Winter Extended

Winter extended! Today, Tuesday the 1st of March, is the day CalMac chose to announce that they were officially extending Winter for the Isle of Tiree.  Tiree is not the only Hebridean island to come under this proclamation, other islands are also suffering from – among other things – the consequences of the failure to properly invest in the fleet over many years.

MV Lord of the Isles through the linkspan

CalMac are faced with challenges on at least two fronts – the weather and technical faults with the fleet. Undoubtedly this winter has been very challenging for the company and especially for the island communities that they serve. They state that this is one of the longest periods of very poor weather and high significant wave height for many years.  (See previous post.)

MV Lord of the Isles in Gott Bay and swinging in order to berth stern first

Throughout this challenging time the fleet which serves Colonsay, Coll, Tiree, Barra and South Uist has been reduced to three of their oldest ships – the MV Hebridean Isles, the MV Isle of Arran and the MV Lord of the Isles.  In addition to the annual overhaul schedule, several of the ferries have had technical faults resulting in them temporarily being unavailable for service.

Looking good for her age!

Today’s announcement of the extension to the winter timetable gave the following explanation for the delay of summer.  ‘Engineers identified unexpected and substantial steelwork repairs that needed to be replaced on MV Clansman. Fifty square metres of steel, which is in a difficult location to access, is being replaced after it was identified as being below class limits for thickness, because of corrosion. This will extend her time in overhaul by approximately three weeks and will delay the dry docking of MV Hebrides.’’  To manage this situation and the repositioning of vessels, while simultaneously planning for further unplanned extensions to overhaul, we need to amend timetables.’

LOTI’ from the refreshed old pier

The matter of fleet deployment is complicated. CalMac explain that vessels are constrained by the ports to which they can operate. This means that, unfortunately, there are limited options when it comes to maintaining a disrupted service. At times, this means they have to make the difficult decision to cancel or split services across multiple islands. 

The stern ramp raised the vessel is preparing to head out to sea

The result is that from the 25th to the  31st of March, the MV Lord of the Isles will operate an amended timetable on the Oban, Coll and Tiree service. Winter will be extended which now means there will be no Wednesday ferry on the 31st of March and that ferry capacity will continue to be restricted.

Underway

The ferry company state, ‘While 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, we are working at pace to complete the work and manage the effect on our service. We’re also working with our local communities and regular customers to ensure their priorities around the transportation of goods and services are understood and supported.’   

Next port of call – the Isle of Coll

CalMac’s extension to the Wintertable is accompanied by fine sounding words, but the reality is very different for island business and those requiring to travel. Vehicles are having to be abandoned on the Mainland or on the islands and collected at a later date.  It is not just the cost implications, it can be the bare shelves in the island’s two stores, the delays for those with hospital appointments and the added distress for those attending funeral services.

The Isle of Mull provides a backdrop

Most islanders understand that those working in the pier offices are not to blame for the current situation, but they are the individuals facing the customer, and can feel that they are on the firing line for the failure to invest over many years in a well thought out rolling programme of ferry replacement.

LOTI through the linkspan in the hours of darkness
The Bridge
Approaching the pier

Due to previous weather disruptions resulting in no ferry service since Friday an amended timetable was in operation.  This has meant the ferry has called twice at Tiree. In the evening ‘LOTI’ departed 55 minutes laterr than the advertised time due to the volume of traffic.

LOTI flooding Got Bay with colour
Alongside the pier
Ready for the vehicles to roll on.

It almost seems ironic that CalMac’s statement was released on what felt like the first day of summer. (CalMac only has two seasons – summer and winter.) There has been no wind to speak of, the sun has shone all day and for Tiree it has felt warm.  Be sure of this however, winter has been extended. For ferry enthusiasts please accept this wee reminder of just how beautiful Tiree can be after the winter storms.

The Lodge Hotel – Gott Bay

A wee reminder of just how beautiful Tiree can be.

Kirkapol – Gott Bay
Tiree Flypast
It’s a blue sky day!
Tiree bathed in gold
The first day of the metrological Spring
Fifteen minutes to LOTI berths

This is ‘Life on Tiree‘.

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