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Voyage Report: Sea Containers


by John H. Luxton

Liverpool – Dublin – Liverpool

May 8, 1999

Weather: Mixed! Overcast, Drizzle, sunshine, winds generally southerly 4 to 6, sea state moderate.

I hadn't really intended writing up yet another SUPERSEACAT THREE voyage report quite so soon, however, the trip which I undertook on Saturday 8 May was quite interesting.

SUPERSEACAT THREE departed from Liverpool a couple of minutes behind schedule at 08.02 with a very good load of 600 passengers under the command of Captain Marco Bertini. Passing the Rock at 08.17 speed increased as she headed down Crosby Channel. There were a number of small craft around which necessitated a reduction in speed for a short while further down the channel. Q1 buoy was passed at 08.37.

SSC3 then appeared to take the more northerly track, not used as often on the SuperSeaCat as it was when the LADY OF MANN operated the route in 1997 when under the command of Captain Cowin. Consequently the Douglas Gas platform was passed at 08.54 with is attendant support vessels.

The Welsh coast was not particularly clear as SSCIII headed west. At 09.17 what appeared to be one of the Mersey Docks & Harbour Company dredgers could be seen some way off, nearer the coast, heading east bound. Passing Lynas at 09.28 a gas tanker could be seen heading towards the Mersey.

The weather cleared at around 09.53 in vicinity of the Skerries. The first officer reporting an ETA in Dublin of 11.55 with winds southerly 4 to 5. Out of the lee of the Welsh coast the ride became a little bumpier. But SSCIII demonstrated her improved sea keeping qualities. At 10.58 contact was made with Dublin Port Radio indicating 30 minutes to run to the Baily. ISLE OF INISHMORE passed east bound around this time.

I had looked away from the window for a few moments when I heard a noise I usually associate with my trips to the Isles of Scilly, the heavy beat of the a Sikorski S61N helicopter. There outside the window just a few feet above the sea and only a few feet away from the ship was the Irish Marine Emergency Service's S61N Helicopter EI-MES. The radio transmission from the helicopter indicating that they were just taking a look at the vessel!

Regular passengers will know that vessels often cooperate with the emergency services in practice drills and winchmen exercises whilst underway. On two occasions, once when on the LADY OF MANN [December 1997] and on the ISLE OF INISHMORE [November 1997] I noted visits from an RAF SeaKing rescue helicopter from RAF Valley on Anglesey. In the case of the LADY a winchman was put down twice on to the stern in very wild conditions whilst when on board the INISHMORE the helicopter actually landed on the pad on top of the ship and then flew alongside below the level of the top deck. Some impressive feats of flying skill which impress passengers and offer a free show, but serve as a reminder that the rescue services must be ever prepared and that many a life has been saved by the daring actions of helicopter and lifeboat crews. Unfortunately there was to be no winching display today and the position of the sun made it unsuitable for attempting photographs.

Passing the Kish light at 11.20 a tug was spotted heading into Dublin Bay from the south east behind it was a large dummy barge. As SSCIII came closer it was apparent that the barge contained a large passenger gangway obviously heading for the Dublin Port passenger terminal!

North Burford buoy was passed at 11.27 and it was noted that the HSS STENA EXPLORER was still in Dun Laoghaire harbour - obviously running late.

Speed was slackened earlier than usual on approach to Poolbeg as the cable ship COASTAL CONNECTOR was outbound in the fairway, she passed by at 11.45. Ropes were on the berth at Dublin at 11.58 some 13 minutes behind schedule. On the quay side was a large crane, presumably to lift the new gangway into place. Up river, near East Link bridge, could be seen the stern of JONATHAN SWIFT. A large car transporter appeared to be in the Alexandra Basin, whilst other vessels to be seen were COASTAL BAY and ARKLOW BROOK on the south side of the river, whilst on the north side could be seen RIVER LUNE at the Merchant Ferries terminal and AMRUN TRADER and CELTIC KING at the container berths.

As we arrived in Dublin there was a short burst of rain as the clouds came rolling down off the Wicklow Mountains.

Proceeding back to the departure lounge a short wait followed before boarding recommenced. The return load was to be much lighter. Once back on board RIVER LUNE was seen to depart for Heysham at 12.32. SSCIII dropped ropes at 12.46. I didn't see the inbound passenger gangway as I was sitting on the starboard side for the return run.

The Shipping Forecast was for Irish waters was broadcast around 13.00 revealing that winds would reach up to force 9 during the next 24 hours I wondered about the prospect for the Sunday sailings and that some weekend trippers may be away from home longer than expected!

By the time Skerries was passed at 14.29 the first officer was reporting wind speeds of force 5 to 6.

An uneventful run back to the Bar followed. This time SSCIII taking the southerly track, south of Douglas Platform. Passing Q1 at 15.50 Mersey Radio revealed that the liner APOLLON [ex-EMPRESS OF CANADA] was on its was outbound. Way in front off New Brighton could be seen the inbound 09.00 Merchant Ferries sailing from Dublin.

Approaching Crosby bend the distinctive shape of the CPR's former ship could be seen. SSCIII reduced speed as the vessels closed, overtaking an in bound tanker to starboard, and passing out bound a ZIM container ship. A few passengers appeared to be on the decks of the APOLLON as SSCIII passed offering some superb photo opportunities. [They should be on line next week as I have just finished the film roll!] It was a pity there wasn't an exchange of whistles it would have been good to hear a steam horn! However, though the APOLLON is a liner one cannot help thinking that quite a few large cruise ferries such as the ISLE OF INISHMORE now look more impressive!

Passing the Rock at 16.10 SUPERSEACAT THREE has ropes on around 16.32.


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