Behind Every Cloud

Perhaps the word ‘proverbial’, whether used as an adjective or noun, best sums up the action at the pier today.

Two come along – the MV Clansman and the MV Isle of Mull

For starters there is the saying that you wait ages for a bus (in this instance a ferry) and then two come along one after the other.

The MV Isle of Mull and in the background the MV Clansman

Then there is the saying, ‘ships that pass in the night’ – only today it was ‘ships that pass in the day’.

The first ferry to arrive in Gott Bay – the MV Isle of Mull

It certainly felt today that CalMac were ‘pulling out all the stops’ for Tiree. Apart from Saturdays in the height of the summer, and perhaps livestock sales, we normally only have 1 sailing a day in the winter (5 days out of 7).

The MV Isle of Mull prepares to berth

Due to the weather forecast ‘there were no guarantees’ with either ferry, or either sailing. Customers had a choice to make but there was no guarantee that either ferry would berth – not even at Oban.

An infrequent visitor to Tiree – the ‘Mull’ alongside the pier

In the last 24 hours or more those who work at the pier and office have been under a great deal of pressure, you might even say they were ‘rushed off their feet‘. Unless you work at the pier office you do not know all that has to be undertaken. This is especially so when ferries are cancelled or there is an amended timetable.

The ‘Mull’ heading out to sea bound for Oban while the Clansman approaches Gott Bay

As for the timing of the MV Clansman’s arrival at Tiree, on both occasions she was accompanied by the ‘berthing shower’ that seems ‘to follow the vessel ‘like a bad penny’.

The ‘Clansman’ approaching the pier as the ‘Mull’ heads back to Oban

As forecast the MV Clansman arrived in Oban from the Clyde following its annual service and certification. However for operational reasons and the impending weather forecast there was an amended timetables in operation.

The MV Clansman preparing to berth stern first

The MV Isle of Mull provided an additional sailing direct to Tiree and back to Oban again. It departed Oban at 05:00, however vehicles and their occupants had to be at the ferry terminal no later than 4:15. They were up before the lark!

It takes precision and skill

She was timetabled to arrive at Tiree at 09:00, but in fact she berthed early at 8:39. Likewise, although timetabled to arrive at Oban at 13:15, she berthed early at 12:50. Customers had been advised that due to a forecast for adverse weather conditions in Oban at the estimated arrival time of the MV Isle of Mull, berthing was NOT guaranteed. Thankfully the ferry did not have to divert to the nearest port of refuge at Craigure on Mull.

The MV Clansman helping deal with the backlog of commercial vehicles waiting to get to Tiree

The MV Clansman was operating to an amended scheduled. Instead of a 7:15 departure, she departed Oban at 06:00 with a timetabled arrival at Tiree at 09:20.

The MV Clansman departing for Coll

What happened next was interesting. At first the timings seemed rather strange. The ‘Clansman’ left Tiree and sailed to Coll – nothing strange in that. But then she was timetabled to sail back to Tiree – taking 2 hours – arriving at Tiree at 13:00. Normally the sailing from Coll to Tiree is about 55 minutes!

Marine Traffic recorded the Clansman’s manoeuvres in the Passage of Tiree

The 2 hours were spent in the Passage of Tiree delaying her arrival to allow the commercial vehicles which had arrived earlier time to dispose of their load and get back to Tiree’s ferry terminal.

The reason for the time the vessel spent in the Passage of Tiree

It has been a day of frequent intense hail showers driven by winds that were gusting up to 56mph. At one point on the Clansman’s first arrival at Tiree the ground turned white with the hail. Conditions were not too dissimilar on her second arrival – only on this occasion the wind speed was at least 48mph.

Skipper Michael MacNeil skilfully berthed the ferry when winds were gusting to 48mph

The skipper was Michael MacNeil. He, his crew and those working on the pier are to be thanked for berthing safely in such difficult circumstances.

A watchful eye from the bridge

As the MV Clansman headed out to sea the sky was black from the hail storm that has just passed. Yet, I could not help but think, ‘behind every cloud there is a silver lining’.

With the safety checks complete the stern ropes are released

Two different ferries on one day. And one ferry calling twice at the pier. The second call taking place in challenging circumstances.

Under dark skies the MV Clansman thrusts away from the pier

This is ‘Life-on-Tiree’.
Dark skies but with a silver lining.