Cammell Lairds has moved from SOS [Sound of Soay & Seil] to SOS [Super Ostentatious Solandge].
Since the departure of Western Ferries’ Sound of Seil & Soay on the 30th November2013, Cammell Lairds have been kept busy with various vessels coming and going.
But one in particular aroused the imagination and curiosity of the ship spotting community -MY Solange, a super yacht, built by the German Yard Lurssen Rendsburg, and launched only in June 2013.
Solandge left Rendsburg on the 7th of November, heading for Stavanger in Norway, But on the 12th of November, she arrived not in Norway, but Douglas IOM.
Immediately, questions about the ostentatious new arrival were being asked. Who are the owners? A search of the internet would not reveal any details, other than the owners’ representative, Masters Yachts’ and that she is available on charter.
Why is she here in the IOM? Rumours initially had it that she has called in to re register to the IOM from her current registry of George Town, Cayman Island , but this would prove incorrect a little later.
Solandge was quickly becoming a bit of an enigma.
After a five day visit to the Island, Solandge, left at midnight 16th November.
One hour after departure, her AIS (automatic Identification System) was switched off, with her next stop supposed to be the Caribbean?
At 07:00 on the morning of the 17th November, Solandge [still with AIS off] arrived at the Mersey Bar and waited to take a pilot for an inbound journey up the Mersey. But where was she heading?
The answer would quickly follow: Cammell Lairds No 5 dry dock.
But why was she coming here?
A small group of ship spotters gathered at Monks Ferry for the arrival of the Mysterious Super Yacht Solandge but as she neared her destination of No 5 dry dock, fog descended, as if by divine intervention. Who does owns this yacht?
As luck would have it, the fog thinned enough to allow a few shots of her entering No 5 dry dock.
Later in the day, a trip to the Birkenhead Priory which has St Mary’s Tower, a good vantage point to see into Lairds No 5 would prove profitable, enabling many photos of the yacht and her opulent furnishing – but the dock had still not been drained down.
Later that evening, knowing that the priory and tower would be closed and not be available to view into the dock, a little sideways thinking was employed, resulting in an alternative method of viewing the yacht taking the blocks.
A ladder was placed up against a boundary wall outside the priory on a public road and on the top rung of the ladder was fitted a Cullmann Hide Clamp [used by bird watchers] with a camera attached to enable night photography.
After Several days, one of the ship spotters took a photo of her starboard propeller, which had been removed, with work around her stern in evidence.
Solandge, would remain in dry dock for 14 days before departing on the 30th November, once again without AIS, destination unknown.
On the 16th December, Solandge showed up on AIS as currently in port – at St Thomas in the Virgin Islands.
Missing the Mersey already…NOT !
Andy Mahon, Das Boot Photography
Andy Mahon is one of the MMMs – Mersey Mad Men – photographers specialising in shipping in the Mersey. As is obvious in this article, there is not much the MMMs will not do to get shots of the ships that ply the Mersey, trading, working, visiting and going in and out of the shipbuilding and repair yard at Cammell Laird.
Earlier this year, Andy sent us a series of superb photographs and information on the last weeks of Western Ferries’ two new vehicle and passenger ferries at Cammell Laird, commissioned by the Dunoon company. He then captured Soay and Seil as they left for the Clyde, where they are now working reliably in all weathers on the Western route between Dunoon and Gourock.
In his running down of Solandge, Andy Mahon was [fruitlessly] warned off by Cammell Laird, even though neither he nor other MMMs were anywhere other than on public property – but wealthy owners – whoever they are – pull clout. During her time in Laird’s No 5 dry dock, a tarpaulin shielded her name.
Shipping forums record other similar experiences – one photographer also using St Mary’s Tower at the old Birkenhead Priory to get shots of Solandge, was shouted at by two Laird’s workers from a crane.
One forum carried circumstantial speculation that Solandge might have been the victim of IOM fishermen who are evidently known to leave fishing gear around and have previously damaged the IOM Steam Packet Company’s ferry, MS Ben My Chree. This would be supported by the removal of her propellor at Lairds.
We’ll never know. But it remains of interest that she showed Stavanger as her destination when she left Rendsburg – which is in Scandinavian waters on the Kiel Canal – and then turned up at IOM. Why the ‘cover story’?
Andy Mahon’s brief encounter with the shadowy visit of the brand new and prematurely damaged toy of some oligarch provides a variety of fascinating insights. And when it comes to luxury – Solandge, the 62nd biggest motor yacht in the world, at over 85 metres, has accommodation for 12 guests – and 29 crew.