After a hard week at work a weekend in the Isle of Man is a pleasant prospect especially if the vessel taking me there is the LADY OF MANN. But it wasn't. It was the SUPERSEACAT THREE. My first trip of the year on her and I have to admit I have mixed feelings about her. I also have mixed feelings about the Ormskirk Rugby Club 4th team who were on the ship at the beginning of a weekend tour of the Isle of Man; just what you need-twenty odd big, noisy, boozing rugby players shattering somewhat the relaxing ambience of the sailing.
The ship left on time with ropes off at 18:00 and the ship nudged herself off the landing stage and proceeded up river. The one blessing of the SUPERSEACAT THREE is the sheltered open deck so I stayed outside for the run up the channel to the Bar. There was very little other shipping to observe and as the light was failing I decided to have a look around the ship.
I believe they spent a lot of money on the interior this winter but to be quite honest I didn't notice a lot of difference. The bar area was the same; pleasantly laid out and full of drunks as usual. The cafe area was in the same place but now has a different menu; they have ditched Granada Catering on this ship and are doing it themselves but I am afraid the meal I had, which was a bacon, eggs etc. type meal was not very good so I was not very impressed.
It was about an hour out that the ship started to bounce about a lot. I, like many enthusiasts, quite enjoy a lively crossing, but many of the general public felt, and indeed were, ill. There is no way the wind outside was more than a force 4 but the Captain explained that it was being caused by a westerly wind causing a swell. He said that the ride control system was getting it under control. I hate to disappoint him but it didn't get it anywhere near under control. The problem is the weight of the ship; it is too light to deal with even the slightest swell on the Irish Sea.
I do not wish to just knock the ship for the sake of it. But the problems do exist and it is no use ignoring them. The ex duty free shop is now well stocked with other merchandise such as sports goods, perfumes and souvenirs but not many people seemed to be parting with their money.
Despite the bouncy sail the ship reached Douglas on time-38 knots had been announced from the bridge-and as we approached Douglas Head the BEN-MY-CHREE past us on the port side on her sailing to Heysham; she looked a fine sight with her deck and mast lights shining through the dark as she steamed onwards. Our ship did the usual rock and roll outside the harbour and we berthed just on 20:25. The SEACAT ISLE OF MAN was berthed on the outside of Victoria Pier.
I had enjoyed my sail on the ship despite the reservations I have about her. I do spend most of my time outside and her outside deck isn't too bad. I would not like to spend the entire trip sat in one of the hundreds of aircraft type seats in the main passenger areas-you may as well be on a bus!
The Rugby team?-guess who was staying in the same hotel as them!
My return sailing on Sunday evening was made all the more enjoyable by the company of- yes you've guessed it- the Rugby Team who once again offered the rest of the passengers the benefit of their sophisticated conversation, witty songs and a vast repertoire of bodily noises the like of which are only usually heard when one is stuck in a drain somewhere.
There were about 120 passengers and about 30 cars on this sailing. The ship had arrived a little late but we left on time. Earlier on in the afternoon I had watched the Ben berth at the Victoria Pier after her arrival from Heysham. The Linkspan at the Edward Pier had failed. Now the Ben was an hour out back to Heysham and the SEACAT ISLE OF MAN had moved to the inside of Victoria Pier. The passage back to Liverpool was very smooth and as I was standing on the deck, I decided that despite her faults I was growing quite fond of this ship-38 knots and it was still pleasant to stand outside on the well designed outside deck. I do wish though they had not railed some of it off.
On the sail up the river the European Leader was observed on the port side outward bound for Dublin and she was followed by the Lagan Viking on her way to Belfast. We of course slowed up as we reached the Rock and we berthed at the Pier Head at just on 23:30 after a passage time of two hours thirty minutes. The timetable says she does it in two and a quarter hours so I suppose she was a bit late but no one seemed to mind. She had sailed well, admittedly in good sea conditions.
As I drove off the Rugby team were observed trying their best to disembark without falling over a lot and bumping into things; they were not successful.