10:30 Liverpool to Dublin
With SUPERSEACAT THREE's 2003 season on the Irish Sea drawing to a close I decided it was time to take a final trip using the excellent value non-landing day trip fare of just £15.00 available on this route. One hopes that Sea Containers maintains the non-landing fare facility next season. The fare originated in duty free days, but following the demise of duty free which appeared to be gradually phased out. However, it made a welcome return in spring 2002 on a permanent basis for the season.
The weather forecast for Saturday suggested conditions would be marginal with southerly gales forecast blowing up the Irish Sea. On Friday I was beginning to wonder if the sailing would operate.
However, Saturday dawned much calmer than anticipated. I arrived at the Liverpool terminal early to ensure a space in the car park, however, it was obvious that the season was drawing to a close as there was much space available, combined with the fact that the car park has been extended into a compound which once existed between the SeaCo site and the Crown Plaza Hotel.
Departure from Liverpool was ten minutes ahead of schedule at 10:30 with 178 passengers on board. Captain Taha advised passengers that the second part of the voyage across St George's Channel would be rough and that they would attempt to make the crossing as smooth as possible.
Leaving the Mersey conditions were overcast but calm, with little sign of the interesting weather to be encountered later. No ships were to be seen as we ran down the channels. Rock was passed at 10:33 and Q2 at 10:57.
ETA back at the Liverpool Bar was notified to Mersey Radio at 18:45 weather permitting. Beyond the Bar a large laden tanker could be seen to the north. Also visible was a Stolt tanker which had passed the Landing Stage just before I boarded SSC3. To the north an unidentified red tanker was also noted outbound.
Weather conditions started to deteriorate and it began to rain. At 11:15 a small vessel with a two large crane's could be seen about a mile or two to the north.
Passing Skerries sea conditions deteriorated noticeably with spray coming across the bows as SSC pushed out into St George's Channel. As we crossed NORBAY was noted to the north heading eastbound for Liverpool, some minutes late MORSE MERSEY was noted heading eastbound, passing on the port side.
SUPERSEACAT THREE passed Poolbeg light at 13:45. She was assisted to her berth by Dublin Port tug CLUAIN TARBH with ropes on at 14:02 almost half an hour ahead of schedule.
Unfortunately at Dublin passenger terminal gangway had failed in rather damp conditions passengers disembarked via the stern ramp. Before I had been advised that a quick turn around would occur at Dublin to enable SUPERSEACAT THREE to get away before conditions deteriorated further.
It was interesting to note that Irish Ferries JONATHAN SWIFT had cancelled her mid day sailing from Dublin to Holyhead and back, being berthed upstream in Alexandra Basin.
15:30 Dublin to Liverpool
A smart turn around in Dublin then followed. Any passenger who didn't follow the usual guidelines of checking in one hour before departure would discover that had missed the boat!
Back on board I positioned myself on the outside deck to watch CLUAIN TARBH saunter across the Liffey from the South Wall. A line was attached and she gently pulled SSC3 off the berth at 14:42 - forty eight minutes ahead of schedule with 202 passengers. Once out in the channel the little tug let go and sauntered back up river.
Passengers were advised that for comfort and safety it would be wise to remain seated for the first part of the crossing. I decided that wedging oneself behind the seat under the deck shelter would provide for better observation of the interesting crossing that lay a head.
As we ran down the fairway quite a lot of white tops could be seen in the bay. A transmission to Dublin Port Radio revealed that permission had been obtained for SSC3 to go to full power at Poolbeg and we blasted out into the Irish Sea to meet the full force of the south easterly wind. In the vicinity of North Burford buoy we overtook a departing container ship EKE SUN[?} sorry forgot to write it down.
As the Bailey fell behind in the murk it appeared that we were making a more south easterly track, one which one would expect if crossing to Holyhead.
The stern of the HSS STENA EXPLORER could be seen disappearing in the direction of Dún Laoghaire. For those who enjoy rough trips the next couple of hours provided great pleasure as SSC3 rolled heavily, mainly to port though with the occasional wing the other way.
Though I have undertook a very rough crossing on SUPERSEACAT TWO in December 1998, this was the roughest trip I had taken to date on SUPERSEACAT THREE. From where I was standing I felt that the ship performed quite well in the prevailing conditions, though I imagine further forward there would be much more banging about. Quite a lot of spray periodically swept over the top of the vessel and on to the open deck. Once certainly couldn't have stood outside in such conditions on SUPERSEACAT TWO which lacks the deck shelter fitted to SSC3 and 4.
As we approached Holyhead it was clear that we had taken a much more southerly track passing close to the Skerries at 16:35. It was announced that we were three miles north of Holyhead. This run for the Anglesey coast had brought us into sheltered waters sooner than if we had taken the more usual Liverpool bound track.
From then on a smooth run back to Liverpool followed. As SSC3 approached Seaforth Radar Tower she slowed earlier than usual to pass a large cargo vessel the MARIA bound for Gladstone Lock and awaiting tugs.
SUPERSEACAT THREE was alongside around 18:35. Though there was some delay in getting the ship secure alongside as there appeared to be some problem one of the capstans and the starboard ramp through which is used by passengers at Liverpool. Consequently there was a delay in passenger disembarkation. However, our much earlier than schedule arrival at Liverpool, meant that this didn't cause any inconvenience.
All in all a very satisfactory conclusion to my 2002 sailings on SUPERSEACAT THREE. The vessel actually makes her final scheduled run on Monday, November 4.