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Tall Ship Pelican of London - A Day Sail on the Mersey

Photographs  John H. Luxton 2012

On Saturday May 12, 2012 your webmaster took a trip on the tall ship PELICAN OF LONDON [Visit the ship's web site for full details of this unusual tall ship and its background -]. I booked this trip early in the year when daytrips from Liverpool were advertised on the Adventure Under Sail web site.

Today, since the Waverley organisation stopped supporting Liverpool as a departure point there are few opportunities to take a day trip to sea and return the same day from Liverpool on anything other than the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company's MANANNAN, which plush as she is does not really capture the enjoyment once provided by the open decks of the LADY OF MANN or Waverley Steam Navigation Company's BALMORAL. 

Therefore, the opportunity to sample something different was not to be missed. The fare wasn't particularly cheap at 99 but it was fully inclusive - no extra to pay for refreshments - thus when this, and the much lower passenger numbers are taken into consideration made the trip much better value than it first appeared.

When I arrived at the Liverpool Cruise Terminal passengers were gathering beside the ship waiting to be called aboard. On the river ROYAL IRIS OF THE MERSEY was participating in a Royal Marines exercise. Boarding commenced around 09:15 - passengers were directed to the dining saloon where they checked in and confirmed their details with the ship's second officer. Once the 46 passengers had checked in everyone was asked to muster in the well deck for a safety briefing by the first officer who also introduced the captain and explained something of the plan for the day. Initially it was planned to set sail and head up river, before turning and motoring out to sea before returning again under sail.

After the briefing it was time for breakfast - comprising a large bacon roll and a mug of tea or coffee. Tea and coffee remained available for the rest of the day.

PELICAN OF LONDON is a single screw vessel and does not have a bow thruster. Thus one of the ship's boats is used as a tug to help ease her off the cruise stage. Once off the stage the boat was recovered and placed back on deck. With a Mersey Pilot on board we set off around 10:15. However, we headed off out to sea directly, passing the Royal Boskalis Westminster Group's SHOREWAY which was attached to the pipeline pumping sand, dredged from Liverpool Bay, into Wellington Dock, part of the infilling process which is underway to provide foundations for the extension of the United Utilities water treatment works. STENA MERSEY passed by on the port side on her morning sailing to Belfast around 10:54. Inbound the general cargo vessel SWEDICA HAV operated by HAV Ship Management of Norway passed inbound for Gladstone Dock at 11:19. Shortly after passing The Rock MANANNAN could be seen just astern increasing speed as she entered Crosby Channel and powered past PELICAN OF LONDON at 11:23
.A few minutes after MANANNAN overtook dredger SOSPAN - DAU passed inbound heading back into Liverpool Docks to continue dredging operations in the Gladstone and Seaforth Docks. The sunny weather had brought walkers out onto Crosby and Waterloo beaches to mingle with the Iron Men. SHOREWAY overtook and headed back out into Liverpool Bay to bring in another cargo of sand around 11:45

PELICAN OF LONDON turned just south of Crosby Buoy around 12:00 on turning three seals could be seen basking on Burbo Bank. After turning sails were set and the engine shut down. Passengers were invited to assist the crew if they wished in setting the sails. Once we were under sail power details of lunch were provided over the ship's PA. Dredger UKD ORCA passed outbound at 12:30.

There were to be two sittings as there was insufficient seating for everyone to appear at once. Lunch comprised Shepherd's Pie and Veg. After the two lunch sittings were completed the first officer arranged some "bow spritting" where passengers were offered the opportunity to head out onto the bowsprit, secured with a safety harness, this your web master declined! Passing Cammell Laird - STAVROS S. NIARCHOS could be seen in the wet basin, she had been in #4 dry dock earlier in the week.  When the "bow spritting" had concluded we were off Bromborough and the captain advised it was time to "wear ship" and turn back into the wind. Shortly afterwards the sails were taken in and we resumed under motor power. Dredger WD MERSEY could be seen at anchor in river. The second officer then gave an informative talk on sailing rigs in the well deck.

PELICAN OF LONDON then sailed back down river under engine power until turning off Salisbury River Entrance, heading back up river, passing ARKLOW ROVER swinging to enter Alfred Lock and Briggs Marine buoy tender CAMERON passed heading downstream back to Liverpool Docks. PELICAN then swung again to head back to the cruise terminal.

The ship's boat was returned to the water and the Bo 'sun set off with the shore party to assist berthing. Berthing was quite a slow process. First the bow line was secured around 16:00 and gradually the tide and engine along with quite a bit of pushing with the ship's boat  and we were secure around 16:25! As we made fast on the cruise stage STAVROS S. NIARCHOS could be seen departing from Cammell Laird wet basin.

Disembarkation too place just after 16:30. Shortly before disembarking from PELICAN Svitzer tug ASHGARTH moved off the Isle of Man Steam Packet stage and headed down river.

All in all it was a very enjoyable day and good to be doing a day excursion on a ship out of Liverpool again. PELICAN might not be a "pleasure steamer" but she is certainly as good as one! One hopes that there may be another opportunity to sail again on PELICAN OF LONDON out of Liverpool - she is a nice vessel to sail on either under engine power or sail, with plenty of open deck space. Whether PELICAN returns remains to be seen. Her web site reveals that whilst she is continuing a program of sailings this year she is currently being offered for sale.


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