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Voyage Report: Sea Containers

SUPERSEACAT TWO

by John H. Luxton

November 14, 1998

11.00 Liverpool - Dublin

16:00 Dublin - Liverpool

Weather showers, followed by sunshine, good visibility out of showers.  Wind: WNW 5 to 6 later NNW 5 to 6.

I parked up down at the Princes Parade car park at around 09.30. The operators of this temporary car park appear to have given up charging for parking on Saturday, which is a welcome bonus. Only on one occasion since I have used it   have I had to pay on a Saturday.

Shortly after parking it started to rain heavily. The stiff flags outside the terminal indicated a strong wind was blowing. In fact conditions by the river appeared very similar to those prevailing the previous Saturday when sailings were cancelled.

However, at 10.45 SUPERSEACAT TWO arrived off the stage and promptly berthed. I wandered into the terminal building, which was fairly full. Boarding commenced a little after 10.30 with departure prompt at 11.00. Loadings were rather light.

With just 257 passengers and 15 cars. As we moved off the MDHC floating crane Mersey Mammoth was noted in Alfred Lock leaving the Birkenhead Dock system. On the way out in the channel the dredger WD SEVERN was noted in-bound whilst we overtook the outward-bound CLWYD SUPPORTER which was - en-route to the Douglas production platform.

The captain advised passengers that the crossing was likely to be a "little choppy" at least for the first part of the outward journey. The outside deck was closed. ETA in Dublin Bay notified to Liverpool Coast guard was 14.30 to 15.00.

Passing the Bar light at 11.47 it was obvious that we were heading in a NW direction head-on into the prevailing wind. Things were getting quite lively! We passed the north of the Douglas platform on a track more akin to that used by Douglas bound vessels.

A couple of tankers were overtaken. A laden VLCC the MOLDA was making light work of he choppy seas, but a smaller unidentified coastal tanker, which we overtook, appeared to be having a much rougher time. The coastline of Anglesey was but a silhouette on the horizon at around 12.50.

No announcement was made as to how far off the coast we were as is usual but I would estimate it being in excess of 20 miles.

As we continued in a NW direction there was a noticeable amount of pitching and a little rolling which made keeping one's feet rather difficult. This was accompanied by the usual crashes and bangs associated with SeaCat travel in choppy conditions. It wasn't uncomfortable but quite a few passengers were rather sick!

At around 13.30 the spray was coming right over the top of SSC2 as we battled on. Not an uncommon occurrence on the LADY OF MANN but the first time I had encountered it on the SUPERSEACAT. With the continuing pitching it the duty free shop was closed at 13.43 with crew offering an at-seat service. I was sitting on the port side on the outward journey and didn't actually see the Manx coastline, though we must have come quite close. My telephone indicating a strong signal from Manx Telecom. At 13.59 SSC2 made a rather sharp swing to the south, running for the lee of the Irish coast. Heading south for some time HSS STENA EXPLORER was seen on the horizon heading for Dun Laoghaire on the 13.45 sailing from Holyhead. To the east the outline of P&O's EUROPEAN ENVOY could be seen on her 07.30 departure from Liverpool's Gladstone Lock.

We rounded the Baily from the north at 15.21 and were alongside at berth 49 at around 15.40. Disembarking I made my way through to the check-in and back to the departure lounge. It was obvious given our late arrival that a 16.00 departure would not be possible. The bunkering tanker was noted to drive off, then an announcement was made on the PA that there would be a delay.

Some minutes later passengers in the departure lounge were informed personally of the nature of the delay which is a pleasant touch as I guess people think they are being kept better informed.

The problem was a combination of technical difficulties and the prevailing conditions. As there was a problem with one of the engines and the captain did not want to sail for Liverpool without full power being available given the sea-state. A delay of up to two hours was envisaged.

Shortly afterwards a PA announcement was made asking vehicle drivers to return to their vehicles. Boarding of foot passengers also commenced. It being decided to allow passengers to wait on board SSC2 where they were offered complimentary tea and coffee. Possibly this was due to the need to allow early arrivals for Irish Ferries 21.45 departure to occupy the departure lounge. As I had passed through the check-in gate two [German?] passengers had tried to go through stating they wanted the Irish Ferries sailing.

Everyone was on board by 17.12. At 17.42 MERCHANT BRILLIANT, which was in the adjacent Merchant Ferries, berth requested clearance for her sailing to Heysham and departed. At 17.53 SSC2's captain advised Dublin Port radio that repairs would take 15 to 30 minutes. They appeared to be getting concerned that the berth be cleared for Irish Ferries ISLE OF INISHMORE, which was running on time and wanted SSC2 off the berth by 18.40. At 18.20 a further 15 to 20 minutes was requested by SSC2. One was beginning to wonder what would happen next if repairs could not be completed!

Then at 18.35 with 5 minutes to spare to the deadline SSC2 roared into life and moved off the berth passing STENA CHALLENGER in the channel before reaching Poolbeg light. INISHMORE passing a few minutes later. The Second Officer told passengers that they would be following North Easterly  course on the return, to avoid the vessel rolling, which would have happened on a direct crossing of St. Georges Channel.

At around 19.30 a lighthouse was visible to the SW, which I would reckon to have been the Rockabill light.

When I returned inside someone had decided to show Braveheart on the video screens. This made a change from the usual offerings of 101 Dalmatians and Mr. Bean and appeared to be met with approval from passengers and crew. At 20.30 a sharp starboard turn was made and we headed off in the general direction of Liverpool Bay. I guess on the return we didn't go as close to the Isle of Man as I was unable to pick up Manx Telecom on my phone.

Wandering down to the Duty Free shop revealed that there were few passengers on board most of whom appeared to be enjoying the film. [I'd missed the actual passenger count]. There was only a lady and myself present in the Blue Riband lounge, which suggested the rest of the ship, wasn't very full. Down in the shop the motion and thumping of the waves was still quite noticeable

We passed to the north of Douglas Rig at around 22.00 and where alongside the stage by 23.17. SSC2 was now over 3 hours late. Bored faces could be seen in the departure lounge awaiting the delayed 21.30 sailing to Douglas.

All in all an enjoyable trip with a different route and rather interesting sea conditions! Though I guess conditions would not have caused any problems at all for the LADY OF MANN!

 

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