It’s almost 6:00pm on Thursday the 10th of February as the ‘MV Lord of the Isles arrives’ at Tiree’s Pier. This is the first ferry that has berthed successfully at Tiree since Friday the 4th of February. Under the winter timetable Tiree is not due a ferry on a Friday, but due to the cancellation of the Thursday ferry a special sailing was organised on the 4th.
At present CalMac is under immense pressure in part due to the stormy conditions including wind and swell. However, it is not just the weather, the company is having to deploy three of the oldest vessels in the fleet to serve Colonsay, Mull, Coll, Tiree and Barra – namely the ‘MV Hebridean Isles’, the MV Isle of Arran’ and the ‘MV Lord of the Isles’. (The MV Hebridean Isles’ is not allowed to berth at Tiree.)
The larger vessels are in dock for their annual overhaul and certification or are withdrawn from service for what are described as technical faults. The ‘MV Isle of Mull’ is out of service because of problems with its ‘visor’. The ‘Isle of Lewis’ which normally serves Barra is in dock in Aberdeen. The ‘MV Clansman’ is in dock in Birkenhead and her stay will be extended due to extensive work required on her plates.
In the past, in similar circumstances the ‘MV Hebrides’ brought some relief, but was soon called back to the Uig Triangle. This year she is not available to help out with the Oban, Coll, sailing as she too has been temporarily withdrawn from service because of problems with her main starboard engine.
CalMac comes in for a lot of flack, but they have to operate with the hand (the fleet) they have been dealt. The skippers and crew in addition to the pier staff do their best. Everyone is aware that new vessels are required, while CalMac has to soldier on with vessels that are subject to breakdown due to their age and the demands that are placed on them.
On Tuesday the 8th of February, ‘MV Lord of the Isles’ attempted to berth at Tiree. However, the ropes had to be released due the swell. The skipper deemed it unsafe to continue alongside the pier. It was back to Oban without successfully berthing at Coll or Tiree.
It was a welcome sight to witness ‘LOTI” enter Gott Bay and makes her way to wards the pier. It was with a real sense of relief she successfully berthed and the vehicles rolled off and on. Fuel had been rationed awaiting a delivery today, The lorry rolled off bringing necessary supplies for the island’s two stores. For some it was a relief to be home at last having been trapped in Oban for almost a week at their own expense. Even at island rate hotel accommodation can be expensive, especially for such a prolonged period.
The skipper had made the decision to delay today’s sailing from Oban at 7:00am until 2:00pm. At 7:00am in Tiree the wind had been gusting at 61mph and there was a powerful swell running. By delaying his arrival until 6:00pm the wind and swell has dropped considerably and it was also low tide.
Tomorrow, Friday, to help catch up with the backlog of traffic ‘LOTI’ will attempt two sailings. The latter sailing will be what they call the ‘Tiree Express’ when the ferry sails directly to Tiree and then straight back to Oban, with no stops in either direction at Coll.
This is island life.
‘Life on Tiree’