An Exact Fit

When we first moved to the Isle of TireeTiree we had two very distinct reference points for establishing our way about. At the west end of the island was the radar station on the top of Ben Hynish, often referred to as the ‘Golf Ball’ and at the other end was a large wind turbine known as ‘Tilley’.

Tiree’s community owned Wind Turbine  was erected in 2011 and since then it has generated considerable income which has been invested in the island.. However, in September 2020 Tilley stopped generating electricity and thus income for the island. It was a major fault that required replacement of the very heart of the turbine.  The upgrade and the refurbishment of Tilley meant transporting bulky equipment and parts by the commercial cargo vessel ‘Terra Marique’ from Ayr on the Mainland to the pier in Gott Bay on Tiree.

Out of the early morning haze the tug ‘Fortitude’ and the barge ‘Terra Marique’

When Tiley was built in 2011 the MV Clansman transported the cranes and parts to the island but due to the uncertainties facing CalMac at this time due the coronavirus and the strain being placed on the aged fleet CalMac could not undertake this role in 2021. Thus a towed sea-going barge was hired from Robert Wynn and Sons Ltd. The Terra Marique is designed to handle abnormal individual loads. Its specially constructed hull allow the craft to beach land with a minimal amount of on-site preparation and the Terra Marique’s hydraulic roadway and ballast system allows the vessel to off-load on quays of varying heights.

The barge with Tilley in the background

One of the constraints facing the operation was the axle load and maximum tonnage crossing the link-span at Tiree.  Another limiting factor was that although the barge could have off-loaded on the beach and be much closer to Tilley it would have resulted in damage to the fragile Machair.

Before the crane and trailers could be driven up the pier narrow approach various pieces of pier furniture had to removed including lampposts, signage and some pieces of crash barrier. This latter operation was carried out two days prior to the barge arriving.

The pier approach stripped bare of furniture

So it was that the Tug Fortitude towing astern the sea-going barge ‘Terra Marique’ arrived in Gott Bay about 8:00am on Friday the 3rd of September.Tiree Sea Tours took crew members out to the barge and acted as a safety boat throughout the whole operation

‘Terra Marique’, Fortitude’ and rib Aurora

With the ‘MV Hebrides’ being forced into dry dock at Birkenhead CalMac had to redeploy the fleet serving both the Outer and Inner Hebrides. The ‘MV Clansman’ is replacing the ‘Hebrides’ on the Uig Triangle while ‘LOTI’ (MV Lord of the Isles) and occasionally the ‘MV Isle of Mull’ are covering Coll and Tiree.

Barge – Tug – and ‘MV Lord of the Isles

Once the CalMac ferry ‘MV Lord of the Isles’ departed the pier at 10:05am, ‘Terra Marique’ self-propelled itself and berthed alongside the pier. It took at least two hours before the stern ramp could be safely lowered onto the link-span. Those watching expressed their amazement at the complexity of this amazing barge. 

‘MV Lord of the Isles’ (LOTI) departing for Coll and Oban

One by one the various trailers and a smaller crane were off-loaded . The final piece of equipment to be off-loaded was the self-driving base of the crane. No wonder the lampposts had to be removed. There was barely an inch to spare on either side of the huge crane as it made its way up the narrow pier approach. It was an exact fit!

Not an inch to spare

After the crane operators had their lunch the cranes and trailers were taken to Tilley at Ruaig. I thought the ‘CRUSHER’ was huge, it was a minnow compared to today’s big boys!

The empty deck of the ‘Terra Marique’

At 18:39 the tug Fortitude with the Terra Marique in tow departed Gott Bay for Ayr with an ETA of 16:00 on Saturday. Then probably on Sunday it will depart Ayr with the second and final load for Tiree.

Ready to head back out to sea

What follows is a photo record of some of the day’s events.

Tug and barge standing off in the bay
Tiree Sea Tours’ Aurora take crew out to the barge
Compressed by the telephoto lens – Aurora, barge and tug
Clambering Aboard
MV Lord of the Isles arrives in Gott Bay at 9:30am
Hungry work the waiting around
Self-Propelled the barge underway on its approach to the pier
The barge heads towards the pier and linkspan
A video clip of the barge berthing
Tight against the link-span
The LONG wait – over 2 hours before anything rolled off
Final – Final – Final Checks!
The first tractor and trailer to roll off
Carefully does it
Removing the lashings
Another crane section rolls off
The long view – deck coverings removed and stacked
Tractor unit reverses on to collect the next trailer
What advertisers refer to as ‘PLACEMENT’ Tiree Cycle Hire
Last off – the BIG one
After final adjustments to the crane she rolls off
The Big One negotiates the tight corner – it has rear steering
Hope we measured this correctly
Slowly – slowly
On Tiree’s Single track roads
Escort Van preparing the way
“Nae Bother!” Negotiating the T Junction at the Pink House
Cautionsly over the cattle grid
Along Gott Bay – I can see Tilley!
Foot Down – Good thing the escort van is in front
Up the brae – hardly noticed it!
Almost there – turning into the site at Tilley
Side by side as the articulated lorry passes the crane
Journey’s end – Tilley

This is ‘Life on Tiree’

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