On Sunday 19th September at about 18:45 the tug ‘Fortitude’ with the sea going barge ‘Terra Marique’ departed Gott Bay, Isle Tiree, for the port of Ayr on the River Clyde, her mission completed.
This was the third and final sailing the tug and barge had made to and from the island. The barge ‘Terra Marique’ had been charged with task of transporting a replacement turbine for ‘Tilley’ the island’s community owned wind powered electric generator. The third sailing was to enable the return of the faulty turbine, the cranes and ancillary equipment to the Mainland.
As well as transporting the replacement turbine the barge had to bring to the island the huge crane that was required to carry out the operation. A second smaller crane was required to build the large crane capable of reaching the top of Tilley’s supporting tower. In addition to the two cranes there were trailers carrying crane limbs, ballast and ancillary equipment.
One of the major complications was the bend and narrow approach from the pier-head to the pier with literally no room for error. Several lamp-posts and other pier furniture had to be removed to enable the operation to take place. Low cloud meant that on the second sailing when the barge arrived at Tiree it could not come alongside the pier as the crew were trapped in Glasgow Airport due to a blanket of low cloud over Tiree preventing aircraft from landing.
The observer had to be impressed by the engineering of the barge, the weight it could carry, the manner in which its deck could be raised and lowered, and its ability to discharge its load not simply at a pier with a link-span but even on a beach. Also impressive was the skill of those who were driving and operating the cranes and low loader that carried the turbine.
Once the turbine and the cranes were in situ the work on replacing the turbine was carried out in a few days. A cherry picker capable of reaching the turbine arrived on the MV Clansman at one point to enable work to be carried out on the turbine on the top of its supporting tower. It was not a job for anyone who had no head for heights! The work on the turbine was carried out by Enercon.
The departure of the tug with the barge in tow from Ayr was delayed until the Saturday,, which meant a Sunday morning arrival in Gott Bay. What a beautiful sunny September Sunday and with calm seas. Once the MV Clansman had departed for its return sailing to Coll and Oban the barge was able to come alongside the pier.
With the weather deteriorating and with the resulting sea conditions some of the articulated lorries returned to the Mainland on board the MV Clansman. This meant that the barge had only to make one return crossing to and from the port of Ayr.
Once the deck was at the correct height and the ramp lowered the operation of loading could begin. Straight after meeting with the church family in the morning, it was down to the pier.
It was just in time. Already the turbine was on board and the task of bringing the two cranes and remaining trailers down the pier began.
Visits to the pier then followed – mainly between lunch time courses. When the barge had made its two previous visits there was a welcome committee, but few witnessed its departure. Perhaps the novelty had worn off.
Once again the Tiree Sea Tours’ rib the ‘Aurora’ was in attendance as a rescue boat and as a means of transporting the crew to and from the barge.
The final visit to the pier could not have been better timed. All the vehicles on board the barge were lashed securing them to the deck. The deck had been lowered and the hatches required for the sea going crossing rolled into place. The barge was secured for its passage. As I arrived the barge was just pulling away from pier and making its way towards the waiting tug.
Once the barge was to the stern of the tug the towing lines were secured and the barge checked over Tiree sea Tours’ rib brought the crew ashore. For the crew of the barge their job was done at Tiree.
So it was the tug with the barge in tow departed into the sunset bound for the River Clyde and the port of Ayr. Travelling at about 5 knots the crew on board the tug would witness sunrise – weather permitting.
There was just as they say, ‘one fly in the ointment’ – Tilley is not turning. It had been turning just days before, but there appeares to be a fault. For the barge and the crane operators their mission was complete.
This is ‘Life on Tiree’
No waiting the plane! – We are off on the plane!