The weather forecast for the Isle of Tiree was for hail showers while the forecast for the Mainland town of Oban was for wintry showers. We made the short distance from our home to the pier office in the dry, however as we waited for the ferry to berth the clouds broke. Those who work at the pier refer to this phenomenon as the ‘berthing shower.’ Strictly speaking it was more than a shower.
Overhead the sky was an inky black and the cloud base was low, so although we could see snow almost to sea level on the Isle of Mull, the island’s Munro, Ben More, was hidden from view.
It was a familiar voice from the bridge that welcomed us on board the sailing to Coll and onward to Oban. The Skipper was George Campbell from Tiree. On board were another two mariners from the Isle of Tiree. They are keeping alive the island’s strong maritime tradition.
As we entered the Sound of Mull we were conscious that this was indeed a wintry crossing. There was no snow lying on Tiree, but all around there was snow on the mountain peaks and on the Isle of Mull. The snow did not quite make it down to sea level.
We were on board the MV Lord of the Isles as the vessel which normally serves Oban, Coll and Tiree is in dock in Greenock for its annual overhaul and certification. The ferry which normally serves Barra is likewise is in dock in Aberdeen. Those travelling from Oban to the Outer Hebrides were unable to travel as both the MV Isle of Arran and the MV Hebridean Isles were storm bound. We were pleased to be able to travel in safety and comfort.
The first ferry we witnessed was the MV Lochinvar which makes the short crossing from Lochaline on the Mainland to Fishnish on the Isle of Mull.
From a distance the MV Isle of Mull could be seen berthed at Craignure pier on Mull. Lying off Craignure was the MV Hebridean Isles. The latter was in this vicinity as she could not be accommodated at Oban.
The wintry theme continued as we passed Lismore Lighthouse situated on Eilean Musdile in the Firth of Lorne at the entrance to Loch Linnhe. The lighthouse was built in 1833 by Robert Stevenson and was automated in 1965. A white colour scheme was the order of the day.
The MV Lord of the Isles has served in Scotland’s West Coast waters for thirty years and at present it appears that her services will be required for several years as there are no new ferries to take her place.
As we looked down the Firth of Lorne there was some relief from the dark sky and snow laden low clouds. There was light and even a hint of a weak wintry sunset.
As we approached Oban Bay we caught sight of the MV Isle of Arran lying off the berths. Work is in progress to replace the linkspan at berth two, the berth the Coll and Tiree ferry normally arrives at or departs from. As a consequence we came alongside berth one.
No sooner had we berthed than the MV Isle of Arran left the bay in order to make way for the MV Isle of Mull. The ‘Arran’ held off in the Firth. In the evening both the ‘Heb Isles’ and the ‘Arran’ would berth at Craignure.
Oban town centre itself was more or less free of snow but just outside the town it was a different matter. For a time the railway line was closed due to the wintry conditions.
Looking across the bay and beyond Kerrera the peaks on the Isle of Mull were covered in snow. It certainly felt as if we had made a wintry crossing.
It seemed strange to be back on the Mainland so soon. It was less than a week since we had made the crossing from Oban to Tiree. However, we had an appointment in Oban on Wednesday thus our crossing on Tuesday.
As darkness fell it was heart warming to see the burn that flows through the town floodlit. It had the effect of drawing the eyes to the floodlit McCaig’s Tower.
Later in the evening we took a walk down by the ferry terminal and ‘LOTI’ was sitting alongside berth two. Her next sailing to Coll and Tiree in on Thursday but the weather forecast is such that she is already on alert with cancellation a possibility. Looking at the weather forecast it is looking like a strong possibility.
This is ’Life on Tiree’ reporting from Oban after a wintry crossing from Tiree. Thanks to the Skipper and the crew for a safe and pleasant passage.
As we were about to publish this post CalMac advised that Thursday’s sailing had been cancelled and that there would be an additional Friday sailing departing Oban at 5:30am. The ferry will sail direct to Tiree and visit Coll on the return journey. An early start indeed and it comes with no guarantees! This is Island life.