Visitors to the Irish Sea Shipping web site will probably have read my rather scathing remarks concerning the Mersey River Festival 2005 which appeared in Viewpoint 2005. and the "All Aboard" Maritime Event of July 01/02 2006.
It is therefore pleasing to report that for the 2007 significant attempts have been made to improve the Wellington Dock venue. The dreadful chain link fence has been removed, this had the effect of making quayside photography of the ships almost impossible. It has been replaced by a new low level railing which runs around Wellington Dock, with gaps provided through which the ship's gangways can be placed onto the quayside.
This is a much more satisfactory arrangement and makes photography from the quayside much easier as the rail, is almost on the quay edge. Furthermore some partial resurfacing of the surrounding quaysides has also taken place.
The berthing of the ships this year was reasonably well done - but it was unfortunate that the most impressive vessel, DAR MLODZIEZY was berthed at Sandon Dock which prevented quayside shots being taken. You web master has heard that this was due to her size making her unsuitable to enter Wellington Dock, though one of her sister ships KHERSONES berthed in Wellington during the 2005 Mersey River Festival.
If ships are to berth in Sandon for the 2008 Tall Ships Race, thought should be given to providing access to the south side knuckle of the entrance to Wellington Dock - this would allow a view along the Sandon Dock Quayside.
One unfortunate feature of the Wellington Dock venue remains - the unremitting smell from the adjacent united Utilities Sandon Dock treatment works. On the Saturday morning the smell in the vicinity of the DAR MLODZIEZY and the JEANIE JOHNSTON was appalling almost at times bad enough to make one feel nauseous. One must feel sorry for the crews of these two vessels in particular as they would have to endure the smell for several days, whilst visitors could escape! - Something really needs to be done about this objectionable odour before next year's Tall Ships Race.
The Publicity for the 2007 event was improved with publicity leaflets being available in advance. However, the initial publicity leaflet was something of a disaster!
Some of the attending vessels had their descriptions applied to the wrong photographs - ASGARD II was illustrated by the RUTH, NEXT WAVE was illustrated by the ASGARD II, KASKELOT was illustrated by the JEANIE JOHNSTON, JEANIE JOHNSTON was illustrated by the TENACIOUS, RUTH was illustrated by NEXT WAVE and TENACIOUS illustrated by the KASKELOT!
Now that suggests the leaflet may well have been put together by someone who may not know one sailing ship from another! However, it appears that the errors had been corrected on the leaflets handed to visitors passing through the gates and on the downloadable PDF file available on the Culture Company web site.
The slogan adopted on the leaflet "All Aboard Me Harties All Aboard" sounds more like something from from a Captain Bird's Eye TV advertisement - rather than something appropriate to a serious maritime event!
One really wonders why a Maritime Event needs a "Country Music Stage" located in a prominent position on the quayside - rather out of place. At a Maritime Event - the ships themselves and perhaps some other transport displays should be the main attraction not requiring musical support of a non nautical nature!
Surely Sea Shanties would be more appropriate? But then a lot of shanty men would have been enticed away to the Falmouth Sea Shanty Festival held on the same weekend.
On the subject of Maritime Event clashes one wonders why the Merseyside event had to be scheduled for the same weekend as the relatively close by Whitehaven Maritime Festival? There were a number of available berths at Wellington Dock which looked embarrassingly bare!
With The Dublin Maritime Festival scheduled for June 01, to 04, Whitehaven June 15 to 17, Bangor [NI] Maritime Festival June 23 & 24 and Belfast Maritime Festival scheduled for June 29 to July 01 would it not have made sense to have scheduled the Liverpool event to be just before or just after the above as all ports are within around 150 miles or less of one another. When dates clash there is always likely to be less availability of vessels to attend such events.
On the Saturday when I attended there appeared to be a distinct lack of the billed "heritage vehicles" apart from the first production Liverpool Corporation Transport Atlantean L501, two fire appliances and an open platform AEC Liverpool Corporation bus on the shuttle service the vintage vehicles were conspicuous by their absence.
Overall things have improved significantly down at Wellington Dock compared to 2005 and 2006 and Irish Sea Shipping is of the opinion that things are moving in the right direction.
The overall verdict - much improved - but with room for much more improvement!