The morning of February 28 dawned cold bright and clear. I arrived at the Sea Terminal in good time to ensure a parking space and take some photos of the new look SSC2 running up the river.
Last year was very much a period of transition year in which Sea Containers disposed of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company mid season to Montagu. Then there was no opportunity for a new image to be created, apart from the flying of the IoMSPCo house flag SSC2 during 2003. However, over the winter there has been a recreation of the old IoMSPCo brand, with revised versions of the Sea Co inspired Steam Packet Logos appearing and the reappearance of the traditional Steam Packet black funnel bands.
Following refit, SuperSeaCat Two, has been rebranded an IoMSPCo vessel even though she is only on charter from Sea Containers. SSC2 no longer carries SUPERSEACAT in large lettering on each side. Now only a much smaller SEACAT logo is carried there. The SEACAT logo is much subservient to the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company logo located prominently in close proximity to the bridge.
Also missing this season is the leaping cat logo carried below the ship's name. This was reputedly, according to a Sea Co press release in 1998, an image of company president Jim Sherwood's pet cat "Bagpuss" - hence the reason why many enthusiasts refer to SSC2 as "Bagpuss".
Perhaps next season, might see the application of a tradition IoMSPCo name to SSC2? Given that there is only one SuperSeaCat in the fleet numerical suffix name appears somewhat odd. Perhaps some thought might be given to adopting the name of one of the turbine flyers - VIKING would appear an appropriate name given the Viking heritage of both the Isle of Man and the east coast of Ireland.
After photographing SSC2's arrival I then made my way into the terminal.The trip on February 28 was to be my first sailing out of Liverpoolon a Steam Packet sailing as a foot passenger since September 2003. All recent trips having been with the car. Since my last foot passenger trip, the entrance arrangements to the security / baggage check-in area have been changed. This appears to make a much better use of space with both security and baggage check-in condensed into one area.
Boarding commenced around 10:00. Passengers now board SSC2 a new gangway leading to a starboard aft passenger which loads off the passenger loading platform used by SEACAT ISLE OF MAN. This arrangement keeps foot passengers off the vehicle ramps and means a shorter walk to and from the terminal. However, given the narrow gangway, one wonders if on busy days it will make loading and disembarkation slower as passengers have to use the quite steep gangway in single file whereas loading via the stern ramps and stairs was less congested and passengers could board and disembark two abreast.
On board SSC2 it was noted that interior fittings have been tidied up since last season. In the Blue Ribald Lounge a new server area has been fitted which appears neater and more compact. New seat covering have been applied to the main saloon seats which certainly look durable and brighten things up, but one wonder just how comfortable they may be when it gets warmer. The later part of last season, was characterised by somewhat smelly and unreliable toilets particularly in the Blue Ribald lounge. Whilst repairs have taken place, my nose informs that perhaps the toilet problem has not been completely resolved!
Departure was prompt at with just 113 passengers and 20 vehicles only a fairly light loading. Apparently the first day of the season, the previous day, had been much busier. However, the passengers on Friday had been treated to a rather rough crossing. The Captain advising passengers that it would be calmer than the previous day though there may still be some motion. An arrival time of 14:30 being advised.
As SUPERSEACAT TWO moved off the Landing Stage LINDAROSA began moving off the Twelve Quays berth across the river.
Moving off down river past Clarence Dry Docks, what looked to be hull sections of the sand dredger NORSTAR appeared to be being craned onto a truck. This long stating Merseyside ship has been broken up over the winter outside Clarence Dock, with final hull demolition taking place in the dry dock.
P&O's NORBAY was noted running down in Gladstone Lock on her morning sailing to Dublin.
Off New Brighton COASTAL SOUND could be seen in bound about to swing for Gladstone entrance. Two Adsteam Tugs were fussing around a rather careworn bulker the GUNAY-A. Sitting high in the water it was obvious she was in for another cargo of scrap.
Passing C22 SSC2 increased speed.
The view west across to the snow covered Welsh mountains was spectacular.
There was no further traffic in the channel and a quick run out to the Liverpool Bar followed with the Bar light float being passed at .
As SSC2 passed the Bar a speed reduction was noted, the Captain announcing on the PA that one of the engines had been shut down due to a technical problem though it would be restarted soon. As a consequence our arrival at Dublin would be revised to 14:45.
Whilst standing outside it was interesting to note a painting error occurred when the "IoMSPCo" bands had been applied to the port side funnel. The top band transfers from the top to the bottom of the fibre glass slat mouldings. One wonders why the black bands on the SSC2 weren’t made the full width of the mouldings. They would have looked better and been easier to paint.
Other changes noted on the open deck was the removal of the plastic deck light columns. During 2003 some had been noted broken. These lights have been replaced by conventional deck lights which are certainly a more effective source of illumination.
Weather conditions remained fine, though the biting cold northern wind blowing up to force 5 persisted.
As SSC2 proceeded west bound, to the north the southern part of the Isle of Manwas clearly visible including south Barrule and the Calf.
The Skerries light was past at our ETA remaining at .
ESCO's VARBOLA on charter to Norse Merchant Ferries passed to starboard on her morning sailing to Heysham around two miles to the north. Passing closer on the starboard side, also east bound, was BRAVE MERCHANT on her sailing to Birkenhead. On the port side at the same time was P&O's NORBANK passed east heading for Liverpool.
From around the MourneMountainswere visible to the North West. SSC2 passed the Baily light at . To the south west the Commissioner’s of Irish Lights Tender GRANUAILE could be seen heading towards Dún Laoghairefrom the direction of Kish Lighthouse. Meanwhile a small unidentified coaster of the variety with telescopic bridge could be seen heading away to the southwest.
Poolbeg light was passed at with ropes on at berth 49 at just 2 minutes behind schedule.
SUPERSEACAT TWO underwent modification earlier this month which in which a port side shell door was fitted. This now makes her compatible with the berth 49 passenger gangway at Dublin Port. Or should it be said reasonably compatible. A wooden box step being provided as unlike other vessels which connect to this gangway a flush level does not appear possible. Being able to use the passenger gangway is a much more passenger friendly arrangement as it is now only a few steps from departure lounge to ship and avoids passengers being exposed to the weather, which occurred when they had to walk around to the stern ramp.
Vessels noted in DublinPortwere BG ROTTERDAM and JESSICA B at the Dublin Ferry Port Terminal's Container Berth. On the South Wall were container ships BG IRELANDand COASTAL WAVE. On the scrap berth was IKIENA.
With only a few vehicles and passengers for the return sailing, departure from Dublin was early at 15:22.
Running down the fairway Dublin Port Pilot Vessel #2 DODDER passed in bound after retrieving the pilot from an outbound car carrier.
Poolbeg lighthouse at
Around JONATHAN SWIFT could be seen heading towards Dublinon the starboard side. Shortly afterwards the afternoon procession of ships into Dublinwas building up to the north P&O's NORBAY was followed by Norse Merchant Ferries' SAGA MOON and LINDAROSA. To the south came STENA ADVENTURER, whilst bringing up the rear was ULYSSES at .
SUPERSEACAT TWO was abeam South Stack at and off Skerries at . The first officer advising an arrival time at Prince's Landing Stage of . Wind speed was noted at force 4 to 5.
The sun was setting as SSC2 ran along the Welsh coast, the sunset colours being reflected off the snow covered mountains of Snowdonia.
In Amlwch Bay a large tanker could be seen at anchor. At the Bar anchorage an unidentified Chemical Tanker could be seen waiting the tide.
Queen's Channel was entered at Q1 at 18:36.
As SUPERSEACAT TWO approached New Brighton speed she overtook a rather late running MERSEY VIKING bound for Twelve Quays. However, SSC2 dropped back and followed MERSEY VIKING up the channel.
SUPERSEACAT TWO was on the berth at Liverpool ahead of schedule at 19:15.
All in all an enjoyable trip in fine if somewhat cold conditions which resulted in more time being spent inside rather than out.
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