I arrived fairly early at the Sea Terminal shortly after 09:00 and there was quite a crowd - one of the penalties of choosing to travel over a bank holiday weekend. Now whilst I don't usually use the Blue Riband Member's "Cupboard" at Liverpool, due to the fact using it usually leaves one at the wrong end of the boarding queue! [Why was it located outside the main departure lounge, so far from the departure gate?!] However, on this occasion it appeared to be the best place to retreat to avoid the crowds outside.
The Blue Riband Cupboard is located in the part of the Liverpool Sea Terminal which once formed part of the Norse Merchant Ferries Terminal down the road at Canada #3 Dock. However, given the NMF move to Twelve Quays it was moved the couple of miles down the Prince's Dock site. Such is the advantage of the Portacabin school of architecture. If you look closely in the former NMF section of the Sea Terminal it is still possible to spot evidence of its former ownership - a Merchant Ferries GB car sticker. See if you can spot it the next time you travel!!!
From the Blue Riband cupboard it is possible to see though the departure lounge and see when vessels arrive at Prince's Landing Stage. SUPERSEACAT TWO arrived late at around 10:50, due to a large number of in bound passengers on the Douglas to Liverpool sailing around 640.
I judged around 10:10 would be around the right time to emerge from the "cupboard" and go into the main lounge prior to boarding. However, the main lounge was completely full the security guard said we were better waiting outside. Boarding commenced soon afterwards and once the crowd had vacated the lounge remaining passengers were let through.
Down on the stage another queue was encountered - boarding SSC2 up the side gangway appears a slow process when many people are travelling. When it is busy one wonders if it would be better to allow passengers to board via the starboard stern ramp and ascent the stairs as boarding would be much faster. This method of boarding always appeared to be much faster, it also obviates the need for push chairs to be carried up the steps as they could go directly to the lift.
By the time I boarded the main lounges were very busy, though the Blue Riband lounge was fortunately quiet. I wandered outside to observe Holyhead Towing Company's split hopper barge AFON CADNANT at work with Humber Workboats dredger JOHN M at work removing silt from thee site of the missing landing stage section. - AFON CADNANT is taking the silt down river to Tower Buoy for dumping.
SUPERSEACAT TWO departed around 20 minutes late at 10:50 with 543 passengers and 97 vehicles. A very good loading and well in excess of what SEACAT ISLE OF MAN would have been able to carry. The high outbound loading, combined with the even larger in bound loading, confirms that the deployment of the larger SSC2 exclusively on the Isle of Man routes was a good move by the Isle of Man Steam Packet.
As SUPERSEACAT TWO came off the stage LINDAROSA was moving off the Twelve Quays South berth and swinging in the river.
Passing Langton NORBAY could be seen departing the lock. Meanwhile at West Langton the funnel of the cruise ship FUNCHAL could be seen poking up above the transit sheds. She had arrived earlier in the morning from Freemantle after one of probably the longest passenger voyages to Liverpool in decades.
The was passed around 11:05 and speed increased around C21. Suction dredger CITY OF CARDIFF was passed in bound at Crosby.
A head could be seen LIVERPOOL VIKING outbound for Belfast. SUPERSEACAT TWO steadily closed the distance and we passed her on the starboard side in the near Q2 at 11:27.
Passing the OSI around 12:05 a Svitzer tug presumably OAKGARTH could be seen alongside as well. A tanker was berthed at the OSI.
The mid voyage update reported speed at 32 knots with time on the berth being 13:15.
in the event SUPERSEACAT TWO eventually arrived at Douglas at 13:22.
My plan had been to take the horse tram along the promenade to Derby Castle. However, by the time I reached the tram terminus outside the Sea Terminal there were no trams in sight. The season only having just started meant that there were only two cars in service.
It was obvious that my intention of catching the 14:10 MER service to Laxey would not be realised. Tram #34 eventually turned up at around 13:55. Passing the Hilton, one could see the 14:10 departure to Laxey moved off.
However, there was to be compensation for missing the tram to Laxey - an interesting and entertaining encounter with Tram Horse "Albert".
As the car approached Derby Castle, the driver brought it to a stand outside the Tramway Stables to change horses.
"Albert" was led across the road. Perhaps it was Albertís first run of the season? I don't know. But anyway he didn't appear to be too keen to be out pulling a tramcar. After the drawbar was attached he kept trying to turn round and head back to the stables. One of the stable hands had to walk him into Derby Castle Station. The photograph shows "Albert" at Derby Castle.
After a pint or two of Okells at the Terminus Tavern I boarded the other operational car #32 to return along the promenade. On the way back to the Sea Terminal "Albert" was again encountered. He had stopped his tram halfway between the Sefton Hotel and Villa Marina. Standing at ninety degrees to the car he was facing the sea, refusing to move and fouling the opposite running line!
The driver of the other car stopped a few yards away from "Albert". He walked over and disconnected his draw gear, walked him round in a circle, reconnected his draw gear and he trotted off with his car towards Derby Castle. I don't understand horse psychology, but walking him around appeared to do the trick.
Perhaps "Albert" was having difficulties getting back into routine after the long closed season holiday? Must be difficult getting into the swing of things if you have not worked since last September!
The 17:30 return sailing back to Liverpool was lightly loaded by comparison to the morning with just 135 passengers, 33 cars, 3 vans and 1 motor cycle. Obviously that morning's Liverpool - Douglas./ With everyone on board SSC2 was away early at 17:13.
Standing off the harbour to await SSC2's departure before entering was the Ocean Youth Trust's ketch GREATER MANCHESTER CHALLENGE.
The BEN-MY-CHREE was making good time and could be seen to the east heading towards Douglas, with an ETA of 17:30.
With perfect sea conditions SUPERSEACAT TWO made very good time on the crossing to Liverpool.
The Douglas platform could be seen at 18:37, with the Liverpool Bar light float being passed at 17:52 and Q1 at 18:57.
In the Mersey the small tanker MAMRY could be seen leaving Langton Lock and within minutes SSC2 was on Prince's Landing Stage 20 minutes ahead of schedule at 19:40
All in all, an interesting day. The shorter day trips to Douglas offered this season on Saturdays from Liverpool are to be welcomed as they provide for a reasonable hour return well in time for those travelling further a field to secure public transport connections.