Island Life

“It’s just island life.” Sometimes the phrase is a reference to the weather. Sometimes it relates to Tiree’s transport links to the Mainland. And sometimes it is a combination of both.

The Lighthouse and Old Harbour, Scarinish

It is November and while parts of the UK have experienced devastating floods, here on Tiree we have enjoyed some truly sunny days. However on Sunday evening the wind began to rise and by 6 o’clock on Monday morning the wind was gusting up to 69mph.

Tuesday morning and the MV Clansman prepares to berth at Tiree

Not unexpectedly Monday’s ferry was on an alert. The wild weather resulted in widespread disruption across the whole west coast ferry network. According to the CalMac website at one point, 25 out of 28 services were facing disruption of some kind. For normal the ferry would visit the Isle of Coll before coming to Tiree and then call there again on its return sailing to Oban. Instead the decision had been made by Sunday that the ferry would only sail to Tiree.

On Tuesday, with the wind from the north and gusting to 38mph the MV Clansman eases her stern off the pier

Thankfully it was the MV Clansman that was charged with the responsibility of attempting the crossing. For over an hour the vessel held off attempting to berth, waiting out in the Passage of Tiree for a lull in the wind. I was unable to observe the event due to another commitment but I could watch the drama unfold on my phone via Marine Traffic and CalMac alerts. The scale of the delayed berthing can be seen from the following alert: ‘OBAN-COLL-TIREE, 11 Nov MV Clansman departed Tiree for Oban at 12:45 (1hr 10mins late due to weather) ETA in Oban will be 16:05’. 

THE MV Clansman about to enter the Gunna Sound on her return from Barra

Loganair had its share of problems. The first of these was technical rather than weather related. Apparently the plane left its stand at Glasgow Airport only to return again without taking off. The flight was delayed while engineers dealt with the problem. The evening flight was then cancelled due to the weather. This resulted in the larger ‘Saab’ plane being deployed on Tuesday instead of the normal ‘Twin Otter’ aircraft.

The MV Clansman entering the Gunna Sound from the Little Minch

Today, Tuesday, the MV Clansman has had to step into the breach once again. Due to the ongoing technical issues elsewhere on the network and to allow CalMac to operate a lifeline service to Castlebay the MV Clansman sailed to an amended timetable, that included the vessel in a return crossing to Castlebay (Barra) from Tiree.

The MV Clansman about to pass the navigation bouy in the Gunna Sound

The amended timetable involved the ferry leaving Oban at 05:15 instead of 7:15. It also meant the sailing to Oban from Tiree would not depart until 15:20. That was the plan!  However, the actual departure time was 15:50. Getting under way from Tiree the ferry was 30 minutes behind the advertised time.

The MV heading towards a murky Passage of Tiree

The crossing to Barra from Tiree resulted in the rare winter timetable occurrence of the ferry passing through the Gunna Sound. This was an opportunity not to miss and Life on Tiree was not the only representative recording the event. (There was a police presence.) The return from Caolas (Gunna Sound view) was marked by an atmospheric view across Ruaig and Gott Bay towers Ben Hynish.

Returning from Caolas the view across Ruaig and Gott Bay towards Ben Hynish

Travel disruption is a factor of island life but in the present circumstances Tiree has faired better than many other island communities. Indeed we have been much better off than many parts of the UK.

The MV Clansman returns to Gott Bay from Barra

The technical challenges facing CMAL/CALMAC continue. The youngest vessel in the fleet, the MV Lock Seaforth, has broken down having just returned north from her annual overhaul at Birkenhead. Another two vessels have gone off for their annual overhaul and service. The result is that CalMac have advised that the MV Clansman will be operating to a revised time table on Thursday and Saturday.
Depart Oban – 11:30, Arrive Tiree – 14:50
Depart Tiree – 15:10, Arrive Coll – 16:05
Depart Coll – 16:15, Arrive Oban – 18:55

The MV Clansman coming alongside the pier in Gott Bay, Tiree on her return from Barra

The delayed sailing  will make it difficult for foot passengers seeking to travel onwards to Glasgow and beyond as the last public transport leaves Oban just after 18:00 hours. This is island life!

The delayed MV Clansman boarding traffic for Oban

This is ‘Life-on-Tiree’ reporting on “Island Life”.

The delayed MV Clansman heading out to sea