would mean I wouldn't be first off!
Making my way up to the main deck I was interested to see what changes, if any, had taken place since my last trip on RAPIDE in November on the Liverpool - Dublin route.
In Blue Riband, changes had been minimal. Same hard seats, though the newspaper table had disappeared to be replaced by a soft looking couch. The nautical theme prints which have appeared in the lounges on the LADY OF MANN, SEACAT ISLE OF MAN and SUPERSEACAT THREE now adorn the walls.
Since my last trip quite a few of the Blue Riband Lounge roof panels appeared twisted and bent and one light fitting cover was missing. The carpet however appears to have been replaced. The steward was very attentive and promptly served up a complimentary hot scone with butter and jam with a cup of coffee.
The First Class area on the other side of the glass screen had been reactivated, but was not available for passenger use as Sea Co safety lecture was being held in there.
However, First Class only occupies part of the port side aft saloon. The seats along the windows are not First Class. The first class area is inboard away from the windows separated from the window seats by another glass screen.
New seats and tables have been fitted in the First Class area but as there are only windows to the aft of the saloon it does appear rather claustrophobic. Sea Co should realise it would be easier to sell upgrades if there was a decent view!
Further wandering round the vessel revealed that the Bar area had been rebranded Bar Blue. There have been no changes to the shop which appeared sparsely stocked. Isn't it about time Sea Containers commissioned some models of RAPIDE [and Lady of Mann!] to complement those available of the Ben-My-Chree, SuperSeaCat and SeaCat? A range of nautical inspired gifts and publications would also be welcome. There has always been some items of this nature available on the Isle of Man based vessels. Some years ago the KING ORRY boasted a large display of nautical gifts.
Departure from Heysham was early at 11.52. For some minutes prior to that the engines had been run up and quite a bit of smoke was floating in the air. On Number Two berth the MOONDANCE was discharging.
This sailing was only my second fast craft departure from Heysham. Being more used to travelling on slow moving conventional tonnage in the harbour area, the rapid acceleration of RAPIDE in the was quite noticeable in the confined area.
Another large black cloud erupted out of the stern. Moving rapidly round the woodwork BEN-MY-CHREE could be seen approaching along the channel. A large pall of black smoke from RAPIDE's exhaust hung over Heysham harbour. A good distance before we approached the BEN-MY-CHREE the engine speed slackened off.
The ships passed at 12:05. I went back into the Blue Riband Lounge as speed increased as we passed Heysham number 6 buoy. The captain came on the almost inaudible PA and I am sure he said something about the vessel running on reduced power and we would be behind schedule arriving at 16:30.
RAPIDE rounded Lune Buoy at 11:29 and swung north west heading towards Point of Ayre.
At 13:30 an unidentified Norse Merchant vessel, could be seen some miles to the east heading towards Heysham, followed by what looked to be a coaster.
At 13:35 a puff of smoke appeared to signal an increase in power.
RAPIDE was off Maughold Head around 14:05 and a swift run across Ramsey Bay followed. If ever Ramsey Pier is restored, one wonders as to the viability of using Ramsey as a foot passenger boarding point on Heysham - Belfast sailings. It would certainly enhance travel between the Isle of Man, Ireland and England.
Point of Ayre passed to port around 14:15. To the starboard aft quarter could be seen MERCHANT VENTURE bound for Heysham followed astern by EUROPEAN PIONEER bound for Fleetwood.
To the north east a large unidentified research / exploration ship could be seen at anchor. With a large helipad on the foredeck and a massive radome on the top of the mainmast it made an impressive, if somewhat ugly sight.
Ahead could be seen MERCHANT BRILLIANT on her Heysham - Belfast sailing. RAPIDE and MERCHANT BRILLIANT passing at 14:30. As we left the Isle of Man astern, "Mananan's Cloak" appeared to slowly enveloped the coast so that only the mountain tops were readily discernable.
Crammag Head Lighthouse on the Scottish Coast at was passed at 15:00.
15:34 HSS STENA VOYAGER visible starboard inbound from Stranraer, she was to drop in behind RAPIDE and follow her up Belfast Lough.
At 15:38 RAPIDE passed Mew Island Lighthouse and entered Belfast Lough.
15:44 SEACAT SCOTLAND could be seen some way off rounding Black Head on her mid afternoon sailing to Troon.
15:44 NORTHERN STAR could be seen departing from Larne on one of her occasional Larne to Dublin sailings whilst another unidentified P&O vessel could be seen heading in bound.
15:46 LPG Tanker HAMILTON passed heading outbound this was followed four minutes later by LOUGH FISHER.
Kosan Gas tanker STELLA KOSAN could be seen at anchor off Bangor.
15:54 low air draught coaster AJOS G passed outbound to be followed at