CANT — CAN

Watching the MV Clansman berth at the pier in Gott Bay, Isle of Tiree, I could not help thinking of a play words. As she turned in the bay in order to berth with her stern to the linkspan thee was a fair degree of CANT. The Southerly wind was gusting up to 41mph and there was a warning issued the previous day that the Oban, Coll, Tiree service was liable to disurption or cancellation at short notice.

CANT

Would she manage ro berth or not? “She can’t!” or Oh! Yes she CAN!” This was the Mighty One after all. In fact although those standing on the roundhead faced challenging conditions the lines were thrown, caught and the ropes hauled and secured. With her bow across the roundhead and the ropes in place she employed her powerful thrusters to bring her stern in towards the pier. With the bow ropes secured the ramp was lowered.

CAN! – The MV Clansman alongside the pier

With the conditions as they were there was no hanging around. As soon as the traffic movements were carried out and the few foot passengers safely on board the ramp was raised and the vessel prepared to head back out to sea.

WAITING FOR INSTRUCTIONS

A WATCHFUL PRESENCE ON THE BRIDGE

Preparing to head out to sea

POWER TO THE PROPELLORS

THRUSTING OFF FROM THE PIER

Bow Plunging into the Waves

Was there any doubt the ‘Mighty One’ would successfully berth? “Can’t – Oh! Yes she CAN!” What a picture as she headed out of the bay. There was to be no second stop at Coll. It was straight back to Oban today.

CAN

CAN

CAN

This is ‘Life on Tiree’ at the pier.

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A Welcome Return

In sharp contrast with the day before, the weather report stated that Tiree was enveloped in dense fog.  Although it was not a pea-souper, visibility was greatly reduced.  As a consequence of the poor visibility the daily flight from and to Glasgow was cancelled. 

Barely discernable the ‘MV Clansman’

On the way down to the pier I could hear what sounded like a ship’s horn.   A fishing boat was dipping in and out of the fog and this was probably one reason for the sounding of the ship’s horn.

A fishing boat dipping in and out of the fog

Yesterday morning the MV Hebrides took over the sailings on the Uig Triangle to Tarbert (Harris) and Lochmaddy (North Uist). After an early morning crossing from Tarbert to Uig the MV Clansman proceeded to Castlebay on Barra. From there she sailed to Oban. She was in place to be deployed on the 7.15am Thursday sailing to Coll and Tiree.

Arriving in Gott Bay and coming outof the murk

From Tiree’s pier the Passage of Tiree was shrouded in fog and it was out of the murk that the MV Clansman made her welcome return. She was well into Gott Bay before the outline of the ferry could be discerned. It was even further into the bay before she could clearly be seen.

The MV Clansman preparing to berth

With almost no wind and no swell the MV Clansman enjoyed calm conditions for her return to Tiree. In her extended  absence the MV Lord of the Isles covered most of the crossings, although on two consecutive crossings the MV Isle of Mull made an appearance. The latter was down to technical difficulties elsewhere on the network. The MV Isle Lewis which normally operates between Castlebay (Barra) and Oban is berthed in Stornoway (Lewis) with what has been reported as thruster problems.

The MV Clansman in front of the renovated old pier

In line with Covid restrictions both traffic to and from the Mainland was reassuringly mainly commercial vehicles. It was good to see, even from a distance, well known faces among the crew.

Well known faces

The equinox in March and the month of April can still bring with them stormy conditions so it is reassuring to have the ‘Mighty One’ back on duty.

Midship and bow ropes being hauled in

Welcome home.

The ramp lowered and local drivers board the car deck

This is ‘Life on Tiree’.

MV Clansman – A Welcome Return

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Calm Crossapol

On Wednesday afternoon we had good reason to go to Baugh and so we took the opportunity to park at Crossapol and have a walk along Baugh beach. The forecast for the day was for cloudy conditions and it has been more less accurate. It was a calm afternoon thus the title ‘Calm Crossapol’.

A rocky window on a portion of the beach

Unlike the Island of Coll, on Tiree there is no long drive to reach a beach. On Tiree in many places you can just step out of your car and onto the sand. ‘Balmy Baugh Beach’ sounds great but there is no way that description would suit the beach today. However, it was certainly mild.

Quietly reflecting

Baugh beach has rocky bookends, but the beach itself is composed from Tiree’s famous white shell sand. This afternoon it was low tide and the sense of expanse is enhanced – not that it needs enhancing.

Looking from Crossapol to Baugh

The waters around the island are shallow and the beach itself is gently sloping – the slope being almost imperceptible.

Oyeter Catchers

Oyster Catchers (apparently misnamed) love Tiree and most people on Tiree love oyster catchers. In fact Tiree’s St Ayles Skiff is named ‘An Gille-Brìghde’. For those who do not have the Gaelic it means ‘The Oyster Catcher’. And the colours of this popular Tiree bird are reflected in the paintwork.

Gulls making the most of the calm conditions

Tiree has a resident RSPB Officer and for those with a love of bird life Tiree has much to offer. Migratory birds often use Tiree as a convenient stopping off point. Sitting out in the Atlantic birds that have been blown off course sometimes make landfall on the island.

They call this calm condions

This afternoon the breaking waves were not deafening. Often it can sound as if an express train is hurtling along the beach. It is not an unplesant sound but it can be incessant.

CALM CONDITIONS

CALM CONDITIONS

Although it was a calm afternoon the waves kept breaking. It was fascinating watching the display and this made you wonder what it might be like with a gale force south easterly wind.

Looking towards an invisible Ben Hynish

Turning round to walk back towards the car how different it was. Ben Hynish was under a blanket of dark grey cloud. This was a black and white world.

A grey world

The oyster catchers with their black and white plumage were on what was now agrey beach and only their orange bills gave a hint of colour.

The black and white theme continues

As we continued back towards the car the ominous grey clouds dominated the land and seascape. It was like being in another world. Yet. . . .

The Long Dune protecting the Reef

A glance backward – east along the beach – everything was very different. Blue predominated and as a result the long dune was reflected in the thin layer of water slowly draining towards the tide’s edge.

Nothing Ropey about Baugh Beach

This is ‘Life on Tiree’

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Success

It is Monday and after the recent spell of stormy weather things have settled down. It was pleasantly mild for this morning’s walk around Scarinish. Conditions in Gott Bay could hardly have been better for the berthing of the MV Lord of the Isles with hardly a breath of wind and calm seas.

A distant view of the MV Isle of Mull

The aim had been to report on Saturday’s activities at the pier but a busy weekend put paid to that. At last a window of opportunity to give an update.

Through the Linkspan

Anyone with an interest in the ferries serving the Clyde and islands of the West Coast of Scotland  will be aware of the issues facing the ferry operator at the present time. An aged fleet, a global pandemic, adverse weather conditions, technical issues and vessels in turn withdrawn for their annual overhaul and certification – these are just some of the issues.

Turning in order to berth stern first

As a consequence CalMac are having to deploy the remaining vessels in the fleet as best as they can. One look at the ‘Status’ of the various routes is punctuated with explanations like: – Due to a technical issue elsewhere in the network, please note that there will be only stop at Coll. Due to a technical issue elsewhere in the network, this service has been cancelled. Due to adverse weather conditions this service is liable to disruption or cancellation at short notice.

A Bridge Eye View

The ongoing situation has serious consequences for island life and businesses. On the lighter side, those who enjoy ferry watching are able to observe ferries they would not see in more normal circumstances.

With bow across the roundhead

With Thursday’s sailing to Coll and Tiree unable to successfully berth at either port, the MV Isle of Mull undertook the crossing on Saturday morning. Designed for the short crossing from Oban to Craignure on the Isle of Mull, it is not best suited for the longer crossing to Coll and Tiree or to Castlebay on Barra.  Thankfully weather and sea conditions were such the vessel could berth safely and successfully. 

Midship line thrown
Starboard ropes secured

On this occasion a member of the pier staff had to climb one of the dolphins which support the linkspan in order to secure an additional stern rope.  The MV Isle of Mull is high sided and so is more likely to catch the wind. It appeared that no chances were being taken over the ropes.

Not everyone’s Cup of Tea
Ready! Steady! Catch!

As had been reported on a previous occasion this particular vessel is an infrequent visitor to Tiree. She can carry fewer vehicles on her car deck but more passengers. So she has been deployed as an addition ferry when passenger numbers are extremely high – such as the Tiree Music Festival.  The problems facing CalMac and the build up delayed traffic, particularly freight, resulted in the MV Isle of Mull visiting Coll and Tiree on Saturday and Sunday. On Sunday evening she sailed Oban to Barra, returning on Monday morning.

MV Isle of Mull alonhside the pier

Tiree required a delivery of petrol on Saturday and this resulted in the MV Lord of the Isles sailing from Oban to Tiree on Saturday afternoon. The MV Isle of Mull has a fully enclosed card deck and is unable to transport a tanker carrying petrol. There was no return sailing to Oban. Instead the ferry sailed to Barra.

Petrol Tanker on LOTI

In normal circumstances about the 24th of March the ferry would have moved from the winter to summer timetable. This year due to the pandemic this has been delayed until late April.  

MV Lord of the Isles departing Gott Bay – Barra Bound

The summer timetable would normally see the Oban, Coll and Tiree service extended to Barra once a week and in recent years this has been on a Wednesday. This does enable a day visit (about six hours) to Tiree. It has the added benefit of allowing Coll residents to shop at the CO-OP on Tiree. Although traffic is low between Tiree and Barra there are those who appreciate the service.

MV Lord of the Isles entering the Gunna Sound

The ferry would normally sail to Barra via the Gunna Sound – the stench of water separating Coll and Tiree. Last year due to the emergency timetable and covid restrictions this once a week sailing was suspended.

LOTI approaching the navigation buoy in the Gunna Sound

On Saturday it felt a treat to watch the MV Lord of the Isles sail through the Gunna Sound.  As she left the Sound and entered the Little Minch you were conscious, even  from the shore, of the vessel rising and falling.  Normally it would be the MV Clansman that makes the transit so it was great to see LOTI in the Sound. However, it has to be acknowledged she is no stranger to the waters of the sound.

Laeving the Gunna Sound – Rum in the dtstance

This is ‘Life on Tiree’.

Rising and Falling in the Little Minch

Rising and Falling in the Little Minch

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Tantalisingly Close

There seems to be something about Thursdays at present.  Once again on a Thursday the ferry failed to berth at Tiree. The vessel came alongside the pier, the bow ropes were thrown and caught. However, before the stern ropes were even thrown the bow ropes were released and the ferry headed back out to sea.

MV Lord of the Isles in Gott Bay

For those on board they were tantalisingly close. They were not just within sight of Tiree and the pier, the ferry was actually alongside the pier before the decision was made by the skipper to cancel the attempt to berth and head back to the Mainland port of Oban.

Swell Conditions

The status update issued by CalMac at 05:30am warned that due to adverse weather, there would only be one stop at Coll with the vessel operating to an amended timetable. In the event the vessel failed to berth at Coll.

Hopeful

Before leaving home to observe the ferry a further update had been issued stating that the vessel was unable to berth at Coll at 09:55 due to heavy swell. 

Through the Linkspan

With the MV Clansman replacing the MV Hebrides, which is down in Birkenhead for her annual overhaul and certification, the ferry relieving on the Oban, Coll and Tiree route is the MV Lord of the Isles {LOTI}. Whether or not the MV Clansman would have successfully berthed is an unknown.

So far – So good!

It was through breaking swell that the MV Lord of the Isles could be observed entering Gott Bay from the Passage of Tiree. She progressed  towards the pier and prepared to berth with her stern to the linkspan.

Still hopeful

For a brief moment the atmosphere was tense as it appeared that LOTI was not even going to attempt to berth.  However, she then slowly proceeded to come in stern first.

Slowly Progressing astern first

Although successfully coming alongside and the bow ropes being caught, the stern was never secured.  The whole operation took around 10 tense minutes. For those on board there was nothing else but a return to Oban.

Almost Alongside!

There is no sailing to Coll or Tiree under the Winter Timetable. The next crossing is 6:15am on Saturday.  The big question is will there be room on either sailing on Saturday?

Bow ropes secured

The MV Lord of Isles makes two crossings to Tiree due to limits placed on her. This was made even worse today.  Those planning to travel to Tiree by ferry had been advised – Due to shipment of lifeline supplies, passenger space will be very limited so any passengers looking to travel are highly advised to book in advance.  No doubt heavy goods vehicles are already booked on Saturday’ sailing(s) so it may prove difficult for those unable to land today to be accommodated on Saturday.

A vain attempt to berth

Whether your destination was Coll or Tiree those  making the journey today will have spent almost 8 hours on board by the time the vessel berths in Oban.  There is the prospect of spending another 2 nights in Oban, that is providing they can be accommodated on either of  Saturday’s sailings.

Sadly NOT Today

Those unable to board at either or Coll or Tiree today have faced similar prospects, but al least they did not have to spend almost 8 hours on the ferry. It looks like the CO-OP will be busy on Saturday afternoon.  

Under Way

 Life is uncertain whether you live on the Mainland or an island.  Here on the Isle of Tiree we are simply reminded of this fact in dramatic fashion. 

Heading Back out to sea

The is ’Life on Tiree’.

Oban Bound
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