With the 81m Incat DIAMANT due to step down from her brief stint of Irish Sea service after her voyage to Dublin on Sunday March 23, I decided to take another trip on March 22. The previous week's trip had been interesting to say the least with passengers eventually being shipped off to Holyhead and brought back to Liverpool by coach following a berthing mishap on the rather late running sailing.
Unfortunately DIAMANT was tired when she arrived on the Irish Sea, after moving up from the English Channel. She hasn't yet been refitted and consequently has not been able to give her best. However, for the passenger this vessel in my opinion offers considerably more in terms of passenger accommodation than provided by the Fincantieri MDV1200 SuperSeaCats.
The internal accommodation is well laid out as it is far removed from rowed seating on the monohulls. The spacious central circulating area makes the vessel feel roomy even when it is well loaded.
Though the ship boasts less open deck space than her sister RAPIDE, that available is well placed and there are excellent views from within the vessel, particularly from the attractive upper bar area.
Things were looking promising when I arrived at the Liverpool Sea Terminal and was advised that this Saturday's delays were only amounting to 30 minutes a considerable improvement on last Saturday.
DIAMANT arrived at Prince's Landing Stage around 10:00 from Douglas. After a pretty speedy turn around, passengers were boarded and luggage was on board at 10:55.
Across the river at Twelve Quay two tugs were preparing to move Norse Merchant's LINDAROSA off the berth for her morning sailing to Dublin.
DIAMANT let go at 11:04 with 336 passengers. The captain advised passengers of fine weather in the Irish Sea. As we moved off the LINDAROSA was being swung in mid river. The previous week LINDAROSA had departed ahead of DIAMANT and had still managed to arrive in Dublin before DIAMANT.
Running past Langton two tugs were working with a freighter which I wasn't able to identify. DIAMANT passed the Rock at 11:21 and increased speed. At Seaforth Container Terminal ATLANTIC COMPANION and MSC SINTRA could be seen working containers.
There were two outbound vessels head of us in the. The first was HMS CHARGER . DIAMANT sounded a long blast on her whistle this being acknowledged by waves from CHARGER's crew. The DIAMANT's first officer announcing to passengers that we were passing HMS CHARGER which was outbound on manoeuvres in the Irish Sea for the next week.
With the current interest in military matters I imagine that some people were expecting to see a sizeable warship rather than the little University of Liverpool RN unit patrol boat!
At 11:40 STOLT KESTREL passed inbound pursued by a Pilot Launch.
DIAMANT sped past NORBANK outbound on her 10:00 sailing to Dublin, the well loaded NORBANK making a fine sight.
Queen's Channel was cleared around 11:45 with the Liverpool Bar lightship being passed to starboard at 11:52. The hazy conditions meant that the audible warning signal on the Bar light was sounding.
The large tanker ANNA KNUDSEN which had passed the Pier Head outbound shortly before DIAMANT arrived was passed to starboard at 11:56.
DIAMANT passed Douglas platform at 12:10 to port.
Nothing else was visible until DIAMANT was in Dublin Bay and the HSS STENA EXPLORER could be seen approaching from SE.
At 15:38 Poolbeg light was passed inbound. As we approached berth 49 container ship EURO PHOENIX passed outbound pursued by one of the Dublin Port pilot launches.
DIAMANT did a quick swing and was on berth 49 and secure at 15:50. It was obvious that a quick turnaround would be necessary on berth 49 to ensure it was clear for the inbound afternoon JONATHAN SWIFT from Holyhead. .
Quickly disembarking and checking in again there was only a short wait in the departure lounge before boarding for the return trip commenced.
Luggage Trolleys were back on board by 16:11. DIAMANT was closed up and ready for departure by 16:20. Ropes were off by 16:23.
Dublin Maritime had done one of their excellent high speed turn rounds which always makes the Dublin port operation appear the most efficient of that provided at any of Sea Containers Irish Sea Ports of Call.
As DIAMANT came off the berth JONATHAN SWIFT was already in the channel having passed Poolbeg Lighthouse. The two vessels exchanging whistle greetings just west of North Bank Lighthouse. One thing is for certain, DIAMANT has a much more strident and purposeful whistle than JONATHAN SWIFT!
Poolbeg light was cleared at 16:34, around 20 minutes later STENA FORWARDER could be seen heading west bound through the haze.
A quiet run back to Liverpool followed, with little to be seen through due to the haze. DIAMANT passed the Radar Tower at 21:15 and was secure at Prince's Landing Stage at 21:35.
True DIAMANT was by now just two hours behind schedule, and the Douglas passengers would not reach their destination until the early hours of Sunday.
DIAMANT had considerably improved her performance on the previous week when she was unable to maintain a speed greater than 23 knots. This weekend average speed outwards and return had been 27 knots.
With some TLC I am sure this interesting ship would prove to be ideal for the Irish Sea. Perhaps as a replacement for SEACAT ISLE OF MAN.
Farewell DIAMANT - your spell on the Irish Sea may have been marred by technical problems - but here is one passenger who will miss you. This DIAMANT should be forever!