This proved to be a somewhat longer day trip than planned due to adverse visibility on the return sailing to Heysham. Nevertheless it proved to be an interesting day with the added value of being fog bound for a while.
Unfortunately for this enthusiast the delay did not prove to be as long as the previous incidence of fog encountered by the ship earlier this year in which a group of passengers spent almost 23 hours on board. Though most ordinary passengers may not be too happy about delays, such incidences do provide added value for ship enthusiasts.
SEACAT ISLE OF MAN arrived at Liverpool on schedule at 09:30 bringing in a large number of vehicles and passengers, many of whom would no doubt be making their way to Aintree for the Grand National. Boarding commenced after 10:00.
SEACAT ISLE OF MAN departed Liverpool just before 10:30 with 168 passengers and 49 vehicles under the command of Captain Moore.
Whilst weather conditions were good visibility on the Mersey was somewhat hazy.
Svitzer tugs ASHGARTH, OAKGARTH and YEWGARTH were making their way back to Langton Lock, presumably after assisting a large tanker off Tranmere Stage which was noted coming up astern.
The Rock was passed at 10:44 and Crosby light float at 10:52. At the same time passing and outward bound speed boat.
Formby light float was passed at 11:01 and Q1 a couple of minutes later. Visibility remained hazy out into Liverpool Bay. Several ships including what looked like an Everard's tanker were at the Bar Anchorage.
The OSI was passed at 11:29. As we moved further away from land visibility appeared to improve somewhat especially skywards. Two large passenger jets could be seen heading in a north westerly direction in a very clear sky though haze remained at sea level.
The sea-level visibility deteriorated again as the island grew closer.
Arrival at Douglas occurred somewhat suddenly. Only the electronic chart displays being shown on the cabin monitors revealed our proximity to the Island as Mannan's Cloak was hiding the land.
Douglas Harbour appeared to be excluded from much of the mist enveloping the remainder of the bay. This isn't the first time I have seen this strange phenomena, which leaves the harbour clear but much of the rest of Douglas hidden.
On the lighthouse pier was Everard's Tanker AUTHENTICITY which was discharging its cargo at the oil / gas terminal.
SEACAT ISLE OF MAN was fast alongside at 13:00 on schedule.
I spent a pleasant afternoon on the island. Down at the Calf Sound Norse Merchant Ferries "Vikings" passed each other mid afternoon.
Around 16:00 I drove up to Peel, where again visibility remained fairly good. Visibility remained good as I headed north to Ramsey. Here the two Mezeron line ships AULDYN RIVER and SILVER RIVER were alongside the quay.
I decided to return to Douglas along the coast road. As I headed south thick coastal fog was noted filling all the bays and inlets south of Maughold Head. Back at Douglas there was patchy fog, with the sun poking through as I drove back along the promenade.
I checked in for the 20:00 sailing around 19:00. Boarding of vehicles commenced at around 19:30 once the weekly emergency drill had been conducted.
Shortly before departure the small Royal Navy Reserve patrol vessel HMS BITER [P270] arrived and berthed at the Victoria Pier.
The BEN-MY-CHREE departed at 19:58 with 65 passengers under the command of Captain Cowin. In Douglas Bay we passed an inward bound fishing vessel.
Around 20:13 we ran into a bank of fog. For a while we passed in and out of the fog. But it progressively became thicker, though for some time the stars remained visible. I had been lucky on the return trip as there were no other passengers in the Blue Riband lounge and was therefore able to ask that the lights be left off and the blinds up.
As we approached the Lunce Channel Marine Bank transmissions revealed that there was concern about visibility on the approach to Heysham. The BEN-MY-CHREE calling up the RIVERDANCE to discuss the visibility. Our speed which had averaged 18.2 knots for most of the voyage had now been reduced.
When Heysham #6 buoy had been reached the BEN-MY-CHREE came to a halt around 23:30. She then swung and proceeded back out to the proximity of #2 buoy. At 23:40 the Captain advised passengers that he considered it unsafe to attempt an approach to Heysham in poor visibility whilst the tide was running and we would have to wait until slack water around 02:00.
The port anchor was released at 11:55 amidst a cloud of rust dust emitting from the fo'csle chain locker as a considerable amount of chain paid out.
I decided to have a bit of a snooze around 00:45. I awoke just over an hour later to heark a clunking sound as the deck crew had commenced weighing anchor. It took around 10 minutes haul up all the chain.
The BEN-MY-CHREE then headed back to Heysham, passing between the pier heads at 02:27. Swinging round she was on the berth at 02:40 some 25 minutes after she should have on her return voyage back to Douglas. Quite a large number of vehicles were assembled in the vehicle marshalling area, quite a few probably returning from the races at Aintree.
All in all an interesting return trip on the BEN, though there was one slightly disappointed passenger on board who had been hoping that the ship might have broken her previous record for being fog bound off Heysham!