This evening, Friday 11th February, the wind has risen one again and the rain is battering the windows. No surprise that less than 2 hours after the ferry departed Tiree on Thursday evening that CalMac advised, ‘Due to this evening’s forecast of Southerly winds gusting to 51mph, the afternoon service to Tiree is now cancelled.’
The previous evening, Thursday 10th February, the ‘MV Lord of the Isles’ had successfully berthed at Tiree. The previous successful berthing had been on Friday the 4th February. CalMac then advised that due to delays on 10 February and weather the 6:15 EX OBAN is delayed until 7:00am’. This sailing was to help with the backlog of traffic from a week’s cancelled sailings.
Considering the weather this evening, the mornings sunshine seems a distant memory. Although the wind was blowing from the south west and was gusting to 30mph ‘LOTI’ had no difficulty in berthing. For those working on the outside deck and on the pier It was bitterly cold.
The skipper made a cautious approach to the pier. I was a case of slow and steady as he came towards the roundhead. The pier staff were on the ready to catch the bow ropes.
A close eye on the proceedings were being kept from the starboard wing of the bridge
After the bow ropes were caught and placed on the bollards, the midship ropes were thrown The vessel could then proceed to pivot and bring in her stern.
As LOTI’s stern was brought alongside her thrusters had to work hard as the wind was increasingly hitting her starboard side. But! She did it.
With LOTI safely berthed the traffic rolled off and then on. Any plans to send inbound commercial lorries back on the evening sailing had to be abandoned. They would not be able to be loaded in Oban and brought back on Saturday’s sailing(s).
This afternoon another alert arrived stating that due to forecasted South Westerly winds gusting to 40mph and associated sea and swell conditions, there would only be one sailing on Saturday instead of the two that LOTI is required to provide in order to compensate for the loss of the ‘MV Clansman’ with its increased capacity. An additional sailing would weather permitting be provided on Sunday.
Later in the afternoon CalMac issued a status alert with a link to an explanation relating to the current situation that CalMac is facing. The explanation is reproduced below.
This is Life on Tiree
How we are responding to current disruptions
Friday 11 February 2022
As many of you will know, CalMac and the communities we serve are experiencing a challenging period at present. We are now well into the third week of extreme and unprecedented weather conditions – one of the longest periods of very poor weather and high significant wave height for many years.
At the same time, we also have other factors affecting our service and want to provide you with more detail on those and the steps we are taking to protect the lifeline services we deliver.
The current context
We are experiencing technical faults with some vessels that require urgent repair. In addition, some of our statutory annual overhauls are delayed, while engineers solve unforeseen issues presented during detailed surveys.
Although the effect of Covid19 on our staff has eased since December, it is still a factor in day-to-day life and is having an impact on our colleagues, and in turn some of our services.
Operating on the edge of the North Atlantic basin means that we are exposed to some of the worst weather and sea conditions in the UK. A prolonged period of very poor weather has been prevalent across the network over the last few weeks. Our masters are experienced in making detailed assessments of weather conditions on each route, and in some cases, they have reported conditions the likes of which we have not experienced for many years. At times, this has made sailings impossible – the safety of our customers and our seafaring crew must come first.
Together, these factors are creating a challenging picture for our customers and CalMac. Some communities have been without a ferry service for a number of days and the impact this can have on lives and livelihoods is at the forefront of our minds and the decisions we need to make.
Our team is focused on returning those vessels which are currently off, back to service as soon as possible. Where other technical issues emerge, our aim is always to repair with the vessel in service.
Overhaul is an essential part of our maintenance schedule, required to maintain statutory certification and to reduce the risk of technical problems emerging in service. While the schedule continues, we are working at pace to complete repair work. We are also reorganising the programme of overhauls to reduce the impact this work is having at this time. For instance, MV Finlaggan’s scheduled docking has now been moved Dales in Greenock to keep her maintenance plan on schedule.
While we can’t control other factors like weather, we do have a committed team working hard to reduce the impact on communities and customers wherever we can. For example, our crew monitor the situation and respond to limited weather windows by operating untimetabled services whenever they can do so safely. This included MV Lord of the Isles sailing for Barra and back overnight on Sunday 6 February.
MV Hebridean Isles also operated from Oban to Castlebay and Lochboisdale yesterday and will continue to operate an amended service so that supplies are delivered to shops and passengers can travel as planned. Please note that lifeline freight and passengers will be prioritised on these sailings. Our teams will be in touch if your booking is affected.
MV Lord of the Isles also successfully berthed in Tiree on Thursday night, following many days of unsuccessful attempts due to continuing and exceptionally high sea swell conditions. This morning we were also able to successfully berth in Coll for the first time in a week, thanks to the same conditions.
MV Hebrides is expected to return to service on Monday, the required parts are arriving today and tomorrow, and engineers will carry out the necessary repairs over the weekend.
We will continue to work with local communities to ensure their priorities around the transportation of goods and services are understood and supported. Our dedicated frontline staff are talking every day to our regular customers to make sure that essential goods and services are being moved.
We understand how much our customers and the communities we serve rely on ferry services. Getting ferries working as they should be is our absolute priority, and we thank you for your patience and understanding at what we know is a really difficult time.
As we work through this challenging period, we will keep our customers updated on each route via our service status and information pages and on our Twitter page @CalMac_Updates, our service information account.