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Finished With Engines: Irish Sea Shipping is now closed to new updates - J.H. Luxton Photography - Transport, Industrial History, Regional Photographs UK & beyond


Saturday June 17, 2000

by John Luxton

There has been much speculation over the future of the LADY OF MANN during the past few months

with uncertainty surrounding the future of the vessel as a result of the need to perform a SOLAS upgrade before next season at a rumoured cost of around £2million.

Early in 2000 many people were speculating that the post TT special cruises which have now become a regular feature of the LADY OF MANN's annual programme could prove to be her last with the "Round the Island" cruise scheduled to be her final valediction. With her fans treating the event as a wake.

However, during May it became increasingly apparent that the LADY OF MANN featured in Sea Containers plans for the forthcoming winter, given the problems faced by SUPERSEACAT last winter. This, combined by the news that a charter to the Azores had been secured for the 2000 summer season suddenly made the immediate future of the vessel look rather more secure. The LADY OF MANN's many fans could breathe easily again - at least for a while.

The "Round the Island" cruise was billed as a 170th Anniversary Celebration of the foundation of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company. Though I was unable, through work commitments to participate in the trips earlier in the week, I made certain that I had a ticket for the "Round the Island" trip soon after bookings commenced. The fare was a very modest £15.00 and included a "sumptuous buffet" to quote the press release.

After much deliberation I decided to travel over to the Isle of Man from Liverpool on SEACAT ISLE OF MAN. I had considered using the BEN-MY-CHREE from Heysham, but was anxious that should there be any unforeseen delay, there might have been the possibility of arriving off Douglas to see the LADY set sail! Perhaps as things turned out I should have had more faith and travelled on the BEN-MY-CHREE.

Having checked into the Sefton Hotel earlier in the afternoon, I came out again for a trip on the horse trams my last journey on which arrived at the Sea Terminal just as the BEN-MY-CHREE was approaching from Heysham at around 17:30.

The LADY OF MANN had spent the afternoon berthed at the outside of Victoria Pier with flags flying. After getting a few photographs of the BEN passing the LADY I made my way into the terminal which check in had already opened. Realising it was just shortly after 17:30 I instinctively sat down not expecting to be allowed to board. However, several other passengers wandered through the departure gate and it was apparent that boarding was well underway.

Interestingly, a solitary port policeman checked the boarding card and there was no requirement for x-raying of bags and the metal detector check. Given the usual high profile security I found this unusual. Despite the fact it was a pleasure cruise I am surprised it wasn't interpreted by the Isle of Man Government, who are responsible for the security arrangements at Douglas, as an opportunity for some hot-head to hi-jack the Lady!

On boarding there were only a few passengers around. Some of the rope men positioned the car ramp to enable some disabled passengers gain easy access to the main passenger deck, rather than have to encounter the LADY's rather steep stairs.

This was my first trip on the LADY OF MANN since last September's exhilarating crossings on the Liverpool to Dublin route. Wandering around I was interested to see that the side passageway from the café to the car ramp had been given a covering of rubber matting. It was here where I managed to take a tumble when heading for the gangway to disembark at Dublin after slipping on spray, which had entered through the partially open windows! This was despite managing to remain upright whilst the LADY performed some interesting gyrations in Dublin Bay!

Over the next hour or so the LADY OF MANN steadily filled up with passengers.

At 19:00 Captain Corrin, Isle of Man Steam Packet Company Marine Superintendent, gave the order to let go and the LADY moved smartly away from Victoria Pier with 567 passengers on board. As she moved off, Everard's tanker ARDUITY called up the harbour control to request permission to enter the harbour with a cargo destined for the fuel terminal on the Lighthouse Pier.

Liverpool Coastguard where advised of a 22:45 return arrival at Douglas.

The sky remained heavier over the mountains, though at sea it was bright and sunny, with strong lighting from the west. Port Soderick was passed at 19:15, by 19:34 we were steaming past the Langness Peninsular dominated by its lighthouse. A long blast on the whistle was sounded as Castletown passed by at 19:40. A similar whistle greeting was made at Port St.Mary at 19:48.

The south-easterly entrance to Calf Sound, which separates the Isle of Man from the Calf of Man, passed by at 19:54. A smart turn was effected around the Calf as the Lady of Mann passed Chicken Rock lighthouse. The Lady passed quite close to the cliffs around the Calf and the Calf Lighthouses were clearly visible. The north-westerly entrance to Calf Sound passed by at 20:08. Within three minutes the LADY passed Port Erin, surprisingly the whistle wasn't sounded here.

Beyond Port Erin coastline becomes particularly spectacular with mountains appearing to tumble down directly into the sea. The section of coast from Fleshwick Bay to Nairbyl being particularly impressive. At the foot of the towering cliffs at Bradda Head observant passengers could pick out the remains of some former mine workings and a mine engine house.

Niarbyl Bay, with its tail of rocks and pretty cottage, made famous by the recent movie "Waking Ned" could be seen around 20:25. Around 16 minutes later the LADY OF MANN's whistle sounded once more as we passed St.Patrick's Isle crowned by the Peel Castle and the remains of St German's Cathedral. The city of Peel lying beyond.

Northwards from Peel, the coastline gradually becomes gentler. The whistle sounded once more as the Lady passed Kirk Michael.

For some time now passengers had been appearing on deck with paper plates from the buffet, however, reports of quite a long queue had deterred quite a few people from making their way to the buffet.

Inside passengers were queuing around the starboard side from the forward saloon, past the bureau to the top of the starboard aft car deck stairs. The queue was rather slow moving and actually became static for around 10 or 15 minutes whilst passengers were informed that stocks were being replenished. Whilst I waited in the queue the LADY OF MANN rounded the Point or Ayr at 21:30 which marks the northern tip of the Isle of Man and swung southwards on the final. Shortly after this there was a noticeable reduction in speed, which lasted for a period of time, one would imagine that we were in danger of being back too early!

Arriving down on the upper car deck, the area had been decked out with flags and true enough to the press release there was the sumptuous buffet. Everything being attractively laid out, complete with massive seashells decorations formed from ice, despite the fact that several hundred passengers had obviously already passed through. A large flag hung behind the tables proclaimed the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company 170th Anniversary. After piling up a plateful of most of the items on offer it was back up to the car ramps for the final leg of the journey back to Douglas.

At 21:52 we passed some way off Ramsey. By now the sky had adopted the attractive hues of a mid-summer evening twilight. The lights of Laxey below the shadow of Snaefell were visible around 22:25. Within another twenty minutes or so we were steaming across Douglas Bay to berth at Victoria Pier a little behind schedule at around 22:58.

Thus ended a very enjoyable trip. A few weeks ago many enthusiasts were wondering if this would be the final good-bye at least we could walk away safe in the knowledge that we have at least one more winter season to look forward to. Perhaps it might be just possible to go "Round The Island" again next year - who knows.

The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company and Sea Containers must be thanked for organising a very enjoyable evening at a very reasonable cost- well done!



Loading at Douglas

Inquisitive gull!

Quiet decks before the crowd arrived

Departing Douglas

On the car ramps passengers gathered on the landward side.

Lankness Lighthouse

Chicken Rock Lighthouse

Passing The Calf off Mann

Calf Sound west side

Port Erin & Breda Head

Near Fleshwick Bay

Peel Castle

Twilight at Maughold Head


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