Comings And Goings

For the Isle of Tiree it has been a busy week with all kinds of comings and goings. The weekend  saw the return of the Tiree Music Festival after a 2 year break as a result of the pandemic. (This event has become a marker date with events ‘Pre’ and ‘Post’ Pandemic.) To accommodate the Festival, CalMac operated an amended timetable for the ferry from Oban to Coll and Tiree from Wednesday 6th to Wednesday 13th July.

The arrival of the MV Clansman on a misty morning

Under the normal summer timetable the Wednesday ferry leaves Oban calling at Coll and Tiree and then continues on to Barra before returning to Tiree, Coll and Oban. The amended time table cancelled the Barra leg on both Wednesdays in order to provide an additional sailing from Oban to Tiree in the afternoon. In addition to the normal traffic the festival places a high demand on the ferry, with festival goers and all the associated commercial traffic travelling to and from the event.

The bridge of the MV Clansman as she prepares to draw alongside the pier

The arrival of festival goers begins the weekend before but the first real wave of attendees is on the Thursday evening. Just before the arrival of the MV Clansman on the Thursday evening the ‘BlueClipper’ a three masted gaff rig schooner which had been at anchor in Gott Bay set sail in a southerly direction. The sails are rigged to run from forward to aft along the length of the ship. ‘There are 10 sails, with an area of 675m2. The ‘Blue Clipper’ has a steel hull and teak deck, steel masts and wooden booms/topmasts.’

The ‘Blue Clipper’ going

With few foot passengers leaving the island on the Thursday evening the Piet Team were able to have some of the foot passengers descend the gangway and hold them on the pier until the car deck was cleared of vehicles. Then the majority of the foot passengers came off via the car deck and they made their way together up the pier.

The gangway in use
Disembarking via the car deck
A clear path for both groups up the pier

It has been a pleasure to see the moorings in Gott Bay in use and not just at the festival.  Some of them are privately owned, some are chartered and others are for organised cruises.The provision of the moorings has certainly resulted in more yachts visiting the island and not simply by passing Tiree as they make their way to or from Coll.

The mooring in Gott Bay

Every day, Wednesday to Wednesday, apart from Friday and Sunday, the island has had two sailings with some crossings being direct without a stop at Coll. (The Tiree ‘Flyers’)

The ‘MV Clansman’ heading out to sea on the Friday

Friday’s crossing saw the major influx of passengers with almost 600 people arriving on board the ferry. With foot passengers requiring to board, everyone on board had to disembark via the car deck, the foot passengers leaving once the car deck had been cleared if vehicles.

The ‘Mull’ arriving on the Saturday morning

On the very early hours of Saturday morning, 10 minutes after midnight, CalMac issued an alert that cast doubt over Saturday’s sailings.  Due to an issue with MV Clansman’s starboard main engine the following sailings have been cancelled. Depart Oban at 06:20, depart Coll  at  09:15   Two further alerts followed in quick succession. Depart Tiree  at 10:50 depart Coll at  12:30. The following sailings are liable to disruption Depart Oban at 15:20, depart Tiree at 19:00. depart Coll at 20:05 We are currently looking at options to provide an additional service on this route and a further update will be provided.

The ‘Mull’ alongside the pier

Then just before 1:00 am an announcement was made. Oban, Coll and Tiree the following additional sailings will operate to/from Tiree only, as follows depart Oban 10:00, depart Tiree 14:00.  Due to a smaller vessel operating this service, traffic will be prioritised upon check-in at Oban.

The ‘Mull’ departing on the Saturday

The ‘MV Isle of Mull ‘was taken off the Oban Craignure (Mul)l crossing in order to cover for the ‘MV Clansman’. Although the ‘Mull’ can carry more foot passengers she can accommodate fewer vehicles. 

The MV Clansman repaired and back in service

Thankfully the next status update was reassuring – Oban, Coll and Tiree – The technical issue has now been resolved and the 15:20 departure from Oban will operate as planned.

Frazer Macinnes of Tiree Sea Tours

Due to a commitment on Sunday ‘Life on Tiree’ was unable to observe the comings and goings at the pier. Apparently a bus load of festival goers only just caught the ferry home by the skin of their teeth. However, one passenger over slept and missed the ferry completely. In the knowledge that Monday morning’s sailing could well be fully booked she had to make other arrangements which could expensive.

The rib ‘Aurora’ departing on a Tour

Following a phone call to ‘Tiree Sea Tours’ Frazer Macinnes steped in and offered to take her free of charge on board the rib that was about to depart for the uninhabited island of Lunga. The other occupants of the rib were visiting the island primarily to observe the puffins. From Lunga another Tour operator took her to Tobermory on Mull from where she caught a lift to Craignure in good time to catch the CalMac ferry to Oban . The grateful lady told her story to the Press and Journal and contacted ‘Life On Tiree’ as she wanted to give Tiree Sea Tours and the other operator ‘a well deserved plug, since they gave her a free lift!’

On Monday morning there were all kinds of comings and goings by the pier.  As usual these days at TMF the ‘MV Isle of Mull’ replaces the ‘MV Clansman on the first sailing.  On this particular occasion the ‘Mull’ was at the pier for an hour and fifty minutes to facilitate the transfer of vehicles and foot passengers. It is quite an operation! 

It’s low tide on Monday morning for the ‘Mull’

During the visit of the ‘Mull’ the launch ‘Highlander’ registered in Tarbert left the slipway. This was followed shortly afterwards by ‘Birthe Marie’ a strongly built ex working boat with a gaff ketch rig built as a fishing boat in Denmark in 1933.

‘Highlander’ departing a busy Gott Bay

She is a heavy boat for her size and can take a little time to build up speed but her weight apparently ‘comes into its own when the seas are less smooth and she is a reassuring boat to be on when things get rougher’. Birthe Marie lives off the coast of Iona and is owned and skippered by Mark Jardine of Wild Journeys for Curious Minds.

Birthe Marie departing
The Birthe Marie alongside the ‘Mull’

Although there was a trickle of foot passengers on the Monday evening, Tuesday and Wednesday crossings the traffic leaving the island has been mainly camper vans, caravans and commercial vehicles from the festival. 

The ‘Mull’ departing Gott Bay for the time being

The week spanning the festival has been interesting to say the least. No crew to erect the Big Top, plane cancellations and the breakdown of a plane,  the issue with the Clansman’s main starboard engine and additionally no petrol available on the island over the weekend. To crown the lack of petrol, the tanker bringing fuel to the island broke down on the Mainland. Thankfully the tanker rolled off the ferry on Tuesday morning.

To the relief of many the MV Clansman brings the petrol tanker

Over the past week the island has been busy and particularly busy at the pier with all these comings and goings.

The ‘MV Clansman arriving on Wednesday evening
A high load boards the ‘MV Clansman’
The final vehicle (bound for Coll) reverses down the link-span

This is ‘Life on Tiree’

The ramp up, the vessel secure and ropes being released
The ‘MV Clansman’ heads out to sea on the Wednesday evening