Liverpool Maritime Weekend: Pt 2 – Mersey Maritime Festival

After enjoy the incredible view up the Radio City Tower in the heart of Liverpool City Centre, we wandered down to Albert Dock to check out the old sailing ships, as well as the Naval Frigate…


Liverpool has always been a thriving port throughout it’s history, so there are usually a few boats here and there in the city. They are a great addition to the festival, with the first two we came across visible above.

At the back is the LV23 Light Vessel, also known as the Planet, shining red in the afternoon sun. It was launched in 1960, after two years of construction, and went to work for the Mersey Docks & Harbour Board, standing guard over the Mersey Estuary and using it’s powerful light to guide ships in safely. It was later sold to Trinity House in London, in 1972, and was transferred to Kentish Knock, between the coasts of the counties of Essex and Kent. It was moved through various stations in later life before settling near the Channel Islands in 1979. When it was decommissioned in 1989 it was the last manned Light Ship in the UK. It finally returned to Liverpool in 1992, and is now sat here in Canning Dock, as a Museum, Cafe and Bar.

The second ship in view is called the Lady of Avenel, and was built in 1969 as a motor ship, later being converted into a sailing ship. The name for the ship comes from a Novel called “The Monastery” written by Sir Walter Scott (1771 – 1832, Scottish Novelist and Poet) in 1820. Today the ship is maintained by Heritage Sailing as an experience ship and visits various events.


Moving further into Albert Dock itself, we passed the “Kathleen and May”, built in 1900 by Ferguson & Baird in the Welsh town of Connah’s Quay, Flintshire. It’s had an impressive Maritime History, from 8 years in Wales until 1900, through Ireland (1908 – 1931) to England where it remains, now based in Liverpool. It went through a period of restoration in the 1970s at the docks in Gloucester, and looks fantastic today buy the quays.

The ships original function was to sail the Irish Sea, and was named Lizzie May when it was first launched. When it was sold to Ireland it became part of a coal-shipping fleet, in Youghal, where it was given it’s present name. By 1931 the ship had been bought by Captain Jewell from Appledore in Devon, and was given a new diesel engine, with the masts reduced and the topsails were removed. It’s final job was as a film ship in the 1960’s, before being bought by Paul Davis, who started the ships restoration, which was continued by the Maritime Trust in the 1970’s in Gloucester, which I mentioned before. The ships current owner is Steve Clark from Bideford in Devon, who restored all the layout of all the rigging and masts. It’s a stunning ship, and one of the standout boats from the day.

A permanent addition to the waterfront here at Liverpool, it is the last surviving “three masted topsail schooner of her type” in the world as well as the only large schooner pre-dating the two world wars. It’s certainly the most historic ship we spotted that day, although more modern ones are still a joy to explore.


We kept moving, and soon came across a Dutch ship called Mercedes, which we were openly invited to come aboard and explore. It’s been fantastically realised, and was originally built in 1958 as a fishing vessel in the Netherlands. It was later bought by Atlantic Ocean Co. Ltd from Merseyside, and she was renamed as Atlantic. In 2005 the ship went through a full redesign and rebranding by Wind is our Friend C.V., and was launched ready to sail around the world through international waters.

Here you can see the bar, as well as the main deck which you can walk around and explore. Above us, the main sail bore the brand name “Wind is our Friend”.  It was the only ship we had time to go on, but the view out across the docks from the water itself was great.

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Across the water from Mercedes, on the other side of the docks were two more fantastic ships, starting with the Vigilant, shown at the back of the picture. At first glance I thought it was a ship belonging to the Royal Navy, however upon closer inspection it does say “Border Force” down the left hand side near the bow.

Officially titled HMC Vigilant, it was launched in 2004, in the service of the HM Customs & Excise department. This department was later merged with another to create the UK Border Agency in 2008 so the Vigilant, along with it’s four sister ships, were transferred to the Border Agency. The HMC stands for Her Majesty’s Cutter, having changed a few times to reflect the change of departments.

Whilst it operates in the service of the British Government it was actually constructed in the Netherlands, at the Damen Shipyards. With a total length of 138 feet and a top speed of 48 km/h, or 26 knots, it’s a formidable vessel to any illegal ships trying to avoid detection.

Next to the Vigilant, is the Stavros S Niarchos, and is known as a tall ship, similar to Lady of Avenel. It is run by the Tall Ships Youth Trust (TSYT) and was built in 2000, using a half completed hull from Germany. This ship, along with a sister ship called Prince William, replace to older schooners that the company own, called Malcolm Miller and Sir Winston Churchill. The ship was completed in Appledore in Devon, again like the Lady of Avenel. The vessel is stunning, with an impressive array of rigging and masts.

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The next ship along, back on the side of (and just in front of) Mercedes, is the Pelican of London, seen here at the front of the picture on the right. We have actually seen this ship before, as it was docked in Weymouth when we visited in Summer 2013.

The Pelican of London was built in Le Havre, France, in 1948 as a fishing trawler, one of five similar ships. After spending 19 years fishing for a company from Norway she was reclassified as a coaster as opposed to a trawler and in 1968 was renamed Kadett, until 1995 when Graham Neilson, who used to work for the Navy, bought here and wanted to make her into a tall ship, like the ones we had previously seen during the day. It was based in Portland (next to Weymouth) and it took 12 years to restructure the whole vessel. Today it’s used as a training ship for young people by a charity called Adventure Under Sail.

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By this time we had reached the riverside, and we gazed out across the Mersey. As it was a Maritime Festival, it was fitting that one of the Mersey Ferries was crossing the river from Birkenhead/Wallasey towards the Pier Head outside the Liver Building.

We had a journey along the river on one of them not long ago, and you can find out more in my post here.

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The last boat we encountered, was the imposing figure of the HMS Dauntless (D33), one of the Royal Navy’s six Air Defence Destroyers, also called Type 45’s.  It was constructed by BAE Systems in the Scottish town of Govan, on the banks of the River Clyde in Scotland, between 2004 and 2007 when she was launched, by the wire of Admiral Sir James Burnell-Nugent, Lady Burnell-Nugent.

The ship was sailed down to Portsmouth in 2009 and officially given to the Ministry of Defence the next day. Since then the ship has visited various parts of the UK including Newcastle-upon-Tyne and London (the first of the six to do so), as well as the United States for war drills with other ships. Most recently it was deployed to the Falkland Islands to replace the HMS Montrose which had previously been stationed there.

The Type 45’s are stealth ships, and the sleek shape means that it only appears as a small boat, for example a fishing boat, when picked up by radar. We have encountered one of the Type 45’s before, the HMS Duncan, in the city of Portsmouth, Hampshire, and you can read about it here.

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That was it for our Maritime Adventure, and of course there are many other things to see around the Docks, including a variety of Canal Boats in the Basin, as well as the Tate Liverpool, Slavery Museum (Liverpool was once a slave port) and the other museums in the area, as well as statues to the settles who used Liverpool to sail to the new world in America. You can find out more about Albert Dock and it’s many treasures, as well as the city in general, in my post here.


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