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Voyage Report: Sea Containers


by Adrian Sweeney

Heysham to Douglas

4th September 13.00

Captain Tommy Harrison

I arrived at Heysham far too early as usual. The traffic was not as bad as I thought on the M6 or through Lancaster. However it did give me the chance to observe what was going on in the harbour. Driving round to the northern breakwater gives a splendid view of the comings and goings. Merchant Bravery was at her usual berth and her consort the Merchant Venture was berthed in the outer harbour. The last time I saw her was in Bidston Dock but now I believe she is deputising for the Spheroid before being chartered to P&O.

The Lady of Mann was due in from Douglas at about 11.15 but that time came and went and there was no sign of her. The SeaCat DANMARK arrived at 11.15 from Belfast and the Bravery departed at 11.30. It was 12.10 before the Lady arrived having been delayed due to a heavy loading of bikes returning from the Manx Grand Prix.

I then returned to the terminal building to check in and to mentally prepare myself for the coach palaver that the Heysham security people insist on putting passengers through in the name of safety. It is a disgraceful way to treat passengers; herding them on to a hot uncomfortable, old coach for a one minute drive to the ship. It only takes one minute to walk!

Fortunately after one or two people complained common sense prevailed and instead we were allowed to walk to the ship. This is a far better way. It is quicker, far more convenient than being squashed up on a bus( and sometimes having to wait for half an hour on the bus in the hot sun). For those people who need the help because of walking difficulties then a courtesy bus could be provided. These arrangements need changing next year.

At 12.45 the Ben My Chree was noted arriving at her berth. We boarded the Lady of Mann at 13.00 and it was not till 13.25 that she cast off, 25 minutes late with about 200 passengers, twenty bikes and a dozen cars on board. The Wyre light was passed at 13.55 and the Lune Buoy at 14.12. At 14.25 the MOONDANCE was observed heading for Heysham as was the Merchant Brilliant on the starboard side at 14.50.

Soon after this the officer of the watch Dave McKague announced from the bridge that the ship was sailing at 21 knots and they hoped to make up the time. I had no doubt they would. The ship has been in fine form all season and is handled by officers who know their ship very well indeed.

Although the visibility was not very good the SeaCat Isle of Man was observed at 15 50 on her afternoon sailing to Liverpool. Soon after this the island was in sight and we were off Douglas Head at 16.40. Ropes on at 16.48 berthed at number 3 berth on Victoria Pier.

It was while we were waiting for the luggage to be taken off the van and put on to the carousel at Douglas that we were treated to a wonderful cameo performance from the baggage handlers. They could not get the doors of the van opened. What had happened to the lock I don't know but try as they may the doors would not open fully, only slightly; no way you could get the cases out. It was one of those typical Steam Packet performances that you cannot really get annoyed with even though we were delayed half an hour. The faulty lock defied the efforts of a saw, a screwdriver, a lump hammer and several assaults by pulling, kicking and banging which saw the doors reduced to bent metal; but they still would not open. The men were doing their best and it was tremendous entertainment watching one failure after another as the doors defied the entire might of the Steam Packet baggage handling service. When all seemed lost a passenger, not a young man but obviously a man of determination walked up to the struggling and by now exhausted staff, took hold of one of the van doors which had mocked the efforts of the entire Sea Containers empire for so long and with a mighty pull separated the two doors destroying the lock in the process. He was cheered to the rafters but modestly declined to take a bow. It could only happen to the Steam Packet!

Douglas to Heysham19.00 sailing on Sunday 5th September on board Lady of Mann. Captain Tommy Harrison.

Sunday was a very warm day but there had been a thick mist at sea all day. The Lady of Mann arrived from Heysham on time at 17.10. I checked in to find that the sailing would be comfortable with only about 150 passengers on board.

Ropes were off at 18.50, ten minutes early and it was noted that the ensign was at half mast as a mark of respect for the Mayor of Douglas who had sadly died on Friday. For most of the sail the thick mist made observations impossible but First Officer Bob Ellsmoor announced from the bridge we were on time doing 21 knots and the mist would not delay us.

The mist finally cleared about 21.00 when the lights of Blackpool were sighted. The Lune Buoy was passed at 21.15 and the Wyre light fifteen minutes later when one of Seatruck's ferries was observed heading out of Heysham. Another vessel was also observed at anchor off the port. Positive identification was not possible as it was dark but it looked rather like the River Lune. We were at the harbour mouth at 21.50 and ropes on a few minutes later. The Merchant Brilliant and the Saga Moon were observed at their usual berths.

Disembarkation was speedy with Second Officer Paul Murphy kindly reminding me that I was at work the next day and my summer holiday was over. Thanks Paul!

It has been a good season for enthusiasts of the Lady of Mann. To Captains Alan Bridson and Tommy Harrison, Chief Officer Bob Ellsmoor and Second Officers Dave McKague and Paul Murphy thanks for making us so welcome and being such good ambassadors for the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company.

Lets hope that next summer is just as good.


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