March 21, 1998
08.15 Liverpool - Dublin
Commander: Captain DeSanctos
Pilot: Captain Bridson
Weather: Light north-westerly breeze. Slight swell.
This was my second trip on SUPERSEACAT TWO. like last week's trip, during which a technical problem with one the engines resulted in late running, this week was to return some impressive speeds. [For a full description of this new vessel please see last week's Mersey Shipping News.]
SUPERSEACAT TWO boarded passengers promptly. Clearance for departure had been obtained at 08.03 and by 08.07 she was closed up and ready for sea. She departed at 08.09, 6 minutes ahead of schedule. Outward loadings were slightly less than last week with 411 passengers and 56 vehicles. As she departed I noted that NORSE LAGAN which had been laid up in Cammell Laird's wet basin for some months had gone out.
In the Crosby Channel dredger UKD DOLPHIN was passed inbound, followed by the MARIA THERESA. The Bar was passed at 08.40. Couple of miles south west of the Bar the NORSE IRISH ferries NORSE LAGAN was noted at anchor. Since the arrival of LAGAN VIKING she was refitted and has been laid up in Cammell Laird since leaving Canada Dry Dock.
Shortly after passing the Bar I had a chance to talk to Steam Packet Captains Alan Bridson and Dermot O'Toole. Captain O'Toole informed me that the Manx Government had asked the company to change the name of SEACAT DANMARK to SEA ISLE OF MAN II for her deployment on Manx route this summer. But he actually doubted that this would happen.
The Douglas Platform was passed at 08.54 and by 09.11 SSC2 was off Llandudno. It was becoming quite obvious that a fast run was in the offing providing no technical hitches cropped up. SSC2 changed course at approximately 4 miles off Skerries Rock at around 09.52 to head out across St George's Channel. South Stack being passed at 10.04.
P&O's LEOPARD was overtaken at 10.22 with a northbound tanker noted some miles to the south. ISLE OF INISHMORE passed eastbound at 10.53 with the 09.45 from Dublin to Holyhead. At 11.03 STENA CAMBRIA passed eastbound for Holyhead as the Kish light was passed to port to be followed at 11.13 with P&O's Liverpool bound EUROPEAN ENVOY. At 11.20 HSS STENA EXPLORER was seen heading out of Dun Laoghaire. Some miles to the south could be seen the familiar squat profile of SIR JOSEPH BAZALGETTE - often to be seen at her berth at Poolbeg - this time SIR JOSEPH was obviously on a sludge dumping voyage!
The passing the Baily light on Howth Head 11.22 SSC2 entered Dublin Bay and headed up the Liffey channel. SUPERSEACAT TWO performed at port turn in the River Liffey before backing onto the linkspan with ropes secured at 11.42. Crossing time - 3 hours 33 minutes. MERCHANT VENTURE was in the Merchant Ferries berth about to move up river. Ships to be seen around Dublin included the very large car carrier LUMINOUS ACE plus coastal container ships COASTAL BAY and JANE. Following us into Dublin some distance behind had been the container vessel WESER.
13.00 Dublin - Liverpool
Commander: Captain DeSanctos
Pilot: Captain Bridson
Weather: Light south-easterly breeze. Slight swell.
Whilst I was in the terminal waiting to reboard, the small German container vessel PELWORM arrived. Departure from Dublin was again early at 12.55 with the Bailey being passed at 13.10, whilst shortly afterwards, Crescent Shipping's coastal tanker BRABOURNE was passed inbound to starboard.
SSC2 decelerated suddenly at 13.36, the sudden slowing was quite noticeable one could almost feel the bow digging down into the water. However, speed once again picket up. The next vessel to be seen was HSS STENA EXPLORER heading westbound back to Dun Laoghaire.
At 14.22 South Stack was passed and around 10 minutes later Skerries Rock. The first officer informing passengers that the speed was running at around 38/39 knots. The coast of Anglesey appeared to pass by very quickly as Point Lynas was passed at around 14.45.
Just after passing Anglesey Captain Bridson took me onto the bridge. The bridge area is very spacious, more so than it appears through the viewing windows. The bridge wings offer excellent visibility fore and aft protruding well clear of the main superstructure. From the well glazed bridge wings the view down to the bow slicing through the waves is quite impressive and one really becomes aware of the ship's speed. The bridge is fully computerised, with computer stations for monitoring the ship's engine status as well as CCTV monitoring of the engine rooms. If one thinks the wheel on the Incat vessels is small, the joystick for steering SSC2's water jets is smaller still! Photos of the bridge will appear on the site in due course.
Douglas platform was passed at 15.30. To the north east at 15.40 LAGAN VIKING came into view on her new day time Saturday sailing from Belfast to Liverpool two minutes later SUPERSEACAT TWO had passed the Bar light float. A Belgian trawler was passed outbound at the start of the buoyed channel. On the journey up Queens and Crosby Channels a couple of small private pleasure craft were noted
Marine radio transmissions indicated that New Brighton lifeboat had been out on a training exercise. As speed was reduced at the Rock, SSC2 overtook the VLCC ALANDIA ORIENT inbound for the Tranmere Oil Stage. Off Langton Lock the LABRADOR HORIZON, a Geotechnical Ship, was waiting to lock into the Liverpool Dock system having just left Cammell Laird after a refit.
As we approached the stage it was apparent that the KING ORRY's crew had obviously not been aware of our early running and she was still berthed. SSC2 had turned and was off the stage and could have berthed at 16.15. Several radio messages to the terminal and KING ORRY followed she moved off and SSC2 was alongside at around 16.35 - still twenty minutes ahead of schedule.
As passengers waited to disembark a rather heavy police presence was noted on the landing stage - not a usual occurrence - occasionally the odd Mersey Dock Police officer turns up for an arrival but this was 8 or so constables and an inspector plus a van and several cars. Before the cars were off loaded, one of the cabin staff accompanied by the security officer from the shop, had a discussion with several police officers. Cars were disembarked, with no interest shown by the police, then foot passengers disembarkation commenced. In front of me there were three passengers and as the bottom of the linkspan was reached the inspector smartly ordered a man and woman who had been clutching very large travelling bags into the van!
Once off the stage I went into the booking office to book a some more trips and then wandered along the Pier Head river wall where looking on to the stage one could see the two people in the police van. They were eventually released, being observed by many of the crew who, by now, were on the landing stage. Speculating, one would guess that they had been suspected of trying to appropriate stock from the Duty Free Shop!
On today's crossings SUPERSEACAT TWO more than lived up to the promises made for the vessel. Completing the outward leg in 3 hours 33 minutes and the return journey would have been completed in 3 hours and 20 minutes if an unsuspecting KING ORRY had not been blocking the berth. Of course today weather and tidal conditions were ideal for a fast crossing. I await the first trip in lively conditions with great interest!
With the linkspan occupying one of the two berths on Princes Landing Stage, given the much greater intensity of operations from the Pier Head serious thought should be given to lengthening the Landing Stage by three or four hundred feet. The present arrangements will lead to delay come the summer's yet more intensive operations especially if ships are delayed.