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Voyage Report: Sea Containers


by John H. Luxton


Liverpool - Dublin - Liverpool

Saturday 19 September 1998

Captain Fargher

Weather: Wind SE 1 to 2 Visibility: moderate / poor morning / mid afternoon - moderate / good later

Saturday morning had been awaited with keen anticipation following the news that KING ORRY would operate the 08.15 sailing from Liverpool. I arrived down at the Sea Terminal at 07.00. The check-in staff were busy explaining in detail to everyone, individually, that SSC2 would not be running and that travel would be by KING ORRY. This consequently made check-in slower than usual. Boarding commenced at 07.10, I didn't reach the check-in desk until around 07.15.

"Oh you have a day return said the clerk!" "Yes", I replied. "You know you will not get back until 01.00", she said. "Yes", I replied again. "Are you sure you want to go?", "Most definitely!" I replied. I don't know why she was trying to put me off! For this trip I would have gladly paid the standard return fare. She then offered me apologies, a letter giving details of the revised timetable for the weekend and a meal voucher followed by more apologies.

I don't know what she was apologising for, but perhaps she was on the defensive, some passengers did not appear quite so pleased!

It was certainly pleasing to climb the steps onto the KING ORRY and proceed to the stern.

The sun was trying hard to break through the early morning mist which cloaked the river. The terminal staff were working furiously to ensure an on-time or early departure.

At 08.13 ropes were let go. There were 398 passengers on board. Passing the Rock at 08.29 the fog closed in quite thickly. Making our way up the channel we slowed to overtake the Pilot Launch KITTIWAKE which was enroute to the Bar with pilots bound for the tankers BJARKOY and STOLT KITTIWAKE.

Passing the north of the BAR at 09.16 some banter between the Captain and Mersey Radio revealed that the KING ORRY now has a new "nick-name": "SS SUPER SUB" because, "We stand in for everything!" - a lot of truth in that one! Some minutes later SEACAT DANMARK was heard to call up Mersey Radio in bound from Douglas.

Just after we passed the Bar the mist cleared and sun shone. Though we passed north of the Bar, we did not head north of the Douglas Rig, passing some distance south. Llandudno passed by at around 10.20. Mersey bound tankers passed eastbound at 10.28 and 10.52. I wandered off for breakfast at this point. The KING appeared to be crewed by a mixture of her regular crew and some of the crew from SSC2.

Passing off Lynas at 11.06 a tanker was noted at anchor. The cloud hung over the Snowdonia mountains. At 11.54 we passed 8 miles north of Skerries, the officer of the watch advising passengers that we were travelling at 19 knots. A chemical tanker passed eastbound and the next thing we disappeared into the mist again, with visibility down to around 300 yards. Consequently little was visible until the mist cleared a few miles east of Howth Head. On the port side a trawler was seen hauling in her nets. The Bailey was passed at 14.45. Almost immediately after, the KING ORRY hove to, turning south to prove a lee for the approaching Dublin Pilot cutter "DODDER". Obviously Captain Fargher does not have a Dublin pilots licence. It was also interesting to note that the exchange of pilots occurred much further out than that had been the case when pilots were put on board the LADY OF MANN.

Boarding the pilot on the KING ORRY does not appear to be quite as simple as on the LADY OF MANN. The ship had to come to almost a complete stand for the pilot to climb the rope ladder and get aboard. The doorway is much higher above the water than on the LADY making underway pilot pick-up more difficult.

Once on board we headed up the Liffey approaches. Outbound passed Belfast Freight Ferries SPHEROID. Off Poolbeg power station a number of interesting inbound sailing craft were seen. KATHARINA B, PLANET V and COASTAL BAY were at the Container Terminals. Whilst on the South Wall was the Russian Tanker VALERY CHECKASLOV and the bulker GRIEM.

KING ORRY's ropes were on the berth at 15.23, being made fast at 15.26. Quite an impressive performance with a crossing time of 7hrs 10 minutes berth to berth. Well inside the 16.00 advertised arrival time.

I wandered through the terminal and up to the departure lounge. To my amazement it was almost deserted. Altogether there must have been 50 people there at the most. These included a small group of "duty free trippers", though a good load of cars waited outside. Obviously there were no ex-Dublin duty free travellers and I guess many other foot passengers must have sought alternative crossings.

On the return trip, foot passengers did not appear to be given meal vouchers, or perhaps it was just the day-trippers who this did not apply to. Anyway, one couldn't complain. I'd had one free meal worth 5.75 on a ticket only costing 10, and frankly even that appeared an unnecessary bonus.

Once back on board, I decided I would return in the Executive Lounge. I found 5 other people in the KING ORRY's pleasant little lounge. It transpired that these passengers had all booked tickets with Blue Riband Lounge supplements. None of them could, therefore, open the lounge entrance door as they didn't have membership cards. One couple had been given the digital lock code for the exit door, used as a crew entrance, though apparently the other couple and a young student had just been taken there by a crew-member. Which, could have meant, had they been on their own, they would not have been able to get back in!

Departure from Dublin was 6 minutes early at 16.54 with 393 passengers and 59 crew. The pilot being dropped whilst off the Bailey at 17.14. The pilot was then due to proceed to the inbound LADY SOPHIA. Passing the Skerries at 20.10 the officer of the watch announced that we were making a speed of 20 knots.

The return journey passed rather quickly. The layout of the KING ORRY's lounge is rather conducive to chat. The two couples had both come out on SSC2, both of whom thought the KING ORRY was much better in terms of layout and reliability. They were a bit amazed that no crew-member appeared in the lounge and I had to explain that refreshments were "serve yourself".

Before they went off for a meal I had confidently told them that the food on KING ORRY was better than SSC2. Sometimes it pays not to say anything, and I guess I should have kept my mouth shut! By mid evening supplies were running rather low.

There being very little choice either, with the quality being somewhat indifferent. They were not impressed.

The KING ORRY passed 1.5 miles to the south of the Bar light at 22.20, passing the Rock at 23.06 with ropes on at 23.23. Once again well inside the scheduled 8 hours.

Operation on the Liverpool - Dublin route may be the KING ORRY's final swan song before withdrawal. I thought I had had my final trip on her and bid my final farewell on 18 July. However, with the KING's retention to cover for low passenger capacity on BEN-MY-CHREE the monarch of the Irish Sea has already lasted beyond proposed withdrawal date and has sailed to the company's rescue on quite a few occasions in the past couple of months. The KING is certainly going out in style, or perhaps, may just be securing her future? A major overhaul would certainly cost less than a new SuperSeaCat!

I did hear a number of favourable comments about her passenger accommodation, yesterday, when compared to that offered on SSC2. Wandering around it was obvious that the passengers had spread out, were comfortable and did not appear "stressed out" as often appears to be the case on board SSC2 when she is running near capacity. Be careful Mr. Sherwood, before you consider an all fast-ferry future. If the KING were to go and the LADY also, what would there be to fall back on then?


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