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Voyage Report: Sea Containers


by John H. Luxton


07.00 Liverpool to Douglas - August 06

Weather: Fine, light breeze, calm sea.

When I arrived down at the Sea Terminal at around 06.15 the Lady was berthed south of the linkspan facing up river. Her bows overhanging the ferry landing stage. I had actually seen her berth here the previous evening. The relocation of the linkspan has certainly proved useful in allowing two SeaCo vessels to use the stage with the span in place.

The terminal was fairly quiet though some early vehicle arrivals were noted arriving for the 08.00 SuperSeaCat Sailing. It was pleasing to note that some decent air-conditioning equipment has now been fitted to the terminal portakabin building which keeps it really cool.

Passengers were led down the ramp without any announcement being made but as people walked to the ship one of the security guards did check that everyone was bound for Douglas and no early arriving Dublin passengers had found tried to board.

With the Lady berthed on the south berth,  passenger boarding was via the vehicle ramp onto the vehicle deck. Though I did not see any vehicles board, unless one came aboard whilst I was looking over the starboard side.

The Lady of Mann let go at 06.55 with just 36 passengers on board under the command of Captain Bridson. - As far as I could see, unless a vehicle boarded whilst I was looking over the starboard side, there were no vehicles on board.

She made her TR transmission to Liverpool Coastguard notifying a Douglas ETA of 10.30

Weather conditions were superb as the Lady made her way down river, a bright, warm sunny morning with fairly good visibility.

Going inside I missed any traffic in the river, though I don't think there was any. The Mersey Bar light float was passed to port at 07.45 and nothing of note was seen until the Offshore Oil installation was passed accompanied by support vessel CLWYD SUPPORTER.

At 08.45 SEACAT ISLE OF MAN passed south bound for Liverpool on the 07.30 sailing from Douglas. Fifty five minutes later the BEN-MY-CHREE could be seen some miles to the north east on her 09.00 sailing from Douglas to Heysham.

With Douglas Bay now clearly visible the first officer informed passengers that the ship was running at 20.5 knots and that passengers should be disembarking at 10.35.

Slowing as we approached Douglas harbour the Lady came to a stop at the harbour mouth - most of the passengers were out on the stern ramps by now as she slowly moved astern and berthed on the outside of the harbour wall.

The Isle of Man Harbour Commissioner's work vessel TAROO USHTEY [Gaelic for Water Buffalo] was at the Lighthouse Pier being involved with the maintenance of the harbour approach buoys.

The gangway was quickly on and passengers were going ashore by 10.36 after a good fast crossing which proves just how good the Lady can be when she is unleashed and that she is not significantly slower than an InCat which often appear to have problems maintaining their scheduled 2hour 30 minute crossing times.

It was interesting to note that some improvements have taken place in the Victoria Pier covered walkway including new floors and mock bracket gas lights with low energy bulbs within. This certainly contrasts with the ultra modern walkway which links the terminal with the Edward Pier berth. though some how the light fittings just didn't appear appropriate!

At the end of the Victoria Pier vehicles were already lining up ready to check in for the Lady of Mann's afternoon sailing to Douglas. Obviously this was going to be much busier than her outward voyage from Liverpool.

With my return sailing at 15.30 to Liverpool I stepped on a horse tram for a run along the promenade to Derby Castle Station, southern terminus of the Manx Electric Railway. Boarding a well filled toastrack trailer towed by a Laxey bound car one was soon rattling off past the now abandoned Summerland and the new and somewhat controversial MER car depot and climbing up past the shops at Port Jack.

The journey to Laxey takes half an hour as the railway winds through Groudle and Baldrine offering some good views of both coast and mountains. On arrival at Laxey a large queue of intending passengers could be seen awaiting the next Snaefell Mountain Railway car bound for the summit of Snaefell.

Apart from being noted for the world famous Lady Isabella - The Laxey Wheel, constructed to pump water from Laxey Mines in the 19th Century , the village sorts probably the most attractive junction stations in these islands. Here the 3ft Douglas to Ramsey line has a junction with the Snaefell   Mountain Railway [3ft 6in]. It is probably the only station which can boast both a pub and church as well as the usual facilities of Booking Office, Waiting Room and Café!

To the south of the station site by Laxey Viaduct is Laxey Church, at the north end of the station is the Mines Tavern. A real ale pub which serves decent bar meals and good beer. One of the two bars is fitted out so as to resemble the side of a MER electric car. There are also quite a few photos and memorabilia of the Laxey Mines and railway photos and relics from Manx and Irish railways.

The pub was actually built as the mine captain's house for Laxey Mines before the construction of the railway. Enjoying a lazy lunch and a couple of beers as the electric cars rattle by and the short workings from Douglas turn round is quite relaxing and highly recommended. Sitting there too long and I could start getting seriously interested in railways again!

Making my way to Douglas on the 13.15 departure, a through working from Ramsey I arrived back at Derby Castle Station at 13.45. Which, like Ramsey also have its own pub - The terminus tavern. Another couple of beers whilst I watched seagulls swoop down from the roofs of parked horse tram cars to raid left-overs was quite amusing. Perhaps a little too much time was spent there. After letting an almost full car depart for the Sea Terminal I thought that there was bound to be plenty of time. However, the next tram didn't depart until 14.45 which then deposited me at the terminal at 15.05. Much later than I would have normally arrive for a departure.


15:30 Douglas to Liverpool

Boarding had obviously been well underway for some time. Boarding SEACAT ISLE OF MAN the "kipper man" was in his usual place by the gangway selling his wears.

I made my way to the Blue Riband lounge to find it almost full. This was my first time travelling in SCIOM's BR lounge. I had no opportunity but to sit in the only window seat at the aft end of other lounge. This is clearly an after thought and does not match the rest of the seats, its also of rather different design and not very comfortable.

What was worse was the fact that though it was a warm day and the air conditioning was on, so were the ankle level heaters which appeared to be pumping out uncomfortably high temperatures to one's lower regions!

Another disadvantage of these "extra" seats is that there is no pull down tray on the seat back in front, thus preventing consumption of anything other than liquid refreshment. I was glad I had had something to eat at Laxey and not left it until the journey home.

Waiting for departure it was also interesting to make comparisons with the Blue Riband lounge provided on SEACAT DANMARK. On the latter vessel it is located port side aft. A preferred location for ship spotting. DANMARK also has a much more substantial glass screen separating the lounge from the rest of the main saloon. On SCIOM the separating screen is little more than shoulder high which affords less privacy from the rest of the ship.

Departure was a minute a head of schedule at 15.29 with Captain Kelly in command.  What was pleasing to note was that for the entire voyage [apart from the safety broadcasts] the vessel's position was shown on the monitor screens - a much better idea than Mr. Bean, Tom and Jerry etc!

During the voyage I had a wander around the interior and noted that one of the aft of the two shops which had been present during the vessels operation on the Irish Sea in 1997 had been removed and replaced by bayed seating, not dissimilar to that in the main saloon of SEACAT DANMARK. The vessel was almost full with 463 passengers on board, so I quickly returned to my seat.

As we approached the bar an outbound bulk carrier was visible whilst a VLCC tanker of Shell Transport was heading inbound.

The Bar light was passed at 17.20 and Q1 buoy five minutes later. In the channel two unidentified coasters passed outbound [I had seen them as we rounded Crosby bend!] whilst another member of Arklow Shipping's ultra smart fleet of coasters - ARKLOW FAME was overtaken.

Speed was reduced passing the Rock at 17:45 for the run up to the Landing Stage. SCIOM swung around and berthed stern on to the linkspan with ropes secure at 18.05. 


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