Wind NW 4-5 backing westerly 3-4
Sea State: Moderate to rough.
Now for something completely different. The SSC2 Liverpool Bay Cruise!
There had been heavy rain during the night and when I arrived at the Sea Terminal at around 07.00 the sky looked ominous. There was a good breeze blowing and a noticeable swell in the Mersey. When I entered the departure lounge, I was surprised to see it fairly empty. Boarding commenced at 07.20. Berthed south of the linkspan was the Howard Smith Towing Tug, TRAFALGAR.
The scarcity of people led one to believe that it would be a quiet crossing. However, passengers trickled aboard and by the time departure came there was an almost full load of 747 on board with 145 vehicles. The Blue Riband Lounge being virtually full too which is something I have not seen before.
Passengers were advised that due to the high winds the open deck would be closed. [No one ever closed the outside decks on the LADY in bad weather!] As we moved off the stage it was apparent SSC2 was still unwell! The TR to Liverpool Coastguard reported a Dublin arrival of 12.45 [45 minutes late] even though the passengers were not informed of the intended late arrival. They always appear to wait until Skerries light is reached to do that!
The Rock was passed at 08.26, with the dredger UKD DOLPHIN heading inbound at C21 buoy. Out in the bay it was obviously quite choppy. The vehicle deck being advised to start lashing vehicles in particular the beer trolley! No other traffic was passed heading up the channel but Q9 buoy was noted to have lost its superstructure, only the base remaining! We left the channel at Q1 at 08.58. The navigating officer advising people to remain seated. A few minutes later it was announced that the duty free shop had been closed due to the rough seas.
Passing the Bar at 09.04, SSC2 advising Mersey Radio of a technical difficulty with an engine which was expected to take around an hour to rectify. Just to the west of the Bar the ARKLOW VALE rode at anchor. The going was rather slow and it was obvious that we were taking the northerly track. A fellow passenger, spotting me gazing through binoculars and making notes guessed I must be an enthusiast and asked how fast we were going. Telling him we should be doing around 37 knots, I pointed out that it was more like 27 and we were going to be rather late!
As SSC2 pitched westwards contact was made with Mersey Radio, stating that at present the vessel would continue. Passing well to the north of the Douglas rig we overtook a red and white vessel, which I think, was MARINE EXPLORER which has been in the area again. At 09.32 the captain called up Mersey Radio to inform them that he would be bringing SSC2 back to the landing stage with an ETA of 11.00. At 09.35 the passengers were told, to quite a bit of moaning and groaning. We performed a turn to port. Now riding on top of the waves the pitching ceased. Speed also reduced to around 16 knots. The Bar was passed at 10.11, with the channel being regained at Q2 at 10.23. There was no outbound traffic except for the North West Water sludge vessel CONSORTIUM I.
Passing the Rock the captain made a request to Mersey Radio to maintain the current speed of 16 knots rather than make a further speed reduction. Running down in Gladstone Lock was P&O's EUROPEAN LEADER on her morning sailing to Dublin. In Langton Lock was MERSEY VIKING running down for her Belfast sailing. As SSC2 approached the Landing Stage at a little after 11.00 SEACAT DANMARK moved off.
We berthed at 11.21. It was some time before disembarkation commenced. Car passengers leaving first, to be given "Diversion Packs" according to the radio messages. Foot passengers disembarked a little after 12.00. There was a choice of refund, retain ticket for another sailing or board the bus/coach to Holyhead for the 15.45 Irish Ferries ISLE OF INISHMORE sailing to Dublin.
One coach was provided, plus two double deck buses these bearing the livery of the recently liquidated "MerseyPride Motor Services" - guess they would provide a bone shaking ride to Anglesey. If I had been on holiday I wouldn't have minded an extended excursion and sail on the INISHMORE but a return home sometime on Sunday did not appeal opting to retain my ticket for another trip.
Some of the passengers were rather cross, particularly those who had planned a weekend trip!
Putting things into context though, a free three-hour trip into Liverpool Bay can't be complained at! More seriously though, if these technical problems are set to continue into the winter, surely the company cannot be serious about operating SSC2 on both Liverpool - Dublin and Liverpool - Douglas routes from November with the ship in such an unreliable condition. One of the booking clerks at Liverpool said to me "Perhaps someone should start a campaign to bring back the LADY OF MANN?" Well it would be nice for her to sail back from her summer vacation and save the day...