(August 4, 2023)
The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company has a new ship, the Manxman. It has just made the journey from Korea and is undergoing trials. We see it running back and forth across the Douglas harbor, practicing docking in different tide conditions. It made a run to Belfast and practiced docking there, as well as in Heysham (The port for Lancaster, north of Liverpool in England.)
We had hoped the ship would be ready for service by the time we made our crossing from Isle of Man to Belfast, but while she was tantalizingly close, we ended up crossing on the Ben-my-Chree, “Girl of my Heart” in Manx Gaelic. (One wag said Manx Garlic was Irish Gaelic spoken with a Norwegian accent.) She was built in 1998, new by Alaska ferry standards but by cruise ship standards she is long in the tooth. She is in beautiful shape, she seems better cared for than the QM2 was, and the Queen is a decade newer.
We checked our bags and sailed out of Douglas and went south, along the coast looking at towns we had visited by bus or steam train, around the “Calf of Man” an island just to the south of the main island, and north along the coast. The sail out and coasting was beautiful. But because we sailed south first, rather than the more direct route to the north. (This was probably to avoid some, as a person who came over from Liverpool the day before, choppy seas.) The trip took us over an hour longer than we expected. Instead of arriving at 11:55 in the evening we arrived at about 1:30 in the morning. We had a smooth crossing,
We experienced a nice sea sunset when we left sight of land.
We had booked a van to pick the 9 of us in the dock just after midnight. Suzi got a call from the cab company around midnight but there was just enough signal to make the phone ring but not enough to understand the call. When we arrived late, at about 1:30 AM. We were marked as a no show by the cab company. I called the company and they said they didn’t have a van at that hour on a Saturday night, but they would send three cabs. The first one came about 40 minutes later. Suzi got into it with some of the kids. The second cab came a few minutes after that. Both cabs had the wrong destination address. Suzi, in the first cab, corrected the driver. No one in the second cab had the correct address. A third cab came as the second was leaving. The driver asked for Kevin. Since Suzi ordered the cab we thought it strange he asked for Kevin but we got in just as a 4th cab arrived. After some discussion between the drivers, we got out of cab three, unloaded and reloaded our stuff and ourselves into cab 4. We did this while handling texts from the riders in the second cab, who had arrived at the wrong address at 2:30 in the morning. We texted them the proper address. We finally all arrived at the Air B&B, which is student housing for Queen’s University during the terms but is rented out to folks like us in the summer. The cabbie, when he got the right address said “Oh, that backpackers place.” That was about right, but it was big enough and comfortable enough for all of us. We got to bed around 3 PM. Welcome to Belfast.