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Saturday April 1, 2000

After several days of good weather, the forecast of Saturday, April 1 did not look very promising. The forecast beyond Saturday looked pretty unpleasant altogether. However, despite prospect of a murky and damp day, the prospect of my first BEN-MY-CHREE voyage since late last Summer was very appealing. I had intended to do the Heysham-Belfast-Dublin run at Christmas as I had done in 1998, but a shorter holiday and all the millennium hassles led to a decision to leave well alone for the Christmas period.

On Saturday I had intended to get out early enough to get to Heysham before the BEN-MY-CHREE arrived and photograph her from the harbour entrance. However delays on the motorway meant that by the time I arrived at the roundabout at Trumacar Road, Heysham, the first Manx registered cars were coming along indicating that the BEN had already arrived and was discharging

Little had changed at the Heysham Terminal since my last visit in late August. The cafe is no longer branded a Little Chef Express, as it, along with the on board services are now directly operated by Sea Containers. Probably a change for the better, as I have never understood the logic of contracting out catering when all receipts could be retained "in house". One disappointment though was that hot mini-doughnuts no longer appear to be available.

Boarding commenced shortly after 13:30 and it was pleasing to note that the passenger gangway was back in use. On my last trip bus boarding had been in operation again as modifications to the quay wall were underway as modifications were underway to the quayside.

On boarding the BEN I discovered that there has been a good attempt to make her more homely and identified with the Isle of Man route - she now has photographs of Manx scenes in the stairways. I climbed the stairs to Deck 8 for the Blue Riband Lounge.

Photographs below report

14:15 Heysham to Douglas: 

Captain Cowin

104 Passengers / 34 Crew



Rig Support Vessel BLUE JURA advises Heysham that she will depart at 18:00. 

BLUE JURA is berthed at the former Fisher / NLS Terminal. The BLUE JURA also requests that she be allowed to launch a RIB into the harbour after the departure of the Ben.

14:05Gangway removed
14:14Ropes let go. BEN-MY-CHREE moves off berth.
14:40Pass Wyre Light
14:46Merchant Ferries RIVER LUNE passes in bound for Heysham.
15:55Tanker STOLT KITE passes off the port side heading south east.
16:20First Officer announces that the BEN-MY-CHREE is 20 miles from the entrance to Douglas harbour and is currently travelling at 19.5 knots.
17:16Enters Douglas Bay and requests clearance from Port Control

SEACAT ISLE OF MAN is berthed at #2 berth Victoria Pier

17:33Ropes on at Edward Pier. Crossing time: 3hours 19minutes.  Twelve Minutes early
After arrival at Douglas I took a wander along the rather damp promenade to the Sefton Hotel where I spent an hour or so in the Morning Room overlooking Douglas bay enjoying the view and a snack. Whilst there Everard's tanker ALACRITY arrived at the harbour fuel berth.

Returning to the Sea Terminal and entering the departure lounge there was quite a lot of activity. Manx Radio and the Lions Club were running a charity auction for Manx Children In Need which created something of a diversion whilst waiting to board. It was al

Boarding commenced sometime after 19:50 as the crew had been engaged in the weekly lifeboat drill which had run over time. The fact there were few passengers meant that the late boarding was of little consequence. Other passengers had appeared in the terminal though these appeared to be awaiting the 21:15 SUPERSEACAT THREE sailing to Liverpool. 

Reaching the bottom of the gangway the BEN's whistle sounded and I had barely made it back up to the Blue Riband Lounge when she let go and moved quickly out into Douglas Bay.

20:00 Douglas to Heysham

Captain Moore

36 Passengers / 33 Crew

20:04Ropes let go
20:14Passes SUPERSEACAT THREE  on 18:00 from Liverpool "red to red"
22:26Calls Heysham Harbour advises that she will be "off the woodwork" at 23:20
22:55P&O's EUROPEAN PIONEER passes on the port side outbound from Fleetwood for Larne
23:20BEN-MY-CHREE enters Heysham Harbour. MERCHANT BRAVERY berthed on south side of harbour, by power station.

Estonian Shipping Company's VARBOLA is berthed at #3 Linkspan having arrived on the from Dublin on the afternoon Merchant Ferries sailing.

23:26Ropes On. Crossing time 3hours 22minutes. Four minutes early.
Though the weather had been something of a disappointment with poor visibility all day, it was pleasing to note that the BEN had made some quite speedy passages, being early both ways 

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