19:00 Liverpool to Douglas - December 1, 2000
The wild and windy weather of the last couple of months has confirmed the sensible decision of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company to roster the Lady of Mann again for the winter sailings from Liverpool to Douglas. It was with confidence that I drove down to the Pier Head knowing that, despite the weather, my sailing was assured.
My reason for travelling was part pleasure and part business. The business was to check on the sales etc. of Ships of Mann Magazine on the Isle of Man and it is always a pleasure sailing to the Isle of Man anyway especially on the Lady of Mann though I have this year grown quite fond of SeaCat Isle of Man and SuperSeaCat Three. Perhaps, as Captain Tommy Harrison said to me in the summer, we are getting used to them. I just wish they would give SSC3 a decent Manx name! Talking of Tommy Harrison he was acting as First Officer on the sailing while the captain was Dermot O'Toole. There were 180 passengers on board as the ropes were let go at 18.55 and the ship nosed her way into the river. We were off the Rock at 19.10 and by the time we were at the Bar at 19.50 the sea was getting quite choppy. It was a South Westerly wind which was hitting the ship on the port quarter and although it really was only a moderate sea there was quite a lot of movement. However the fins were out and the ship was coping well in conditions for which she was designed.
19 knots was reported by the Officer of the watch and I think a slightly more northerly course was set as we seemed to be nearer the Gas fields than usual and when we approached Douglas Bay later we were off Onchan Head before we turned and ran across the Bay and berthed bow in on the south side of Victoria Pier at 22.50. The SeaCat Scotland was berthed in front of us; as many will know she has been refitted by Fort Street Services.
My impressions of the ship during this sail were as usual good; I could never fail to be impressed by my favourite ship and as everyone knows at the moment she performs an essential service for the Company during the winter months and at TT time. Hopefully the Board will give the go ahead soon for her SOLAS upgrade. I did notice one or two bits and pieces on the ship however which need a little attention at her refit. Some of her internal fixtures and fittings are in need of refurbishment and the wooden doors leading out to the boat deck have bolts missing, loose handles and split pieces of wood. Nothing serious but these little things need to be addressed as well as the bigger SOLAS considerations. The sail itself though was a pleasure, the cabin staff were pleasant and helpful, as usual, and the Bridge kept passengers fully informed of progress and although it was a little rough the ship was handled so well I did not see any evidence of anyone being unwell which I suppose is a credit to the crew and the ship herself.
On the Saturday I went down to Victoria Pier to have a look at SeaCat Scotland mainly to see if there was anything to distinguish her externally from her sister, the SeaCat Isle of Man. I noticed two differences; SeaCat Scotland still has the Incat flashes on her bows which the SeaCat Isle of Man lost when her bow was replaced some years ago and secondly the SeaCat Scotland has a much shorter stern door which does not obstruct the view from the outside passenger deck as it does on her sister.
I was returning home on the Sunday but not to Liverpool. Love the Lady of Mann as I do there was no way I could get down to the Sea Terminal and check in at 06.00 after a Saturday night out in Douglas. So I had booked on my second favourite ship and was returning to Heysham.
By the time I checked in at 18.45 the weather yet again had turned miserable and it was windy again. The rain had been very heavy for a couple of hours and the staff who were outside doing the loading and checking were well brassed off with the weather. However they were still doing an efficient job and check in and boarding was smooth and swift. The sailing was fairly light and all cars and vans were on the lower car deck. There appeared to be no freight containers on board.
Captain Mike Ledley was in command and he warned us that conditions at sea were not good as the BEN-MY-CHREE let go on time at 19.45 and headed out into Douglas Bay. The sea was rough but the ship performed very well indeed. She was steady and of course the fins were out so she did not roll, but she did not seem to pitch a great deal either. She was really well handled by her Officers and although because of the rough sea and an ebb tide she was only making 15 knots again there was no evidence of any passenger being unwell during the crossing.
This ship has been bitterly slammed by many during her brief time with the Company and I am sure the Company realised that at first mistakes were made but I have not been able to fault the ship in the last 12 months or so and I hope she goes from strength to strength. (I do wish they would not close off the upper outside decks during the evening sailings though. If there are a lot onboard there is not enough outside space if they do.)
We were late arriving at Heysham because of the slower speed but I can't say I was too bothered. We berthed at 23.55 a passage time of nearly 4 hours. The Lady of Mann would probably not done it that much quicker considering the conditions.