There is good news, the island is slowly opening up with the return of summer temporary residents, regular holiday visitors and holidaymakers visiting Tiree for the first time. At present the number of visitors is limited by the reduced passenger capacity of the ferry due to social distancing measures.
In Scotland there are 5 COVID-19 protection levels (0-4) and Tiree along with most of Scotland’s islands, except the Isle of Skye which is connected to the Mainland by a bridge, is in Level One. Although this allows some more freedom to meet, great care still needs to be observed in order to prevent the introduction of the virus to the island. Visitors are welcome but it is Scottish Government advice to do 2 Lateral Flow Tests before travelling to the island.
Tiree Medical Practice have issued an important message for all visiting the island. The message is available online. Other Covid related information for visitors is available and should be read and acted upon.
CalMac (Clyde and Hebridean Ferries) in the past month and more have had a whole series of vessels failing. The most notable is the MV Loch Seaforth, which suffered damage to one of her engine bearings and further issues to the engine crankshaft. This led to the MV Isle of Lewis being withdrawn from the Oban Barra sailing and transferred to the Ullapool Stornaway service. All this had a ripple effect across the whole network. The encouraging news is the MV Loch Seaforth has left dry dock (28/05/2021) and providing sea trials are successful she will return to her home waters.
Thankfully the MV Clansman has continued to serve Coll and Tiree, although the network problems led to some changes to the normal timetable. On a Wednesday the ferry normally includes a sailing to Barra resulting in a later return sailing to Coll and Oban. Latterly this was replicated on a Thursday. Additionally the Sunday sailing from Oban to Coll and Tiree and return was delayed until 3:15 (instead of 07:00) to enable the ferry to return from Barra., having sailed there the previous evening.
Last Sunday the sailing was further delayed due to operational reasons and then shortly after the MV Clansman had departed Oban Ferry Terminal she had engine problems and there was some question of a possible return to Oban. To the relief of the crew and passengers the issue was resolved and the ferry was able to continue with her sailing to Coll and Tiree.
The sun came out to welcome the arrival of the ferry. It had been a wild and wet morning and early afternoon but the sky was blue and the sea was calm in Gott Bay as the ‘Mighty One’ berthed.\
On Wednesday evening those looking skyward were treated to a full moon known as a Blood Moon. Although the same could not be said for much of the UK, the full moon was clearly visible in the night sky above Tiree. The red colour was obvious, however the camera ought to have been mounted on its tripod. The full moon has resulted in quite dramatic tide conditions. We are now at that time of the year when on Tiree the hours of darkness are increasingly limited.
Throughout the pandemic the island’s Baptist Church has hosted its ‘Sunday Gathering’ on Zoom and later in the day releasing a recording of the event on YouTube and Facebook. On the first Sounday in June the church will be able to meet once again in An Talla, the island’s community hall. The encouraging news is that although numbers will be restricted due to social distancing measures, congregational singing is permitted as at present the island is in ‘Level One’. Those intending to attend on the Sunday will be required to register their intention to come in order to avoid being disappointed as numbers are restricted. The intention is to continue to continue to broadcast on Zoom and whenever possible to release a recording later.
For the Baptist Church, these are the first tentative steps. Masks will still be required, hands will be required to be sanitised, and we will have to sit socially distanced – but it will be great to meet together in the same space.
This is ‘Life on Tiree’.