SEACAT ISLE OF MAN
I arrived at the terminal shortly after 09:00 and things were looking a quite busy in the departure lounge. I should really have asked to go down to the Blue Riband Lounge on the Pontus but didn't. By the time loading commenced there were people sitting on the floor. Boarding commenced shortly before 10:00.
Making a quick dash for the doors to get ahead of the crowd I ensured I was on board amongst the first handful of people. It was apparent from the few vehicles on the stage that the majority of those travelling were foot passengers, many in organised parties.
Engines were started at 10:20, the gangway was removed at 10:22 and SeaCat Isle of Man let go at 10:23
Captain Duggan welcomed everyone on board in Gaelic which is the first time I have noted this on Steam Packet sailings, though common on Manx Airlines and Irish Ferries. Its a nice touch and just makes things a bit different.
The captain advised a crossing time of 2 hours 45 minutes, however, the crossing time turned out to be 2 hours 22 minutes from ropes off to ropes on. One of the quickest crossings I have experienced recently on SCIOM.
The river was quiet with only ROYAL IRIS OF THE MERSEY running the ferry service and LAGAN VIKING running down in Langton Lock on her morning sailing to Belfast.
Interestingly the safety broadcast was done live over the PA, and then followed up by the usual recording.
C22 was passed at 10:40. There was no traffic in Crosby or Queen's Channel, SEACAT ISLE OF MAN clearing the channel at 10:57.
The only ship of note seen enroute to Douglas was the large tanker which I think was NORDIC TORINITA at the Liverpool Bay OSI. This vessel was in the company of Wijsmuller tug OAKGARTH.
At 11:40 the skipper resorted to Gaelic for mid journey update to advise 1 hour to run. Reported speed was 34 knots. A wander up to the bridge viewing area later revealed we were running at 36/7 knots probably aided by the tail wind.
Looking around SEACAT ISLE OF MAN it appears that quite a lot of paint has been splashed around during the refit. I used the word splashed deliberately! Much of the grey being over painted white, this has had the pleasing effect on making the vessel much brighter insider. However, looking around I would question the quality of the paining in places which has extended to over painting the previously unpainted aluminium window surrounds.
Another modification undertaken, which I am surprised was not performed much sooner from a health and safety consideration has been the removal of the chain and curtain from the top of the steps leading down into the Blue Riband area. A curtain is now fitted at the bottom of the steps.
On the mezzanine deck the starboard wing has been railed off to provide for a children's play area. The shop and servery areas have been tastefully redesigned and look much better than before. First Class has also been significantly improved. Last year it was difficult to appreciate what extra, apart from refreshments that passengers obtained as seating was a was the same as the surrounding areas, except for being separated by a screen. This year seating has been improved somewhat with seats facing tables, though unlike in Blue Riband seats remain three across. The separation rail has also been moved further forward to enlarge the area.
Arrival at Douglas was ahead of schedule with ropes on at 12:45
The return journey from Douglas was to be my first departure from the port on SSC3. Though I have travelled on the vessel many times in 1999 and 2000 I had never yet sailed the Douglas to Liverpool route on her.
SUPERSEACAT THREE arrived at Douglas at around 20:45 berthing at Edward Pier. She had departed from Liverpool at 18:23 with 319 passengers. She berthed at the Edward Pier as SEACAT ISLE OF MAN remained at the Victoria Pier linkspan due, I understand, to engineering work being carried out on board.
Discharge of passengers appeared rather slow as passengers made their circuitous way up the linkspan and along the covered walkway.
Whilst no one can fault the Douglas Sea Terminal building itself, the passenger access to Edward Pier is far from satisfactory.
The high-level walkway should have been extended along the pier and a moveable gangway installed to load the BEN-MY-CHREE at high level. This would have left the quayside free on to which a low level gangway that could have been installed to provide access to the fast craft.
The Isle of Man Department of Transport, whose responsibility the sea terminal, should address this problem. It does not lend itself to efficient loading and one often hears passengers grumbling. Some people behind me were heard to comment "We might as well walk to Liverpool!".
On boarding it was noted that the shop display cases had disappeared from the bar area since I was last on board just over two weeks ago. The empty spaces look as though they will be used for gaming machines. .
Departure from Douglas was at 21:37 with 184 passengers. The wind had picked up during the day and it was now quite breezy. As we came out of Douglas and swung south easterly there was quite a lot of rolling. This led to the outside deck being closed.
Considering the conditions one realises just how much more lively SSC3 is compared to RAPIDE and SEACAT ISLE OF MAN. For a few minutes it was necessary to hold on to things on the table to stop the cups and plates flying off. By 22:30 things had calmed down and the outside deck was reopened.
SSC 3 was abeam of the Douglas platform at 23:05. At 23:10 position reported to be 10 minutes from Liverpool Bar. Q1 was passed 23:25 and C22 at 23:43. As we ran up to the Landing Stage the lights of the ROYAL IRIS OF THE MERSEY could be seen at the south end of Seacombe Landing Stage.
Arrival at Liverpool was at 00:05 - five minutes behind schedule.