It's over a month since SEACAT DANMARK entered service on the Manx routes, though this is the first time I have had the opportunity to travel on the vessel.
I arrived down at the Sea Terminal shortly before 10.00. SEACAT DANMARK was in the river approaching the stage. The weather did not look promising. As I took my seat in the departure lounge there was another heavy downpour, which fortunately had eased off prior to boarding.
Externally SCD appears very similar to SEACAT ISLE OF MAN, however, on boarding its is apparent there are a number of significant differences. The rear stirs are arranged in a different manner. The bar area is smaller which has the effect of creating what appears to be a larger open deck area. The doors into the main cabin, are not do not lead into the bar, but into the main passage way at the side of the galley/toilet area.
The locations of the shopping facilities are reversed compared to the configuration seen on SEACAT ISLE OF MAN last year. The Duty free shop is at the rear of the main cabin area whilst the on-board shop is located at the forward end of the vessel below the bridge.
The main deck has a much more interesting seating arrangement in the centre with bays of seats arranged around tables that create an informal layout not unlike the seating in the Promenade Cafe on board the LADY OF MANN.
The bridge viewing deck is similar to that on SEACAT ISLE OF MAN, though SCD has not been fitted with escape doors from this level which on SCIOM lead, via walkways to retractable steps down to the rear open deck. On the area above the shop are a number of gaming machines.
Behind the gaming machines that look like an afterthought are two illuminated panels in Danish. One of which appears to give details of the craft and the other has a photograph of the Hales Trophy - though I suppose this will soon be removed in the light of the Buquebus' exploits with their new INCAT vessel CATALONIA!
In part of this area activities for children are provided during the voyage. An interesting provision is a small raised platform by some of the bridge viewing windows enables small children to see forward into the bridge - nice to see potential future enthusiasts being catered for!
The Blue Riband Lounge is similar to that provided on SEACAT ISLE OF MAN, though the seats and seating arrangement appear different. Also the location of the lounge is also on the port side of vessel [on SCIOM its on the starboard side] which is preferable from the enthusiasts point of view as one is on the side facing the on coming traffic in the channel. The lounge is separated from the rest of the main cabin area by glass screens with curtains and clip on rope barriers.
Following my recent experience on board SUPERSEACAT TWO I was wondering if greater vigilance would be noticeable with regard to allowing entrance. On approaching the steps down into the lounge I was immediately challenged by one of the cabin crew who asked to see the ticket or membership card! Needless to say no lager louts were encountered in the lounge or elsewhere, which leads one to the belief that what I experienced the other week was the exception rather than a developing rule! Lets hope it stays that way.
On the table in the lounge a large glass bowl of Barker and Dobson's chocolate lime crisps on the table proved a difficult temptation to resist on both outward and return journeys! The sweets and biscuits, combined with a couple of pints and several coffees in each direction certainly ensured that, in terms of money spent on the annual membership fee, I'll definitely be in profit by next the end of next week's trip to Dublin. That's after just 4 months membership and the summer holidays have not started yet!
Loading was finished early and lines were let go at 10.51 - nine minutes early. There were 320 passengers on board. We set off very slowly and continued at a very slow pace to New Brighton [11.14]. I wonder if the fact that the Royal Mersey Yacht Club Regatta due to commence at 12.00 had something to do with extra caution. Sea Co is in the local "yachties" bad books at the moment as you may recall from the recent swamping of moored craft. As we moved off MERSEY VIKING had entered the river ahead of us on her morning sailing to Belfast. SCD later overtook MERSEY VIKING, passing to the west side of Crosby light-float. During the first half of the outward journey, intermittent, sometimes heavy rain fell. However, the sky began to clear and the weather was fine on arrival in Douglas with well-broken cloud and a cool breeze.
Also in the river was the Mersey Ferry MOUNTWOOD undertaking a cruise up the Manchester Ship Canal.
No other traffic was passed and an uneventful journey to Douglas followed. On arrival at Douglas SCD backed onto the link-span and ropes were on at 13.52. Twenty-two minutes behind schedule and with a crossing time of 3 hours and 1 minute, not much faster than some of the LADY's high speed runs! Which suggests that SCD is not being operated at full power. A recent e-mail I received suggested that around 29 knots was about her limit at present.
In Douglas harbour PEVERIL was berthed at the EDWARD PIER link-span loading for her afternoon sailing to Heysham. Adjacent to the berth was floating platform, obviously engaged in preparatory work at the berth for the BEN-MY-CHREE, which enters service in the next few weeks. What is apparent is that the overhead walkway from the Sea Terminal to the Edward Pier will not be completed by the time the BEN is supposed to take over the full Douglas - Heysham service at the beginning of August as little work still appears to have been undertaken. Presumably buses will be used to move passengers after they have passed through security control.
After a pleasant afternoon and evening on the island which included a run up to Laxey on the electric railway I arrived back at the Sea Terminal at around 21.00. During the afternoon island class patrol vessel HMS LINDISFARNE [P300] had arrived in Douglas Bay and anchored.
SEACAT DANMARK's scheduled arrival time back at Douglas was 21.15.
The arrival information screens, which also featured a launch photo of the BEN-MY-CHREE under the heading "coming soon", stated that arrival would be 21.25. However, it was more like 21.35. SCD berthing bow on to the link-span.
Despite her late arrival she was turned around quickly departing just 5 minutes behind schedule at 22.05 with 206 passengers on board. An uneventful return voyage followed with the Bar light being passed at 23.55 and the Rock at 00.17 ropes were on the stage at 00.35 the crossing having been completed in the scheduled 2.5 hours with some help from the incoming tide! The only vessel noted in the channel was MERSEY VIKING, outward bound on the evening sailing for Belfast.
This is my first journey on SEACAT DANMARK, though I felt that the ship still had the same lack of sparkle noticeable in SEACAT ISLE OF MAN last year which compared unfavourably to some really fast runs experienced during the SEACAT ISLE OF MAN's first season in 1994. One wonders if these vessels are being operated more conservatively to prevent unnecessary wear and tear?