musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Tag: Royal Daffodil

Loving Liverpool (6) Ferry Across the Mersey

Continuing where we left off…

Naturally visiting any sort of harbour presents possible opportunities to get on a boat or a ship, or at least to see one (or two).

MV Snowdrop

Liverpool did not disappoint because there is a ferry that crosses the Mersey and I had her in my sights as soon as I spotted her (which says a lot for her dazzle camouflage).

At the time “Snowdrop” was working “River Explorer” cruises between Pier Head Ferry Terminal to Seacombe Ferry Terminal, and then to Woodside Ferry Terminal where the U-Boat Story was and then back to the pier head. When I first hit the ferry terminal my first consideration was queues. These were very long to get on board so I decided against it at the time, although did try a bit later in the afternoon but by then it was her last round trip so I gave it a miss. It would have been better to have taken that late sailing because the light was so much better that afternoon compared to the next morning.

The next day was a different story (as detailed in Loving Liverpool (5)) but by 10 am I was on board and ready to sail! Let go for’ard!

The vessel was built in 1959 for the Birkenhead Corporation as “Woodchurch” by Philip and Son, Dartmouth and was yard number 1305

Builders Plate

She was launched on 28 October 1959 and made her maiden voyage from Dartmouth to the River Mersey in 1960.   She is of 617 GRT, with a length of 46.32 m (152 ft 0 in), beam:  12.2 m (40 ft 0 in) and draught of 2.46 m (8 ft 1 in), as built she had a capacity of  1,200 passengers. 

Fortunately she was not too crowded so I was able to wander around taking pics of her decks and seating areas and just taking in the scenery. I was hoping to get close to the Stena Mersey but almost half way across the river I saw that she was getting underway so managed to get some pics of that happening.

(1500 x 476) heading back towards Seacombe.

I rode the vessel only as far as Woodside where I jumped ship and went to look at the U-534 exhibit.

I reboarded Snowdrop at 11H30. 

We puttered along towards the bend in the river and I was able to see the Royal Fleet Auxiliaries berthed at Cammell Laird of Birkenhead.

The vessel above is RFA Wave Knight (A389), while the vessel on the slipway is a Royal Research Ship being built at an estimated cost of £200 million, with the name RRS Sir David Attenborough and she is expected to be in service in 2019. The vessel below is  RFA Fort Victoria (A387)

RFA Fort Victoria (A387)

I was not sure how far you could get if you walked along the promenade towards those ships at Birkenhead, although I had been tempted to try that in the morning. Actually with hindsight Birkenhead may have to go to the top of my bucket list if ever I get back to Liverpool.

And then we were alongside once again and the queue to board was already looking long. I was happy because I had had my “cruise”. It was not much but was better than nothing. At least for that hour I was on the deck looking towards land and not vice versa.

The second trip.

On my last day in Liverpool I discovered that the cruise ship Saga Sapphire was in port so I decided to grab a short hop across the river to Seacombe and see about getting pics of her from the ferry,

Unfortunately the sun was really in the wrong place so the pics came out pretty badly.

Commuter services run between Seacombe departing at 7.20 am with a ten minute trip across to the pier head terminal and back until the last arrival at the pier head at 9.50 am.  However, this morning fleetmate Royal Iris was berthed at Seacombe so I was able to grab closeups of her, but it also meant that there was either a vessel swap going to happen or she was going to do a cruise too.

I stayed on board Snowdrop and rode her back to the pier head.

From there I strolled to the passenger terminal and took a closer look at Saga Sapphire before plonking myself on a handy bench to see what happened with Royal Iris; who had shifted from where I saw her earlier. 

Voila, she unberthed and started to head towards me and Snowdrop started to come into the shot too from behind Saga Sapphire…. this could be interesting, because I was hoping to get them both together and was rewarded for my patience. Royal Iris was already packed so I suspect she was doing a cruise, possibly down the Manchester Ship Canal?

Why the dazzle camo?

Dazzle camouflage was really the brainchild of famous artist Norman Wilkinson and the zoologist John Graham Kerr, and it consisted of complex patterns of geometric shapes in contrasting colours, interrupting and intersecting each other. the intention of it was to make it difficult to estimate a target’s range, speed, and heading.

How effective was it? It is certainly very strange to see and just maybe a few lives were saved as a result of it. However I have heard about the case of a WW1 destroyer sent to escort a large vessel that was dazzle camouflaged and her captain  admitted that he had to sail around the ship before he could work out which direction she was going in. The confusion of somebody trying to view a ship through a periscope could gain a potential target a few more seconds to evade a torpedo attack, and that was very important in the war at sea. False bow waves were also painted on ships too and I have seen images of a destroyer painted on the side of a passenger liner. 

The current mania for dazzle camo ships in Liverpool was really to draw attention to the war at sea and if it succeeded then that is a good thing. 

In January 2015 Snowdrop was given her unique new livery inspired by dazzle camouflage. Designed by Sir Peter Blake and entitled Everybody Razzle Dazzle.  She was one of three vessels commissioned to carry a dazzle livery, the others being Induction Chromatique à Double Fréquence pour l’Edmund Gardner Ship / Liverpool. Paris, 2014 by Carlos Cruz-Diez on the museum ship Edmund Gardner also berthed in Liverpool.

Tobias Rehberger’s Dazzle Ship London was created on HMS President in the River Thames. Unfortunately she was not in London in 2016 when I was there as she had been shifted to Chatham to make way for sewerage works. Her future was looking very bleak and it is unknown whether she will survive her cash crisis or not. She does need dry docking and funding is needed to get her through to her new berth in 2018. Images of her in dazzle camo are on her website

I do not know what Snowdrop looked like before she became so hard to see, but Royal Iris certainly looked much better in her normal livery.

As for Royal Daffodil, I was hoping to see her too, but she was nowhere that I was familiar with, at one point she started to sink at her mooring and I suspect she had been moved since then. I have since heard that she is laid up at the east float next to the Duke Street Bridge in Birkenhead and no real firm plans had been made about her future.

And that was my fun with ferries.

When next we return I will be dealing with Western Approaches Command and three large memorials that I found in the same area. Space permitting I will also visit the church on the waterfront

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