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Lady of Mann

December 21 / 22, 2001

Photographs © John Luxton 2001

December 21, 2001

10:30 Liverpool - Douglas

This timetables for the Isle of Man routes over the Christmas period 2001 have proved quite attractive for the enthusiast. When I first looked the timings for December 21/ 22 I concluded that a Liverpool - Douglas - Dublin - Douglas - Liverpool trip was a possibility. Unfortunately the fact that the Lady was due to arrive back at Douglas from Dublin at the unearthly hour of 03:00 and not depart back to Liverpool until 07:00 put me off the idea of undertaking all four sectors. It was obvious that the Department of Transport  would not want anyone hanging round the Douglas Sea Terminal during the early hours, and the prospect of spending about three hours on a cold promenade shelter did not appeal.

Consequently I decided to make it just a Liverpool - Douglas and return trip spending the night in Douglas. It presented itself as the first opportunity that I had to travel on the LADY OF MANN since her refit.

I arrived down at the Liverpool Sea Terminal around 09:00, well in advance of the 10:30 departure time. The obviously someone was warming up her engines as a plume of smoke drifted from her funnel across the Pier Head piazza. It was good to be going on board the old girl for the first time in 49 weeks.

Boarding commenced at around 09:35. On boarding there isnít much of a change at first but once you reach the steps leading up to deck 5 there is now nice red carpet where there had once been rather tired looking linoleum. I made my way into the new Blue Riband Lounge, which is on the port side of the former smoking lounge. The starboard side is the new first class lounge.

With the protective plates down over her forward windows light in the Blur Riband lounge is confined to that entering from the few windows on the port side. It is, however, very tastefully fitted out with a mixture of both high back seating, low backed bench seating and moveable chairs. The bench seating and chairs being grouped around low circular tables. Perhaps a bit too low to comfortably eat a meal off something a little higher such as those provided in the Blue Riband Lounge on the BEN-MY-CHREE might have been better.

Departure from Liverpool was a couple of minutes behind schedule at 10:32 with 251 passengers and 44 crew. There was a strong north-westerly wind blowing and it was obvious that things could get a bit bouncy. By departure time I had decided to venture to my usual position on the stern ramps. Once out there I bumped into a fellow enthusiast - Dave Oates who was doing the full Liverpool - Dublin - Liverpool trip - brave fellow! He did not appear daunted at the prospect of a lengthy stint on Douglas promenade when most people were tucked up in bed!

As the LADY OF MANN ran down Crosby Channel the container vessel COASTAL ISLE passed in bound, in the vicinity of Crosby the larger container vessel CITY OF GLASGOW passed in bound. Q1 was passed at 10:30.

Once out in Liverpool Bay things became quite lively, with spray coming right over the top of the LADY as she pitched into the troughs. This was going to be very much a pitching rather than rolling trip was we ran directly into a head sea. After getting rather damp due to spray coming right over the top of the LADY I ventured inside down to the Blue Riband lounge. The main saloons had gone rather quiet as is usual on rough trips! 

With the Blue Riband lounge being at the front of the vessel there was much banging as the LADY punched her way through the waves in her inimitable style. Certain fast craft may claim to be wave piercing but the LADY OF MANN really deserves the title! Some of the other occupants of the lounge departed for periods of time with their "snack bags" looking a bit the worse for wear. At around 14:00 after reading much of the latest edition of Sea Breezes that had arrived that morning I ventured out again onto the stern. It was fairly obvious that we had not been making that much headway and a 14:30 arrival at Douglas wasnít going happen. Around this time the  heavy cloud broke on the eastern horizon to reveal very clearly the Lake District fells around 14:45. Douglas still appeared a good way off. The LADY OF MANN eventually came into Douglas harbour at around 15:25 and was secure on #2 berth at 15:29 almost one hour late. As the ship came into the lee of the island the sea conditions improved considerably. 

I wandered along Strand Street doing a spot of shopping and on to the Sefton Hotel where I had arranged to stay. On arrival at the hotel I was rather pleased to discover that though I had booked one of the "basic" rooms I had been allocated one of the rather nice large sea facing rooms complete with arm chairs on raised floor overlooking the bay! These normally cost more.

From there I was able to observe the LADY OF MANN loading for Dublin, the long stream of taillights along the Victoria Pier indicated a good load of vehicles.

The LADY OF MANN finally got away a few minutes behind schedule at 17:12 with a healthy load of 308 passengers and 100 cars on her 17:00 sailing to Dublin.

I wandered back down to the harbour to watch the BEN-MY-CHREE arrive from Heysham around 17:55 before retreating to Spaghetti Junction inside the Sea Terminal for dinner. [Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys Italian food at reasonable prices!]

After dinner I walked back along the promenade which was just starting to liven up with revellers. Once back at the Sefton I positioned myself back in the bay window and started writing some of this week end's site update on the antique laptop which I have acquired.

The BEN-MY-CHREE's  19:45 departure for Heysham was delayed a little and she did not get away until around 20:05 advising of a 23:40 arrival at Heysham. She had 239 passengers on board. At 20:40 as I complete writing this part of the voyage report her stern lights are visible on the horizon.

With an early morning call of 05:00 booked with reception I decided to get off to sleep early but was awoken before midnight by noisy revellers trying to get taxis outside the hotel. Looking out it appeared that quite a few taxis didn't want to stop and there was more shouting and then a dispute about sharing cabs. At this I decided that it was time to forget the sea air and shut the window. Despite the window being closed at around 02:00 I was woken again by the Taxi queue!

Off to sleep to awake again around 04:25. I sat up and peered out just to see if the LADY OF MANN had returned. Talk about coincidence there she was just slipping into the harbour nearly an hour and a half behind schedule. Obviously Dave would not have to spend quite so long out on the promenade! I then had a short snooze before the alarm call. The coincidence of waking a the moment the LADY returned was remarkable. I didn't realise I was so in tune with that ship! No she didn't sound her horn or at least not that I was aware of it.

December 22, 2001

07:00 Douglas to Liverpool

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? 



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