Tuesday February 22, 2000I arrived down at the Merchant Ferries terminal at around 09.30. Dawn Merchant was already loading freight trailers and the trailer "tugs" buzzed around busily "feeding" her. It was obvious that on arrival at Dublin discharge would not be via the bow doors as the tugs were swinging the trailers destined for the main vehicle deck, deck 3 around before loading.
At around 10.15 private vehicles were summoned on board and parked in the usual position in the bow near the stairs, again being turned around to face the stern.
Meanwhile a white van complete with workers from the linkspan company McGregor's were busy at work, presumably on the bow door.
Making my way up to deck 7 I settled myself in a seat by the front windows and went off to get something to eat. Late breakfasts are served on the morning sailings at boarding time and one of these was enjoyed. They are priced quite competitively at around £4.00, somewhat cheaper than that offered by Sea Containers.
Around 10.30 the little ship which the big horn - the sand dredger NORSTAR passed by through Canada Dock heading for her terminal at Bramley-Moore Dock.
10.35 - NORSE LAGAN could be seen making her way across to Langton Lock on the morning sailing to Belfast.
An unusually little craft then made an appearance, pushing a pontoon loaded with some skips. It was the "HARBOUR WITCH" rather like a floating mechanical digger. It set about picking up rubbish which had gathered in the north west corner of Canada Dock.
DAWN MERCHANT moved off her berth at 11.16 a few minutes behind schedule. Her TR to Mersey Radio revealed 28 passengers, 40 crew with an arrival at the Bailey due at 18.00.
At 11.30 SUPERSEACAT THREE could be seen passing outbound for trails in Liverpool Bay. She would resume her Liverpool - Dublin sailings later in the week.
As DAWN MERCHANT manoeuvred in the locks the Howard Smith tugs BRAMLEY MOORE, TRAFALGAR and GLADSTONE were running down in Gladstone Lock heading out to meet Novoship's bulker KAPITAN KOZIAR.
With an incoming tide we didn't have to wait too long for the lock and river levels to equalise and DAWN MERCHANT was soon out in the river at 11.52. It was interesting to note just how scuffed the river wall was near LANGTON LOCK. Much red paint suggested that either the red hulled Norse Irish ships had been making contact at low water or the Merchant Vessels which have a red lower hull had been making contact in difficult conditions. Some workmen were busy with jack-hammers and concrete repairing the edges of the wall.
Once in the river and swung around DAWN MERCHANT quickly accelerated passing the small Chemical tanker ANNETTE THERESA off New Brighton.
Within a few seconds a radio message from Mersey Radio ordered DAWN MERCHANT to slow right down as on Crosby beach, MERSEY MAMMOTH was trying to retrieve red can boat beacon Q6 which was sat on the beach using a wire rope. As DAWN MERCHANT slowed up the Howard Smith tugs came fussing along on their way to meet the KAPITAN KOZIAR. By the time we had passed the MERSEY MAMMOTH looked to have been successful in the job.
As we passed the MERSEY MAMMOTH working out of the channel and close to the shore on the starboard side, the small freighter AB AMSTERDAM passed in bound to port. At 12.10 the large bulker KAPITAN KOZIAR passed inbound followed three minutes later by the coaster HELLA of Baum & Co GmBH.
Shortly afterwards STOLT KITTEWAKE passed in bound.
This was followed by what looked like a Russian vessel with an unpronounceable name! I missed the chatter from the pilots and couldn't identify it. Whilst the MD&HC Dredger MERSEY VENTURE was busy working around C7 buoy.
As we approached Q1 the ARKLOW FORTUNE passed in bound.
In front of DAWN MERCHANT was Whittaker's coastal tanker WHITKIRK heading off in a north westerly direction - presumably to the Isle of Man.
At 12.40 DAWN MERCHANT passed Q1. SUPERSEACAT THREE could be seen running trials in the bay.
12.50 the Cory Tug OAKGARTH passed in bound on the port side, whilst to starboard the INZENHER LIBICHEV of the Volgotanker River Shipping Company of Russia was overtaken on the starboard side at 12.55.
SSCIII also turned to pass in bound at this time. On the horizon to the NW what looked like a Royal Navy minesweeper could be seen.
Douglas field was passed at 13.10 and Great Orme's Head at 13.35. BRAVE MERCHANT passed east bound at 13.40 on the 09.00 sailing from Dublin.
During the early afternoon, it was very pleasant to gaze out of the window at the surrounding seascape and enjoy a reasonably priced bottle of wine.
14.10 EUROPEAN ENVOY passed east bound.
14.23 Point Lynas.
15.35 South Stack
16.20 Another minesweeper could be seen a long way off.
Around 17.40 I wandered back to the restaurant which had reopened for early dinners and an enjoyable Gammon Ham meal was enjoyed. This was freshly prepared to order given the low passenger numbers. The steward who had been working the bar, had closed this to act as waiter in the restaurant.
Whilst eating the outline of STENA CHALLENGER could be seen coming in from the port side to take up position in front of us. It was now around 18.05 and DAWN MERCHANT was passing the Baily entering Dublin Bay.
Sometimes the arrival of the Liverpool sailings can be delayed if the Heysham sailing has not cleared the linkspan. However, SAGA MOON was prompt and she passed outbound at 18.15.
As we ran up the Liffey we were met by the Dublin Port tug CLUAIN TARBH standing by ready to give our port side a nudge to help swing the stern round onto the berth.
We were on the berth at 18.45 as the ISLE OF INISHMORE approached. Within a few minutes a crewman had summoned drivers to their vehicles. On returning to the vehicle deck, the McGregor engineers were still at work.
Once again another pleasant and
I returned on the 22.15 sailing from Dublin on Friday February 25. It was pleasing to note a good load of private vehicles. Each time I have travelled the number of private cars / vans has increased indicative of the growing attractions of the night sailings in particular.
The 22.15 sailing departed at 22.53 with 99 passengers on board. After another enjoyable meal - roast pork and a couple of drinks in the bar it was off to my cabin.
[I noted that once the bar closes at 01.00 all passengers must vacate the Jockey Club bar and either proceed to their cabins or the Grandstand Lounge. One imagines that perhaps some non-cabin passengers have been sprawling out and making a mess of the bar area and the sofas.]
The cabins on the Merchant Ferries ships are very comfortable and I had no problem sleeping quite soundly. The vibrations of the vessel manoeuvring into Langton Lock providing the usual wake-up call which is more effective than the PA system when arriving at Liverpool.
Making my way down for another good breakfast it was time to reflect on just what a civilised way of travel this is and somehow wishing that the journey could even be longer [What about Liverpool - Cork?!]
DAWN MERCHANT was on the berth at Canada Dock at 06.15 whilst disembarkation commenced around 06.40.
Anyway another pleasant trip to and from Ireland with Merchant Ferries. If you haven't travelled with the company yet you don't know what you are missing!