Today marks ten years since the final ferry services to and from the Port of Stranraer. At that time, I was working for Stena Line in the On-board Services Department across their three North Channel vessels, HSS STENA VOYAGER, STENA CALEDONIA and STENA NAVIGATOR.
It was a busy time. Moving to a brand new port with different and significantly larger ships; preparing them for service and, at the same time operating and then de-storing and laying up the existing vessels was not without challenges, but meticulous planning and huge commitment from staff both on-board and ashore meant that the transition was completed smoothly.
In this feature, the first of two parts, we look at some of the images I took on the final few days of sailings to Stranraer and shortly afterwards.
The End Of Belfast-built Classic
I was working on the STENA CALEDONIA that day; the final passenger vessel built by Harland and Wolff – the final Sealink UK ship in service with Stena Line and the final unit in the well-known series of four so-called ‘Saint Class’ vessels designed in-house by Sealink’s Naval Architects, Don Ripley and Tony Rogan, and built by the Belfast Shipyard for Sealink service on the Irish Sea and English Channel.
The STENA NAVIGATOR had already completed her final sailing, some 4 days earlier, on 16 November 2011. She was de-stored and laid up at Albert Quay south in Belfast Harbour, pending sale.
The Final Sailings
The original plan was for the STENA CALEDONIA to finish service earlier than her partners on the Stranraer link, but circumstances meant that she remained in service until the very end, closing the Belfast-Stranraer route and the Port of Stranraer with a 0430 departure on Monday 21 November 2011. Her final day began with a 0800 departure from Belfast, arriving at Stranraer before 1030 and remaining in the port all day until an evening departure from the Scottish Port. A number of ferry enthusiasts made the trip that day, including NI Ferry Site’s Gary Andrews and regular contributor to the site, well-known photographer, Gordon Hislip. I have included some of Gordon’s photos in this feature as well.
Senior Master, Captain Murray Paterson was in command of the vessel and he welcomed his passengers onboard while explaining this was the ship’s final day in service after some 30 years. Members of the crew handed out some postcards depicting the vessel to all onboard and Captain Paterson spent some time meeting and speaking with the many people who were making the trip. In Belfast Lough, Captain Paterson announced the passing of an inbound STENA SUPERFAST VIII for trials at Belfast, further highlighting the ‘Caley’s’ last day and the vessels that were to be her replacement, and that of her running partners, less than 24 hours later.
Arrival at Stranraer, and the weather suited the occasion being wet, dull and misty. Captain Paterson carefully brought the ship alongside the Ross Pier berth for the final time in daylight and thanked the disembarking passengers for their support on the final day and over the years.
Also, during the time alongside, HSS STENA VOYAGER made her final daytime arrival and departure from Stranraer, berthing alongside us onboard STENA CALEDONIA. After 15 years on the North Channel, the sheer scale and power on display by the HSS 1500 series craft never failed to fascinate. Within 25 minutes of docking, she was unloaded, loaded and away back to Belfast.
Captain Paul Williams took the ship out of Stranraer on her evening departure and she lingered for a while just off the berth before swinging and heading for Belfast, passing STENA SUPERFAST VII at the new Loch Ryan Port enroute.
The End Of A Port
The ship sailed again from Belfast at 2230 with a handful of passengers onboard and this was followed by the very final departure from Stranraer which was scheduled for 0330. This was delayed until 0430 to allow arrival at Belfast’s Victoria Terminal 4 just after the maiden departure of STENA SUPERFAST VII at 0730. After discharge, STENA CALEDONIA headed up the River Lagan to the Albert Quay berth where she joined STENA NAVIGATOR in lay-up pending sale.
I visited Captain Paterson and the STENA CALEDONIA on 22nd November 2011 for the final time to take some photographs;
10 years on: Part 2 – Hello Loch Ryan port
will be published tomorrow is now available.