I had not really planned to take SEACAT ISLE OF MAN's Bank Holiday round the Island Cruise during my short bank holiday weekend visit to Douglas. However, in the early afternoon of May 3 I found myself gravitating towards the Sea Terminal.
I had almost left it too late to travel, which isn't like me. Entering the booking office at 14:15 the clerk advised that I might be too late, but on checking he informed me that I had just made it.
Whilst I have sailed round the Isle of Man on a number of LADY OF MANN "Round The Island" cruises I had not yet done a SEACAT ISLE OF MAN trip.
With rumours circulating that 2004 might just be SCIOM's final season on the Irish Sea I knew I had made the correct last minute decision!
SEACAT ISLE OF MAN departed Douglas at 14:25, five minutes ahead of the scheduled departure time under the command of Captain Albiston,
Conditions were bright and breezy for the cruise which was fairly lightly loaded with 188 passengers.
SEACAT ISLE OF MAN rounded the end of the Battery Pier and passed Douglas Head at 14:30 and familiar locations slipped by quite quickly:
Port Soderick - 14:33
Derbyhaven - 14:40
Langness - 14:43
Port St. Mary - 14:50
Calf Sound South - 14:54
Chicken Rock - 14:58
Calf Sound North - 15:01
Port Erin - 15:02
Bradda Head - 15:05
Fleshwick - 15:07
Niarbyl - 15:12
Glen Maye 15:15
Approaching Peel Captain Albiston announced his intention to take SEACAT ISLE OF MAN close in to the castle. A loud blast on the whistle announced SEACAT ISLE OF MAN's presence to walkers strolling around the castle and on the pier around 15:25.
Five minutes later Kirk Michael slipped by. The coastline north of Peel being characterised by unstable and eroding cliffs. SEACAT ISLE OF MAN moved further off shore into deeper water
The white Jurby Church which provides a prominent landmark on the north west coast of the Island was passed at 15:37.
SEACAT ISLE OF MAN gave another loud blast on her whistle as she rounded the Point of Ayre at 15:55. swinging for home down the east coast and running across Ramsey Bay.
At this point I received a call from a correspondent to inform me that SEACAT FRANCE was heading north under tow.
Maughold Lighthouse was passed at 16:14. Five minutes later SEACAT ISLE OF MAN passed her sister SEACAT FRANCE under tow by former Alexandra Towing Company tug ALEXANDRA. SEACAT FRANCE had left A&P Birkenhead the previous evening bound for Cherbourg for refit.
Obviously she had not progressed very far and looked to be heading in the wrong direction. The reason for the detour was the need to seek shelter from the forecast bad weather on May 04.
Though Captain Albiston had given a commentary throughout the cruise and even promoted the forthcoming LADY OF MANN "Round the Island" cruises he did not mention the passing SEACAT FRANCE. Its highly unlikely these two Incat 74s will ever pass again in the north Irish Sea! Strange that the event went un-remarked and only a few passengers even noticed that SCIOM had passed her sister.
However, one uniformed "wag" was heard to say with some authority. "It looks as though the Heysham - Belfast SeaCat has broken down - looks like it will be a long trip!"
SEACAT ISLE OF MAN arrived back in Douglas at 16:35. Vehicles for the 17:30 sailing to Liverpool were already waiting on the Victoria Pier linkspan.
The trip was excellent value for money at only £10. It was a pity that more passengers did not turn up for the occasion.