near the bow as I walked along the landing stage.
At 08.34 ropes were singled up and at 08.40 were let go. As we moved off we passed the coastal tanker BJARKOY in bound, probably from the Isle of Man. At C15 buoy BALMORAL passed inbound for the Landing Stage, she was due to work a Liverpool - Llandudno - Menai Bridge cruise.
The Bar light was passed at 09.08 and for the second time that I have been onboard SSC2 took the northerly track. The weather closed in with drizzle and mist partially obscuring the DOUGLAS platform. The rain/drizzle continued intermittently. The mist completely shrouded the north Wales cost. It wasn't until we overtook the LEMBITU at 11.31 which is on charter to P&O for the Liverpool - Dublin service was anything else seen.
At 11.43 P&Os EUROPEAN ENVOY passed eastbound for Liverpool. As we entered Dublin Bay the prevailing mist became much denser, SSC2 made a radio check at the Baily at 12.12. Dublin Port Radio reported that visibility was improving near the berth. Poolbeg light loomed through the mist, its fog horn sounding as we made our final approach. By the time the berth was reached SSC2 had passed out of the mist.
We were on the berth at around 12.30. However, before anyone was allowed off, two Gardaí hurried up the linkspan and boarded the vessel - apparently to apprehend youngsters who had been shop lifting in the duty free shop.
Departure had been rescheduled to 13.45 as opposed to 13.00. As I went into the terminal the now rather inebriated lager louts didn't appear far behind and they were getting louder!
Once back on board I returned to the lounge sitting in the middle starboard window-seating bay facing forward. A few minutes later the lager louts returned, though some went outside again.
One of their number started throwing things from the open deck, there was a request on the radio for the Garda to be called on the radio. One lout was removed from the ship delaying our departure until 14.10. As we set off, another enthusiast who I had been talking to in the terminal came and sat opposite. He was facing the rear of the lounge and had a better view of what the lager louts were getting up to.
Usually the Blue Riband lounge is crewed by at least two attendants, however, it transpired that the young lady in charge was to be on her own for much of the time.
Several passengers ordered drinks and which required her to go to the lower deck servery. When she was out of the cabin some of the lager louts started helping themselves to the contents of the drinks fridge! A couple of chaps asked if they should really be doing that, and the lager louts told them that the drinks were free.
My fellow traveller couldn't believe his eyes! The cabin was left unattended several times and further raids took place. We pointed out to the cabin attendant what was happening and she said she would count the empties and charge them for those consumed beyond their two complimentary alcoholic drinks.
However, that caused problems, and several members of the crew arrived with the CSS and much heated argument went on.
As well as raiding the drinks, some of which had been passed out to other members of their group on the open deck, they had raided the crisps throwing them round the port side of the cabin. A small party of very elderly ladies and a few other passengers were moved from that side to the starboard side of the lounge whilst an on-board cleaner came up. He also had to do some work in the lavatory too.
At the Bar we had caught up with P&O's EUROPEAN ENVOY shortly after passing the inbound ACL ATLANTIC CONCERT. In the channel MERSEY VIKING was overtaken. By now the lager louts were outside on the deck as SSC2 made her way up the approach channel.
The LADY OF MANN had arrived before SSC2 and was still on the stage. She did not clear until 18.00. As SSC2 swung towards the stage a port Police van could be seen drawn up on the stage with officers heading up the linkspan.
Once the Police were onboard, the lager louts on the outside deck were apprehended, and it was satisfying to see them being handcuffed. By the time I had reached the car deck to disembark the police van had been backed up the linkspan ready for its load of passengers.
I was really glad to see the Pier Head for once. I had hoped to get some good photos as I missed a number of good shots of the LAGAN VIKING, ATLANTIC COMPASS and the LADY but with the lager louts bawling and shouting on the outside deck, it was best to stay put. I had planned on taking some photos around the landing stage to capture the TT atmosphere and see SSC2 load for her evening trip to Douglas. This time, however, I was just glad to get off home! I find my weekend trips a perfect way to relax after a hectic week at work but by the time I left the ship I felt really stressed.
Sea Containers must ensure that something is done to prevent lager louts getting on board and causing misery to passengers and crew. It was quite obvious before we left Dublin on the return trip that these passengers would cause trouble and frankly they should all have been removed.
I really felt sorry for the young cabin attendant, she and the CSS were visibly shaken and upset at what had gone on. The CSS apologised and told the passengers that they had never experienced anything quite like it.
I have never had any complaints about Sea Co/IoMSPCo sailings, I'll tolerate delays and breakdowns with good humour, but the company certainly needs to look at barring rowdy lager louts from travelling. Anyone who presents themselves for boarding in a noisy, uncivilised or drunken manner should be denied carriage for the sake of everybody on board.
I never thought I would write a letter of complaint to Sea Co but I guess a few letters to several departments will be going off this week!