At the beginning of January we left the island in order to visit Chester and to spend a weekend with family who either live in London or close by. We returned to the Tiree on Thursday 23rd January having travelled up to Oban by train the day before. The 7:15am sailing from Oban to Coll and Tiree necessities an overnight stay in the town, especially when travelling by public transport.
The crossing was on board the MV Clansman. In the Sound of Mull the mist was so dense that the vessel had to sound its siren as a fog horn. Even at the Isle of Coll the cold, damp mist was rolling across the island. However by the time we reached Tiree the mist had lifted.
The crew were keen to tell us that upon their return to Oban they would be heading out to Barra where they would overnight. The following day, Friday, they would sail to Colonsay and later that same day they would head for the Clyde, for Brodick. We were also informed that on the Saturday the ‘Clansman was due to go for her annual overhaul at Garvel-Clyde in Greenock. (She is there now.)
While we were on the Mainland Storm Brendon battered the island. We understand that several beaches have suffered damage and that parts of the island temporarily lost their electric supply. It was encouraging to read of people thanking those who went out during the storm to restore the power supply or to clear roads blocked by storm tossed debris. Once again the pier was damaged including the electric cables that supply power to the linkspan.
Today, Saturday, the MV Lord of the Isles was the replacement vessel for the MV Clansman. Smaller than the MV Clansman and with a weight restriction placed on her, she is having to put in two sailings on a Saturday to accommodate the commercial vehicles. It is understood that even with the two sailings, some of the traffic will have to find space on Sunday’s sailing.
In order to facilitate the two crossings the MV Lord of the Isles departed Oban Ferry Terminal at 6:15am with an advertised arrival time in Tiree of 10:05. It was a dull, damp morning with grey sky and sea and the southerly wind was gusting to 36mph as the ferry berthed. The only real touch of colour was the vessel’s red funnels.
Down at the pier preparatory work has begun for the replacement of the linkspan with the work scheduled to begin on Monday 24th February and with an estimated completion date of Tuesday 17th March 2020. The linkspan deck is reaching the end of its serviceable life and it is being replaced as part of CMAL’s ongoing programme of harbour upgrades and improvements. During the linkspan closure period, vehicles and bicycles will be unable to travel to the island.
I was conscious of the damage to the electrical supply to the linkspan when the diesel generator serving the linkspan was called into action. Apparently the cable has been repaired but it had subsequently failed once more.
Once the traffic has rolled off and on the MV Lord of the Isles put out to sea bound for Coll and Oban.
It was a matter of turning around at Oban and sailing back to Tiree. Almost to the second of the advertised time she berthed at 6:31pm.
The wind was gusting from the south about 38mph. The tide was high and there was a considerable swell running. Add to that the berthing was in the hours of darkness. Would the Lord of the Isles be able to berth in such conditions?
Once again we witnessed a fine example of great seamanship as under Tiree skipper George Campbell the vessel safely berthed. It was real team work between the bridge, the crew and those handling the ropes on the pier. For those handling the ropes on the pier it is no easy task to stand on the roundhead in such conditions. “Well done!”
The moment the last vehicle was on board and the driver safely back on shore the ramp was raised. There was no hanging around and at 7:03pm ‘LOTI’ headed out to sea – sailing directly to Oban.
This is ‘Life on Tiree’ reporting once again from the island that has a wintry feel to it.