‘Back On Track’

‘Back on track.’ It certainly did not appear that way on Tuesday morning. There was no change in the weather. The ferry was delayed by about 30 minutes apparently because of poor visibility. The morning flight from Glasgow was cancelled due to poor visibility and broadband on the island was still down unless you had access to 4G.

The barge ‘Terra Marique’, the tug ‘Fortitude’ and the ‘MV Isle of Mull’ in Gott Bay

Out in Gott Bay sat the tug ‘Fortitude’ and the sea-going barge ‘Terra Marique’. They had arrived from Ayr on Tuesday but the  barge had been unable to berth as the crew had been stranded in Glasgow due to all flights to Tiree cancelled because of the fog.

Across the bay the top of Tilley shrouded by the fog

On Tuesday morning the first glimmer of light came with the berthing of the ‘MV Isle of Mull’.  It was about 30 minutes down on the advertised time – said to be because of poor visibility. However, once the Tiree traffic had been discharged the foot passengers walked up the link-span and among them was the crew for the barge. 

The barge crew step ashore on Tiree

By the time the ‘MV Isle of Mull’ headed back out to sea Ben Hynish and the Radar Station were just about visible, although it would be an hour or more before the sun broke through. When the sun finally broke through we were once again living under clear blue sky and in danger of suffering from sunburn.

The ‘Aurora’ on safety boat duty

Out in Gott Bay the crew now on board the barge (courtesy of Tiree Sea Tours) were hard at work redeeming time by preparing the barge for berthing. The hatch covers which are integral to the design of the barge were rolled back. As a result of the afore mentioned action the top of the turbine for Tilley was clearly visible. (Throughout the whole operation Tiree Sea Tours have provided the safety boat.)

The covers rolled back the turbine is visible
Close- up of the deck covers stowed
Close up of the barge crane at work

Right on schedule the ferry ‘MV Lord of the Isles’ arrived at 16:10. Once the transfer of vehicles and foot passengers had taken place, the ramp raised, the vessel secured and the necessary safety checks had taken place ‘LOTI’ headed out to sea. 

‘MV Lord of the Isles’ with company

In the distance the outline of a cruise ship could be seen. It was the ‘Bolette’ which had sailed south from Loch Hourne down the Passage of Tiree to Staffa. As the ‘MV Lord of the Isles’ entered the Passage of Tiree the Bolette was heading north to enter the Sound Of Mull. At one point the barge, ‘LOTI’ and the Bolette could be seen together.

The barge with LOTI out in the Passage of Tiree
Barge, Ferry and Cruise Ship (white outline)

The tug Fortitude has too great a draught to be able to draw alongside the pier. With the ‘Lord of the Isles’ clear of the pier the barge  propelled itself the short distance across the bay.

Barge alongside pier with Tiree Sea Tours Aurora

With the crew having prepared the barge for berthing the deck was more or less at the correct height. In what appeared as no time at all, compared to the previous visit of the barge four days previously, the stern ramp was lowered.  First to be brought off the barge by the tractor unit were two trailers which were taken up to the marshalling lanes by the pier office.

On hands and knees as everything has to be precise
Stern ramp being lowered
Chocks put in place to reduce slope
First Trailer off
Second Trailer

The turbine was perched on top of a low-loader which had been built up to raise the turbine above the height of the concrete wall of the pier approach. Slowly the articulated load made its was over the stern ramp, over the link-span and up the pier approach before stopping in the marshalling lanes.

Photographs of the Turbine being off-loaded

The Turbine’s Progress up the Pier Approach


The next stage of the operation was the off loading by crane of a large fork-lift vehicle from one of the two trailers. 

The next step was to off load the turbine from the low loader to enable to fork lift to remove the built up wooden platform designed to raise to turbine.

Finally the turbine was lowered back on to the low loader ready to be transported across the island to the site by Tilley. About 20:45 the turbine passed in front of our house as it made its way to Ruaig. There in the coming days, the huge crane will remove the existing turbine from the top of Tilley before installing the new one.

At 21:15 it was dark as the tug Fortitude towing astern the barge headed out into the Passage of Tiree. For the crew of the barge it had been a long day. They had to be at the Oban Ferry Terminal before 06:00 in order to board the ‘MV Isle of Mull’ and they only stepped ashore from the barge at 21:00. In a few days time the whole operation will be done in reverse necessitating two return trips of the barge.

It was not just the whole operation concerning Tilley that was back on track. Around lunchtime broadband coverage was restored to the island, although there was a worrying blip around 20:10.  Additionally two flights managed to land in the late afternoon and today’s morning flight arrived – no doubt with lots of mail.

Tilley ready and waiting

Normal ferry service to the island should be restored on Thursday with the return of the ‘MV Clansman’. The news is that the ‘MV Hebrides’ is repaired, has completed her sea trials and now at Uig ready to serve the Uig triangle.

Until we meet again – Today we say goodbye for the time being to LOTI

This is ‘Life on Tiree’.

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