So far in this series, Eric Schofield has shown tickets issued ‘on the spot’ by companies operating the ships on which he was travelling. In most cases he was able to retain the ticket. This time, he highlights a common type of ticketing today – the e-ticket, booked online and printed at home prior to making the journey. On this occasion he made a return sailing from Cairnryan to Belfast with the Stena Line.
With the e-ticket for a Stena Line sailing, one gets a keepsake that is an excellent record of the journey(s) involved: the printout shows not only the type of journey and route, but also name of the vessel(s), date and time of sailings and cost, and other relevant information.
But even here, there can be factors that could cause confusion if using such information to determine historical facts. Outward from Cairnryan to Belfast on 26 February this year, I travelled as planned on Stena Nordica, the ship named on the e-ticket. But whereas the vessel shown for the return voyage was Stena Superfast V111, it turned out to be Stena Superfast V11. She had returned from winter overhaul a day earlier than scheduled and took over the service immediately, allowing Stena Superfast V111 to go for her own overhaul.
This reference to overhauls gives a hint of how I came to choose February 2019 to take a return crossing of the Irish Sea. A two-ship operation under heavy demand throughout the year requires a replacement ship whilst the regular vessels are off duty, and it was the choice of temporary relief vessel, Stena Nordica, that caught my attention.
It is a name long familiar to me. In the late 1960s I would travel down to Stranraer at least once a year for a trip across to Northern Ireland. You could do an excellent day excursion by taking the morning train from Glasgow to Stranraer and the midday sailing to Larne by the first Stena Nordica, built in 1965.
After just over four hours in Northern Ireland, you returned to Stranraer, this time by Caledonian Princess (in later years by Antrim Princess), and then by train back to Glasgow. All this for the price of 37s 6d ( about £32.50 in today’s money, after adjusting for inflation).
When I repeated the sea crossing earlier this year, I was intrigued to see what the current Stena Nordica would be like — I believe she is the seventh ferry to bear the name. Having operated for some years on an international route between Sweden and Poland, would she have the cosy charm of the 1960s vessel?
No chance. Like all modern ferries, especially these bigger boats, there is a certain sense of barrenness on the often spacious outer decks, although internally they are generally well equipped, with comfortable seating and a good variety of onboard facilities.
The helicopter landing deck amidships was a particularly interesting feature. I was also pleasantly surprised by her well-balanced and sleek appearance, the huge square-shaped funnel fitting nicely into the overall profile when seen from broadside.
Stena Nordica’s similarity to the P&O ferries running from Cairnryan to Larne is not surprising, considering she was built around the same time. She was commissioned in 2000 for P&O as European Ambassador, and it was in 2004 that she came under Stena ownership.
With the sun only beginning to appear over the Glen App to New Luce hills as we set out from Cairnryan, it proved impossible to get suitable pictures of Stena Nordica on the day of my trip, other than one of her passing in the rather hazy conditions when I was sailing back to Cairnryan on Stena Superfast V11.
And so I went back down to the Rhinns of Galloway the following week to get pictures of the ‘Nordica’ from Lady Bay and Wig Bay before she was due to head off down south for her next spell of relief work at Rosslare. It was just as well I went when I did, as within a couple of months she had been sold to DFDS, and renamed Malo Seaways.
Stena Nordica (1) — length 79.83m. Built in 1965 for the Stena Line, initially on the Tilbury-Calais service as “The Londoner”, she was chartered to the CSP in January 1966 for the Stranraer-Larne route. After 1971 she returned by BR Sealink to Stena operation. In 1980, now under Venezeulan ownership, she was destroyed by fire and subsequently sank at Puerto de la Cruz.
Stena Nordica (7) — length 169.8m. Built in 2000 in Japan for P&O as European Ambassador. Sold to Stena in 2004, she ran as Stena Nordica between Karlskrona (Sweden) and Gydnia (Poland). From 2008 she appeared from time to time on various Irish Sea services, with reliefs at Cairnryan in 2013, 2015 and 2017. She was chartered in 2015 to DFDS for the Dover-Calais service for about 18 months. After a further charter in Italy and operating between Germany and Latvia, she returned to the Sweden-Poland route. On 24 April 2019 she was sold by Stena to DFDS, renamed Malo Seaways and put back on the Dover-Calais service.
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