I reached the Sea Terminal at around 05:45 and number of people had already gathered. I found Dave looking a bit tired. The LADY OF MANN had been delayed at Dublin due to the late running of the JONATHAN SWIFT caused by the adverse conditions earlier in the day. He confirmed that he had only been able to get into the Sea Terminal only a few minutes before I had arrived.
Boarding for the Liverpool sailing commenced around 06:30. Though it was obvious that heavy luggage was not being checked in as usual. Everything including cases having to go through the X-Ray machines or be checked. This is the first time I have noted this to happen and presume that it was due to heightened security measures over the holiday period.
There was quite a large number of people travelling. There also appeared to be some noisy revellers on their way back to Liverpool after a night on the town in Douglas. They appeared to keep a low profile on the ship, or at least I didn't hear them until passing the radar tower at Seaforth.
The LADY was already quite full when I boarded. I didn't see Dave Oates after boarding. It transpired that he found himself somewhere comfortable and slept all the way back to Liverpool!
Given the large number of passengers on board the LADY upgrades to First Class were proving popular, though the crew are no longer permitting upgrades to Blue Riband lounge unless the person upgrading is accompanying a member which certainly appears to be a good ruling if the rest of the ship is busy and you are a member! Quite a few passengers appeared to be resorting to the floors or stairs to provide seating.
Departure from Douglas was a few minutes late at 07:07. Captain O'Toole blaming some late coming passengers. Presumably their lateness could have had something to do with the security checks?! I often wonder why outbound passengers are not sent through security and queued in the covered way on Victoria Pier. Surely it would speed up the loading process and avoid the bottleneck? There were 566 passengers on the sailing.
After having a few coffees I ventured up onto deck 6 as the dawn was breaking. Aft was the Isle of Man some 18 miles or so away. To the east the silhouette of the Cumbrian Fells. To the south the Mountains could be seen. The sun rise was perfect and magical, not being spoiled as is often the case by errant clouds.
I spent a good time on deck before returning to the Blue Riband Lounge where I found the bench seat on which I had been sitting occupied by someone sprawled out! I sat in one of the armchairs for a few minutes until the stewardess in charge of the lounge realised that the sprawler was a gate-crasher and ejected him! Time for a bacon bap! The Off Shore Installation in Liverpool Bay was passed at 09:30 and at 09:40 the LADY OF MANN advised Mersey Radio that she was 30 minutes from the Liverpool Bar.
Around 10:10 we were in the channel and had passed Formby light float at 10:22 and Crosby at 10:39. As we approached C22 the noisy revellers apparent at Douglas could be heard again, presumably awoken from their numbers. I was standing on the rear car deck at this time. They were on the boat deck. There was a splash and one of their number shouted "Bin Laden" and one of the LADY's black plastic rubbish bins could be seen being left behind in her wake. A couple of drinks bottles followed. Obviously the revellers were not aware of the regulations concerning the disposal of garbage into the sea. It was also noted on this trip both outbound and inbound that the LADY OF MANN now reduced speed up stream of C22 as do the fast craft.
Seaforth Container Terminal appeared quite busy with MSC ARIANE operating the new Mediterranean Shipping Company container service in the company of Ellerman's CITY OF GLASGOW and ACL's ATLANTIC COMPANION.
At Langton Lock, Norse Merchant Ferries LAGAN VIKING was being assisted out of the lock and turned by Adsteam's tug CANADA. This vessel is due to proceed to A&P Falmouth for refit on December 24 and this was almost certainly her last service departure from Liverpool in the colours of her former owners Norse Irish Ferries.
Sneaking out of Langton Lock after LAGAN VIKING was that delightful little vintage vessel SAFE HAND in the company of the dumb barge HEN. Owned by Logantor Ltd which trades as Mersey Tanker Lighterage the vessel is one of a small fleet of smartly turned out historic working freight vessels managed by the Frodsham Lighterage Company.
The LADY OF MANN was on Princes Stage at 11:12. Disembarking took some time due to the numbers of passengers involved. This was the first time I have disembarked at Liverpool from a fairly full ship since the security gating was erected across Princes Parade. This gating now prevents a direct exit from the terminal area by those passengers without luggage to reclaim. Though in place for some months I have generally tended to arrive back in Liverpool on fairly lightly loaded sailings.
With the large numbers travelling on the LADY today there was consequently a bottleneck created as those passengers waiting to claim cases off the carousel prevented obstructed those passengers without luggage who wished to leave the terminal which resulted in some pushing and shoving which is not a good idea. This arrangement really needs looking at and must prove awkward for families with small children and rather frightening for youngsters too.
Why a separate exit for those without luggage can't be arranged especially at busy times is beyond me. Presumably such an arrangement would not compromise port security?