As a rule I generally don't undertake lengthy trips on a Sunday when Monday is a working day. However, I felt I had to make an exception to this personal rule on Sunday May 11.
This was despite the fact that there was the added attraction of the Ocean Liner Society Ship Show at the Crowne Plaza Hotel next to the Sea Terminal.
The reason was that SUPERSEACAT TWO had an unusual voyage scheduled.
Due to heavy loadings in connection with a Car Rally on the Isle of Man SEACAT ISLE OF MAN had been rescheduled to provide an afternoon round trip Douglas to Heysham rather than operate Douglas to Dublin.
As a consequence Exploration of the Sea Containers on line booking facility revealed that it was possible to book a round trip for just £30. Only £10 per sector.
With the opportunity to cover over 300 miles at sea, the attraction of the ship show waned. There was no real choice to make. If one likes sailing and an unusual voyage is in the offing, a show can't really compete in my book. Besides from what I gathered afterwards from some people who attended this show, they departed somewhat the poorer in the wallet department!
As far as I am aware this was SUPERSEACAT TWO's first Irish Sea triangular sailing. Back in 1999, it had been anticipated that SSC2 and SSC3 would sail round the triangle in opposite directions during the peak season but with the ending of duty free this did not come to pass.
A triangular service finally appeared in 2003 when SEACAT ISLE OF MAN commenced sailing the triangular route at weekends in the peak months. Clockwise from Douglas on Saturdays and anti clockwise on Sunday. This weekend service is to be repeated again in 2003.
I arrived at the Sea Terminal fairly early, to ensure a parking space. However, the car park was much less busy than the previous bank holiday weekend and such an early arrival was probably a waste of sleeping time!
SUPERSEACAT TWO's Departure from Liverpool was slightly early at 08:13 with 221 passengers and 70 vehicles.
Shortly before boarding a unidentified topsail schooner had berthed at the Mersey Ferries Landing Stage. It later transpired to be the former Baltic trader JULIA - a very early arrival for the Mersey River Festival to be held in a month's time.
As passengers commenced boarding SUPERSEACAT TWO, MERSEY VIKING berthed at Twelve Quays north. LINDAROSA was already on the south berth.
On the outward run down Queens and Crosby Channel there was nothing to note other than the passing time at the Rock was 08:30.
Over in Seaforth there were three large container ships: ATLANTIC CONCERT, CAST POWER and MSC GHANA
The Liverpool Bar light was passed at 08:55 with SSC2 advising Mersey Radio of its later than usual return time of 18:15 at the Bar.
Someway south of the Bar anchorage was a large floating platform with tug standing off. This is apparently working on the North Hoyle Wind Farm Project.
Passing inbound was the low air draught tanker KANE RIVER, followed by a coaster. SEACAT ISLE OF MAN could be seen heading inbound from the north west, whilst one of the Douglas Platform support ships could be seen heading inbound.
Skerries were noted to port at around 10:10. The first officer advising passengers that our speed was around 35 knots. A smooth run followed across St George's Channel. At 11:14 SSC3 was 30 minutes running time to the Baily. With prevailing clear conditions Lambay Island was visible to north west.
Kish light was passed at 11:35. The HSS was visible heading east bound for Holyhead on its late morning sailing from Dún Laoghaire. SUPERSEACAT TWO passed the Baily at 11:40. Poolbeg was passed at 11:58. JONATHAN SWIFT could be seen ahead on berth 49.
Two tankers were visible upstream on the tanker berths at Dublin Port. UNION DIAMOND was on the South Wall along with COASTAL BREEZE. At the Norse Merchant terminals were NORSE MERSEY and RIVER LUNE.
JONATHAN SWIFT was already closed up and departed at 12:10. SUPERSEACAT TWO moved smartly onto the berth and ropes were on at 12:12.
After disembarking I proceeded round to check in. Here baggage was being separated, for Liverpool and Douglas.
Up in the departure lounge there was a large number of passengers as both Liverpool and Douglas passengers were waiting. Foot passenger boarding commenced at 12:50. Loading of vehicles had obviously been under way for some time with Liverpool vehicles being loaded first. There was a much larger than usual number of motorcycles.
SUPERSEACAT TWO departed Dublin ten minutes behind schedule at 13:25. The delay being due to the need to make the large number of motorcycles secure.
There were 541 passengers on board, 5 vans, 67 motorcycles and 59 cars. ETA at Douglas was notified to Dublin Port Radio as being 16:00 and 19:00 being notified for Liverpool.
Poolbeg was passed at 13:34. Unlike my previous journeys on the Dublin - Douglas route, SUPERSEACAT TWO did not immediately set a north easterly course once cleared Dublin Bay instead she maintained a Liverpool bound track for some time before gradually arcing round and setting a course towards Lankness. The usual approach to the Isle of Man in my experience is to head towards Chicken Rock off the Calf of Man and run up the coast.
At 15:30 MERSEY VIKING could be seen passing south of the Calf of Man bound for Belfast. At 15:40 SUPERSEACAT TWO was off Lankness. Ten minutes later we passed Port Soderick. At 16:02 SUPERSEACAT TWO was secure on Victoria Pier, Douglas. As SUPERSEACAT TWO ran up the Manx coast, quite a large number of passengers appeared on deck. Perhaps this diversion from the usual Liverpool - Dublin route might just tempt some to visit the Isle of Man, if they have not already done so?
Isle of Man passengers and vehicle drivers were called to disembark. Very clear and precise disembarkation instructions were given. No Liverpool passengers would have had an excuse for accidentally disembarking at Douglas!
The complete luggage train was disembarked at Douglas, to allow the vehicles to discharge. The Douglas luggage trailer was then detached and run round to the baggage carousel on the far side of the Sea Terminal.
The call at Douglas was to disembark only. SUPERSEACAT TWO was away at 16:22. Unusually on departing from the harbour SSC2 headed directly across the bay towards Onchan Head. Before gradually arcing round to set course for Liverpool.
Heading into a gusty southerly wind resulted in a spirited run south, with some spray coming up onto the open deck.
Despite the lively conditions good progress was obviously being made. Interestingly we had made a much more southerly rather than south easterly track from Douglas. SSC2 passing around 4 miles west of Liverpool Bay OSI. Usually Liverpool - Douglas sailings pass within a mile or so.
As SSC2 approached Liverpool Bar the floating platform noted in Liverpool Bay in the morning could be seen to have its jib elevated.
At the Bar anchorage was the large two funnelled tanker NAVION OCEANA. The Liverpool Bar was passed at 18:03
In the channel the low air draught tanker KANE RIVER was seen again she was heading in bound near Crosby bend and must have spent some time at the Bar anchorage, since first seen in the morning.
Close to The Rock DANICA RAINBOW and DANIA KIRSTEN were over taken. On the final approach to the stage The Walk the Plant Theatre Company's theatre ship FITZCARRALDO, a former Norwegian ferry, passed outbound on the port side.
SUPERSEACAT TWO gave a wide swing which enabled a good view to be had of the top sail schooner JULIA which had arrived in the morning. Ropes were on at Prince's Stage at 18:45.
It had been a very interesting and value for money day out in terms of sea miles travelled. One wonders if such triangular SUPERSEACAT Liverpool - Dublin- Douglas - Liverpool sailings may become a feature of future schedules?
Admittedly if passengers were going to be picked up at Douglas, a longer turn round time would be required, perhaps 30 to 40 minutes, but overall if a six hour transit time Liverpool - Dublin via Douglas could be achieved it would provide for a much greater vessel utilization and enable an alternate day service to be operated to be operated on the Dublin - Douglas sector.