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Finished With Engines: Irish Sea Shipping is now closed to new updates - J.H. Luxton Photography - Transport, Industrial History, Regional Photographs UK & beyond

Ben-My-Chree to Douglas 

February 18, 2003

by John Luxton

This was to be my first voyage on the BEN-MY-CHREE following her recent major refit. 

Whilst it was well known that the new accommodation would not be ready, it would be interesting to see what changes had taken place on board.

Arriving at Heysham I first drove up to the the North Quay knuckle just in time to photograph the arrival of BEN-MY-CHREE arriving on her 08:45 sailing from Douglas. 

For the time of year weather conditions were superb. Mid February? It could have been mid May!

After photographing the BEN-MY-CHREE's arrival I drove round to the vehicle check-in where there were already quite a few in the lines.

There was enough time to get a coffee at the terminal buffet, but soon passengers were being called to their vehicles ready to move forward into the secure marshalling area. 

It was apparent things were going to be quite busy,  though one of the advantages of Blue Riband membership is that one gets to board early and I was on by around 13:25.

Making my way first to the Blue Riband Lounge, a couple of changes were noted. First of all, the BR lounge has lost its carpet. The previous one had become rather scruffy. A more utilitarian laminate flooring has been substituted. Obviously much more easier to clean! 

Unfortunately the previous Blue Riband lounge hot drinks machine has been replaced by another even less effective machine. It was noted that  the centre cupboard door has managed to fall off yet again! 

Whilst awaiting departure the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company Dredger MERSEY VENTURE was noted busy at work off the mouth of the harbour. She subsequently entered and performed some work in the outer reaches of the inner harbour before departing again.

The BEN-MY-CHREE departed with a good load of passengers on time at 14:15.  When the CSO requests that people remove clothing and baggage from seats one knows it is busy.

The Ben followed MERSEY VENTURE along the channel before overtaking.

The Wyre Light which marks the entrance to the Wyre Channel was passed at 14:42 and the Lune Buoy at 15:00.

Around this time I took a wander around the vessel to make a note of changes made since the refit.

The only outside deck space available was the starboard side deck. Never a very large area, it was well populated by smokers. 

However, it did provide a good vantage point from which to view the changes. The defunct crane used to lift the stores containers into position has been removed. The voids above the containers have been plated in. Above where the in board container had been located a new refrigerated storeroom had been installed.

Workers were busy painting the new promenade deck area. Looking out of the window at the top of the aft staircase the company Marine Superintendent, Captain and first officer were noted inspecting progress.

The first officer did some painting but stopped when the head of the roller became detached from the broom handle to which it had been secured!

Around 15:30 Norse Merchant Ferries VARBOLA could be seen to the south heading towards Heysham on her run from Dublin.

About eleven minutes later an unidentified Norse Merchant Ferries  vessel could be seen approaching from Belfast.

I took a look through the door leading to the accommodation extension. It was apparent that much work remained to be done. Notices displayed on board indicate that the work should be completed by the third week in March.

The remainder of the journey passed uneventfully. Given the perfect weather conditions the Isle of Man had been visible from around the time the Lune Buoy had been passed.

As the Island was approached a number of fishing vessels were noted.Entering Douglas Bay, the Isle of Man Government patrol vessel Barrule - affectionately known by many as the "Manx Navy" was noted approaching from the north.

Running into Douglas, the LADY OF MANN was noted outside the Victoria Pier. Inside the Harbour Laxey Towing Company's  pilot vessel  GIRL MARY and tug WENDY ANN were noted on the Battery Pier along with the relief lifeboat. This being sent to Douglas to cover for RNLB Sir Edward Hillary which is currently entombed within its station due to an asbestos scare.

The BEN-MY-CHREE was on her berth at the Edward Pier on schedule at 17:45. The additional open deck and passenger areas space will be a most welcome addition to the BEN-MY-CHREE. Though one wonders why previous owners Sea Containers did not build the ship to this specification in the first place!


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