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SeaCat Isle of Man - Around the Triangle

August 11, 2002

Back in the early 1980s there was less than satisfactory Ferry Drama series known as "Triangle" on BBC TV. I can't say I paid much attention to this series apart from noting that it featured DFDS ships on the North Sea. Therefore I cannot why the series was named Triangle, but I presume the ships sailed for a company which operated between three ports. 

Moving forward to 1998, before the demise of Duty Free, it was widely rumoured that Sea Containers were considering the introduction of a triangular service operating Liverpool - Dublin - Douglas - Liverpool and vice versa. It was suggested that SUPERSEACAT TWO would operate around the triangle one way whilst the then still to be delivered SUPERSEACAT THREE would operate around the triangle the other way.

Needless to say the triangular service didn't materialise. There were probably several reasons for this - the demise of "Duty Free" in the first half of 1999 and the fact that it was doubtful that there would be sufficient passenger numbers to support a daily Douglas to Dublin service. There may also have been the prospect of "time ashore" day trips to Douglas being sacrificed at the expense of providing time ashore day trips to Dublin. Whether that would have please the IOM authorities is another matter.

When the 2002 Sea Containers Irish Sea Timetables it was discovered that a triangular weekend service was planned using SEACAT ISLE OF MAN.

This ship being scheduled to operate a Douglas - Liverpool - Dublin - Douglas sailing on Saturdays during the peak summer period and to operate a Douglas - Dublin -  Liverpool - Douglas sailing. Both these triangles being operated after the completion of SEACAT ISLE OF MAN's daily morning Douglas to Liverpool return sailing.

One can immediately see the logic of this schedule. A later return from Dublin to Liverpool on Sundays may prove appealing to returning holidaymakers staying in Ireland, allowing them to enjoy more of their last day on holiday it would also  make longer weekend breaks to possible in  Dublin for those travelling to Liverpool. Manx residents would also benefit as a late evening sailing from Liverpool at the end of the weekend would allow a longer stay in the UK but still get them home by the early hours of Monday morning.

A few weeks ago I took a day trip to Dublin on Sunday July 21, travelling out on SUPERSEACAT THREE and returning on SEACAT ISLE OF MAN. Whilst the outward leg of the journey on SSC3 was well loaded, the return sailing on SEACAT ISLE OF MAN was lightly loaded with only 114 passengers. 

Observations of the Saturday afternoon departure from Liverpool to Dublin also revealed that carryings in the early summer peak were also poorly loaded with some Saturday departures having loadings in only two figures! One must admit this is rather strange as one would think a later departure opportunity from Liverpool would prove attractive for passengers who had a long journey to make to Liverpool.

Anyway I decided that it would make an interesting day out to sail the Irish Sea triangle just in case the facility wasn't repeated next year. However, it was pleasing to note that when I did undertake the trip, loadings on the Dublin to Liverpool sector had improved significantly. However, I am sure more could have been done to boost carryings on this triangular service and on the Dublin - Liverpool sector. 


SEACAT ISLE OF MAN departed from Liverpool at 10:32 under the command of Captain Kelly. The tanker  STOLT TERN was passed inward bound in the channel. Otherwise there was nothing of note out to Q1 which was passed at 11:05 and Liverpool Bar at 11:09.

Five ships were noted at the Liverpool Bar anchorage.

An uneventful run to Douglas followed with an arrival time of 13:02 ropes on. Exactly 2.5 hours after leaving Liverpool. However, the two minutes behind schedule had not been caught up.

After disembarking I made my way into the terminal to check in for the second side of the triangle from Douglas to Dublin. Though I have sailed Douglas to Dublin on a number of occasions - it has always been by BEN-MY-CHREE during the Christmas period. This was my first sailing on this route on SEACAT ISLE OF MAN and my first time on this route in summer. 


There were quite a few passengers waiting for this sailing as I joined the check-in queue. However, boarding commenced promptly and the passenger gangway was withdrawn by 13:48.

Ropes were off at 13:54 with 245 passengers on board. As we departed Captain Duggan advised passengers to remain seated for a while as the wind speed was expected to reach force 6 during the first part of the crossing and some motion was expected. As it transpired there wasn't really any significant motion or not what I would call significant - perhaps other passengers might disagree!

Lankness passed by at 14:14 and we were abeam of Chicken Rock lighthouse at 14:25. Despite the somewhat murky skies the Irish coast was visible, with the entrance to Carlingford Lough clearly defined. I don't know what it is about the Douglas to Dublin crossing, though longer time wise than Douglas - Liverpool it always appears shorter perception wise! The first officer's voyage report notified a speed of 33 knots.

At this stage a woman from first class  came running into the Blue Riband lounge, and proceeded be sea sick. Why she had chosen the Blue Riband lounge to be the sick room I don't know, she remained there for a while and then retreated back to her seat.

Kish light was passed at 16:10 and the Baily at 16:15 a couple of minutes later HSS STENA EXPLORER could be seen heading east bound for Holyhead.

On the run up the channel to Dublin the large suction dredger WS MEDWAY II  was over taken to starboard near North Bank Lighthouse.

In Alexandra basin could be seen the bulk of the large passenger cruise ship CRYSTAL SYMPHONY. 

BRAVE MERCHANT and VARBOLA were berthed in the Norse Irish Ferries terminal.

SEACAT ISLE OF MAN headed into berth 51a bow on with ropes on at 16:44. Buses were waiting to convey passengers to the terminal building.

Vehicles were off-loaded first. Once this had been done passengers were discharged to the buses which had been drawn up on the linkspan for the run round to the terminal.

Interestingly there were no Gardaí at the immigration control so I guess they are not concerned about illegal immigrants coming in via the Isle of Man!


Once in the terminal it was time to check in for the final part of the triangle - the 17:45 sailing to Liverpool. It had been hoped that we might have been back on board before the CRYSTAL SYMPHONY sailed, but unfortunately the CRYSTAL SYMPHONY departed as we were on to the boarding bus! JONATHAN SWIFT arrived on her sailing from Holyhead.

By the time the bus had driven round to berth 51a there was a good load of cars. Unfortunately the bus appeared to have a fair load of loudmouthed types on board who had, just going from the smell, consumed quite a bit of alcohol. 

At first it looked as though foot passengers would be kept on the bus until all the cars had boarded, but fortunately, the flow of vehicles were stopped to allow us to escape the bus and the drunks.

Whilst waiting for departure a most interesting vessel passed inbound - CONDOCK V - this ship has an initial look of Norse Irish Ferries SAGA MOON, and like that vessel shares a Gibraltar registry. However, though she appears to be a ro/ro vessel she is in fact a cellular container/ barge carrier. 

Departure was three minutes early at 17:45 with 262 passengers. A noticeable improvement on the numbers I noted travelling on this sailing three weeks earlier. Poolbeg light passed by at 17:55. SEACAT ISLE OF MAN passed JONATHAN SWIFT which was still loading at berth 49 for her 18:00 sailing to Holyhead.

Running out into Dublin Bay the sun was breaking through the murk providing some interesting lighting by which to illuminate STENA FORWARDER passed at 18:01 and ULYSSES passed at 18:10 inbound from Holyhead.

Also passed in the bay was dredger WD MEDWAY II which, by now sitting much higher in the water had presumably discharged her previous load in the spoil ground.

As we left Dublin JONATHAN SWIFT followed us out of the Liffey on her 18:00 sailing to Holyhead.

The next vessel of note was the chemical tanker STELLA RIGEL passing west bound at 19:24, another unidentified tanker could also be seen.

At 20:04 Lynas was passed and Great Orme's Head at 20:25. Douglas platform was passed to starboard at 20:55 and SEACAT ISLE OF MAN passed the Liverpool Bat inbound at 21:06. At the bar an unidentified Stolt tanker an MSC Containership and another freighter could be seen at anchor.

21:10 Q1 passed. In the channel an outbound Coastal Container lines ship whose name I failed to record passed outbound. Speed was reduced at C23 at 21:28. LAGAN VIKING passed outbound near Seacombe at 21:38 bound for Belfast.

Ropes were on at Liverpool at 21:47

All in all a very pleasant day had been had. Around 300 miles of sea travel for under £40 - quite a bargain. Its a pity more effort wasn't made to promote this triangular Sunday sailing from both Liverpool and Douglas as an "Irish Sea Circular Tour"



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