LADY OF MANN
19:00 Liverpool to Douglas January 12, 2001
Given the prolonged period of unsettled weather during the autumn, little did I realise that I was to undertake another voyage in similar conditions to those prevailing during my trip to December on the Ben-My-Chree. Once again there was the superb visibility crisp winter air, though fortunately it was the snow that was missing.
It was almost six months since I last set food on the LADY OF MANN for the "Round The Island" cruise in June 2000. Since then she spent three months on charter to Acor Line in the Canaries before returning to take up sailings on the Liverpool to Douglas route - her traditional "steaming ground".
I arrived promptly at Princes Landing Stage, whilst driving down the bridge to the stage I could just see the LADY's lights approaching up the river. After checking in I joined the queue ready for boarding. I had considered venturing off to the PONTUS which is being used for a motorist's lounge but in the end couldn't be bothered moving. The LADY OF MANN came alongside on time and according to my count discharged 30 vehicles.
Boarding commenced around 18:25 with large vans being directed down below to the main vehicle deck whilst cars were placed on the upper vehicle deck.
I wandered up to the main passenger deck and then on up to the cabin area to find the new Blue Riband Lounge. Well its a cabin actually, opening the door and spotting someone's feet which suggested they had already laid out on one of the beds resulted in a retreat. Anyway, it was obvious that loadings were going to be light and there would be plenty of room. I understand that cabin 1 and 3 will be knocked together on refit to create a larger "lounge" Even doing that suggests that it will be crowded with more than three or four people. There is adequate space on board to make use of other areas of the ship for the Blue Riband facility or perhaps even knocking all the cabins together to create one large lounge.
Back down on the main deck I wandered off to the Promenade Café as it was now time for my favourite LADY OF MANN meal of chicken, chips and peas. Though I must admit to being tempted by the sight of the puff pastry on the steak pies and the smell of the curry. The thing about the Lady is that she smells right. Modern vessels are virtually odourless, but wander round the Lady and you will get all the usual smells associated with the sea - fuel oil, cooking food etc.
Departure was around a minute late at 19:01 with the LADY OF MANN under the command of Captain O'Toole, there were just 97 passengers on board.
Shortly after moving off I wandered outside. It was very cold and crisp. A smart run down river saw the LADY passing New Brighton at 19:15. Formby light float was passed at around 19:50 and two minutes later Mersey Radio was advised that we had cleared the channel at Q2 .
A few minutes later a brightly lit and somewhat unfamiliar shaped passenger ship could be seen approaching from the west, it soon became apparent that this was P&O's new EUROPEAN AMBASSADOR - somewhat off schedule I think. Given the fact that she is due to depart from Liverpool at 22:00 passing the Bar in bound at 20:00 would suggest her outbound journey to Dublin would be behind schedule!
As the Lancashire coast fell away a rusty glow could be seen above Southport, perhaps at first mistaken for the glow of the street lights it was of course the moon rise. The moon appeared a glowing rusty red and then disappeared behind some cloud which appeared to be over the coast. Elsewhere the sky was crystal clear and visibility was excellent. The stars twinkled and the navigation lights of various aircraft crossed the sky in various directions.
It was pleasantly warm on the vehicle ramp standing by the warm air vents, though wandering more than a few feet away from this welcome source of hot air soon reminded one of just how cold it was! The LADY appeared to be running really smoothly. Apart from the gentle rumble from the engines below the only other noise to be heard was the hissing of the foam as the LADY OF MANN cut her way through the sea with a south easterly force 5 behind her.
We soon passed the highly illuminated Off Shore Installation and then sometime after 21:00 the moon finally made it from behind the cloud further illuminating the sea. I wandered inside for a while and went down to the bar, which despite the low passenger numbers appeared to be doing reasonable business with punters gathered around the casino table.
I obtained a glass or should I say plastic of beer and retreated to the open decks. Wandering around the LADY OF MANN it was obvious that she is generally still in good condition internally. Though it appears that in places, particularly on the stairs the floor coverings could do with replacing having appeared to suffered from salt water penetration. The LADY'S toilets are getting in need of some attention. I noted that two cubicles in the Gents were marked "out of order" and appeared blocked. They certainly need putting back into the condition they were in during her period of operation on the Liverpool - Dublin route in 1997. It does appear her paintwork has been receiving attention in quite a few places which generally means she is looking quite smart if one allows for a few rust streaks on her exterior. She also appears to have retained he emergency notices in Portugese which give instructions for "ABANDONO DO NAVIO".
By 22:30 the lights of Douglas were becoming prominent, as the LADY OF MANN swung to port to make her final approach one became aware of the SW wind. No longer behind, but now almost broadsides, she rolled noticeably as she made what appeared to be a quick entrance into the harbour. Within minutes she had turned and we were secure alongside Victoria Pier #2 berth on time at 23:00. At #1 berth was SEACAT ISLE OF MAN which had arrived earlier in the week from Belfast after covering for SEACAT SCOTLAND on the Belfast - Troon service.
I wandered down onto the upper car deck and getting in the car anticipated a fairly quick disembarkation as the ramp was put on and other vehicles on the deck moved forward for disembarkation. However, as my vehicle was at the back I was blocked by cars in front and as luck would have it the car in front of me was prevented from moving off by the antics of two women who proceeded to load a large push chair of the tricycle type favoured by joggers into the back of a small car. That in itself didn't cause the hold-up but the fact that they left both of the car doors wide open, and given the position of their car, prevented the vehicle in front of me from moving.
Needless to say, with no more traffic coming off the upper deck the crew brought up the large vans from down below which by the time they had maneuvered in the close confines of the Lady meant that I was the last vehicle off some 20 minutes after arrival! At least the hotel were I stay is only a short drive along the promenade.
LADY OF MANN
13:45 Douglas to Liverpool January 14, 2001
My return from the Isle of Man was to be on the 13:45 departure from Douglas. In the harbour at the Edward Pier was BEN-MY-CHREE - there being no day time sailings on Saturdays and Sundays during January on the Douglas - Heysham route. SEACAT ISLE OF MAN remained at Victoria Pier #1 berth. The LADY OF MANN being astern of SCIOM at #2.
I was about the fourth vehicle to join the line. I wandered into the Sea Terminal, and found that the ferry travel shop was still not open, apparently on Sundays at this time of year it opens just one hour before departures.
Check-in commenced around 12:50 with vehicles drawn forward onto the pier. However, the crew were only removing the crew gangway at this stage and it was a few minutes before the vehicle ramp was in place and vehicles were able to board. On the return sailing most of the vehicles were directed down onto the lower deck.
Ropes were let go a minute or so early and in brilliant sunshine the LADY OF MANN had soon backed off the berth and swung her bows to face out into Douglas Bay. The LADY OF MANN accelerated away from the Harbour into a 15 knot south easterly breeze once again with Captain O'Toole in command and this time with 91 passengers on board. Most of whom appeared to be travelling with vehicles.
As with the outward sailing it was cold. But being daylight it was vary pleasant and quite a few passengers appeared to out on deck at various times, though no-one found their way down to the rear car ramp.
There was little of note to observe on the return sailing, however, it was very pleasant to watch the sun melt into the Irish Sea at sunset. The OSI was passed at 16:05. Approaching the Bar it was becoming noticeably more hazy. The LADY overtook a coaster which was someway off that had a noticeable barge style bow, however, it was too far away to not the name. Some miles to the west the outline of a large bulker which appeared to be carrying a number of cargo cranes on deck could be discerned. Later in the week I noted this vessel - the JOHN L loading scrap at Canada #2 Branch Dock.
The Liverpool Bar light float was passed at 15:40 and Q1 at 16:50, with it almost dark I ventured inside for a warm up and a bowl of soup. All too soon the Seaforth Radar tower was passed and the LADY OF MANN decreased her speed as we passed a small outward bound cargo vessel. The LADY was alongside Prince's Landing Stage around 5 minutes behind schedule at 17:50.
All in all a very satisfying weekend trip to the Isle of Man. It is pleasing to see the reinstatement of the afternoon departure from Douglas to Liverpool, on Sundays. This makes a weekend break to the Isle of Man from Merseyside much more convenient than it was up to the beginning of January when the Douglas to Liverpool sailing departed at 07:00 a which was far too early for a Sunday sailing.