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Finished With Engines: Irish Sea Shipping is now closed to new updates - J.H. Luxton Photography - Transport, Industrial History, Regional Photographs UK & beyond
Voyage Report: Merchant Ferries


11.00 Liverpool - Dublin 1st September 1999

by John H. Luxton

Arriving promptly down at the terminal at Canada Branch #3 around 09.30 I received a friendly welcome from the security guard on the gate as she opened the barrier having recalled me from previous visits.

After quickly popping into the ticket office to picked up the boarding card with in a couple of  minutes I had driven through the security shed and into the vehicle assembly area. Almost instantly a member of staff was opening the gate to allow me to drive straight on to DAWN MERCHANT.

Deck 5 appeared well loaded with unaccompanied trailers already, the lower vehicle deck 3 was still relatively empty, emphasising its cavernous size. Travelling up to deck 7 on the lift I went for a walk around on the open deck. It was good to note that netting has been fitted between the ship's rails. I did feel that previously, given their wide spacing, that it wouldn't be too difficult for a small child to tumble though. Unfortunately, there is still no outside seating - I hope one day this is fitted as the new Merchant Ferries vessels do have a superb amount of uncluttered open deck space, both sheltered and more exposed which is ideal for travellers who like the sea air. Too many modern vessels, in particular the high speed craft have insufficient open deck space, that's why I find the Merchant Ferries vessels so superb. Looking north EUROPEAN LEADER could be seen in Gladstone Lock on her morning sailing to Dublin.

After a wander around I went into the Jockey Club Bar and took a seat by a forward facing window. A number of accompanied trucks were lined up on the dock side. Meanwhile the tractor tugs were busy loading trailers.

DAWN MERCHANT moved off the berth at around 11.10 as we moved off SEACAT ISLE OF MAN passed by out in the river bound for Douglas with 367 passengers on board. DAWN MERCHANT's passenger loading was much more modest - a very spacious 33! However, whilst passengers were thin on the ground on the crossing, freight traffic certainly wasn't!

As the DAWN MERCHANT swung into CANADA DOCK a small Crescent Shipping tanker could be seen further south. I decided to have a late breakfast before the restaurant closed at 12.00 and decided that the best time to do this would be whilst descending to river level in Langton Lock [It was low water].

Leaving the lock at 11.57 we turned in the river and headed out to sea. The dredger MERSEY MARINER could be seen in Gladstone Lock. Passing Q2 at 12.50 the captain advised Mersey radio that DAWN MERCHANT would be back at the Mersey Bar at 03.30 the following morning.

Passing the Bar light at 13.00 two tankers could be seen at anchor waiting for the tide whilst the James Fisher ROSETHORN passed in bound.

With the sun shining it was certainly pleasant to relax in the Jockey Club lounge with a pint or two of Guinness. The nice thing about Merchant Ferries is they serve Guinness properly - giving it time to settle before finishing it off! The bar staff also appear adept at producing very nicely presented Irish Coffees at modest price.

BRAVE MERCHANT passed east bound at 13.55 on the starboard side followed 25 minutes later by P&O's EUROPEAN SEAFARER at around the same time the small research vessel PRINCE MADOC was passed. Off Wylfa Power Station, Anglesey, SUPERSEACAT THREE passed by on her 12.45 sailing from Dublin to Liverpool.

Meanwhile the stern of EUROPEAN LEADER was getting closer and closer. On my previous crossing in July we had caught up with the P&O vessel just west of Anglesey, this time it took a little longer, but we had spent longer in Langton Lock as it was low water.

Skerries light was passed at 15.03 marking the halfway point of the journey. At 16.27 DAWN MERCHANT drew level with EUROPEAN LEADER, but didn't pass. Instead we appeared to reduce speed and ran alongside. Listening to the radio there was some banter between the skippers about who was to go first on arrival at Dublin. Obviously, despite DAWN MERCHANT's greater speed, her performance on day time sailings is compromised a somewhat by the provision of only one ramp at the Dublin terminal. This necessitates the vessel to slow down until the Heysham sailing has departed.

The Winning Post restaurant opened at 16.00 for early dinner. I ordered a Gammon steak which was well served with vegetables, chips and topped off with a fried egg. All were served with generous portions and the price a very favourable £4.75.

At 17.10 contact was made with Dublin Port radio advising arrival at the Baily in 1 hour.

As Dublin Bay approached further comms traffic took place, with STENA CHALLENGER coming up from the stern it was agreed that EUROPEAN LEADER would go first, followed by STENA CHALLENGER, then DAWN MERCHANT with ISLE OF INISHMORE bringing up the rear!

At 18.10 JONATHAN SWIFT passed by on an obviously early running 18.00 sailing. SAGA MOON, on the MERCHANT FERRIES Heysham sailing passed to port outbound at 18.20.

All four vessels entered the Liffey in convoy - which certainly makes an interesting sight. I viewed this arrival on Saturday 4th September from the Promenade at Dún Laoghaire, this time with DAWN MERCHANT bringing up the rear! One wonders if it would be better for Dublin Port if arrivals and departures of various operators could be spread out more, rather than occurring within a short space of time.

At 18.50 DAWN MERCHANT was secure on the berth, ISLE OF INISHMORE could be seen astern coming up the channel. All too soon drivers were called to their vehicles and it was time to disembark.

Once again another enjoyable crossing with Merchant Ferries. I returned from Dublin on the night sailing on 4th September and was pleased to note that DAWN MERCHANT had a much better passenger load of 88. Whilst waiting to board I mused at the hundreds of cars and quite a few coaches waiting to board the ISLE OF INISHMORE, just thinking that when they would be  disembarking at an unearthly hour of the morning and facing lengthy drives to their destinations I would be fast asleep and letting someone else do the driving on the most logical route between Liverpool and Dublin!

If you are contemplating a journey to Dublin I would seriously recommend that you check out what is on offer from Merchant Ferries, you will not be disappointed, and like myself will want to come back again and again! I certainly intend to be on board again, even if its only for a there and back trip as a foot passenger, within the next few weeks.


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