VERNON KINLEY MEMORIAL CRUISE WEEKEND
Saturday 24th July
16.30 Heysham - Douglas
At 16.10 the Lady of Mann let go ropes at Heysham, twenty minutes early, heading of course for Douglas. On board were about 190 passengers which included Dave Worth, Ted Capstick and myself (all of Manxlink magazine) and we were on board primarily to take the Vernon Kinley memorial cruise later in the day.
Captain Alan Bridson was in command with Captain Tommy Harrison as First Officer. As we departed Heysham MERCHANT BRAVERY was noted as just having arrived. Soon after leaving Heysham Captain Bridson kindly invited us to the bridge where we spent some time in the company of the captain and his officers. As usual the friendliness of the Steam Packet officers was much appreciated and we were delighted to accept a further invitation to return to the bridge before entering Douglas.
The crossing itself was smooth , the ship performing admirably being alongside at Douglas at 19.30.
The Vernon Kinley Memorial Cruise.
A quick turnaround for crew and ship (and us!) as we reboarded the Lady of Mann for the cruise to Port St. Mary in memory of Captain Vernon Kinley.
The ship left at 20.15 with over 500 passengers on board. Marine Superintendent Peter Corrin was in command and many well known Steam Packet "personalities" were on board. Managing Director Hamish Ross was on board, as was Geoff. Corkish and other Steam Packet personnel. Some retired captains were also present including Captain H. Kinley, Vernon's uncle, and is still going strong at 91.
Writers Richard Danielson and Dick Clague were also present as were many old friends of ours who all know each other simply because of our shared interest in all things Steam Packet. These included John and Jenny Williamson who kindly introduced me to Hamish Ross. I was particularly grateful for this as it's not often you meet the M.D. of a company you've have had a passion for over 40 years! In the five minutes or so of conversation with Hamish Ross I got the distinct impression that the Steam Packet was in very good hands indeed.
The cruise to Port St. Mary was very pleasant indeed although it had clouded over somewhat and there was a slight drizzle. This did not last too long though and Captain Corrin brought the ship gently alongside the pier at Port St. Mary at 21.00.
The hundreds of people who welcomed the ship included a choir who entertained the passengers with a charming set including Ellan Vannin. My companions, who now included another Manxlink stalwart and Manx resident John Coates, disembarked for an hour before returning to the ship to cast off at 22.00.
Captain Corrin skilfully backed the ship away from the breakwater and slowly circled the bay, slowing right down for the family of Vernon Kinley to throw two wreaths from the bridge wings into the sea as a mark of respect.
How fitting that this should be done by his family on his home waters, from the bridge of his favourite ship, owned by the company he served so well, and on whose decks stood hundreds of Steam Packet enthusiasts and Manx people who held him in such high esteem. The Steam Packet should be congratulated for organising the cruise so well and so sensitively. It was not a sad occasion but an enjoyable one and I suspect that Captain Kinley would have approved.
Sailing on ships should be an enjoyable experience and this cruise certainly was. Included in the price of the ticket was an excellent buffet and glass of wine which the catering staff of the Company must have worked really hard on. These people certainly deserve our thanks as well.
The cruise back up the coast was interesting because it was dark and trying to make out the various landmarks and where lights were coming from was difficult although Richard Danielson helped me out with most of them. We were alongside at Douglas at 23.30.
I think that this cruise was a great success and was enjoyed by all. Thank you Steam Packet for giving us the opportunity to take part. Thanks for all the hard work. It was great.
Sunday 25th July
12.00 Douglas - Heysham
Both Captain Bridson and Captain Harrison were on the bridge for this sailing and once again we were invited up to the bridge as we left Douglas and again as we approached Heysham. These visits are much appreciated by enthusiasts and we thank the captains and their officers for their kindness and consideration.
The sailing was calm and peaceful. Among those on board were the Stockport County and Watford football teams returning from a tournament on the island. As we approached the Lune Buoy the BEN-MY-CHREE past on the port side.
Both ships blew their whistles, Captain Crellin on the BEN just getting in first by a fraction of a second! It was very pleasing to see people using the top deck of the Ben now it has been opened up for passengers, this in itself proving that the Steam Packet does often take note of the concerns of it's passengers.
As we entered Heysham the RIVERDANCE was anchored outside and the MERCHANT BRILLIANT and SAGA MOON were at their usual berths. Captain Harrison brought the Lady of Mann smoothly alongside at 15.15.
Verdict of myself and companions on the weekend? Brilliant! (and I've not mentioned the night in the Stakis till 04.00!)