The MIGHTY ONE Returns

It’s Thursday the 9th of September and sunshine might have been more appropriate for the return of the ‘Mighty One’. On the other hand the celebratory fireworks stood out against the dark, thundery skies. Due to her sister ship, the ‘MV Hebrides’, requiring to enter dry dock in Birkenhead the ‘MV Clansman’ was sent to […]

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ALL AT SEA

The expression ‘Annus horribilis’ was brought to prominence by Queen Elizabeth II. In a speech at the Guildhall on 24 November 1992.  It is a Latin phrase, meaning ‘horrible year’. For many reasons CMAL/CalMac must feel that 2021 is their ‘Annus horribilis’.   In a press release. March 2017 CMAL stated, ‘The new vessels are […]

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The Crusher

It was Wednesday evening and on a Wednesday in the summer timetable the ferry arrives at 17:00 having sailed out to Barra and returned. Nothing unusual in that as it happens week after week. It was a beautiful sunny evening. {Let it be known that on Monday and Tuesday the Isle of Tiree was the […]

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A Blue Sky Day

Tiree has a reputation to maintain as one of the sunniest places in the United Kingdom and it will be interesting to see the official data for today. Yesterday, even with the mist coming and going, Tiree was the sunniest place in the UK. (For a video of the MV Clansman in the mist here […]

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A Day of Contrasts

In essence it began the day before on Sunday the 22nd of August. The day began bright and sunny, indeed warm for the Isle of Tiree. However, as morning gave way to afternoon parts of the island were bathed in sunshine while other parts were under a blanket of fog. For most of the day […]

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How Time Flies!

It’s 9:30am and I am walking across the Machair when the phone pings to announce a message from ‘Son Number One’. “Eight years ago today Mum, Dad and I were in Oban. Tomorrow they will have been living for eight years on Tiree. Time flies!” Almost immediately the phone pings again. This time it is […]

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A Welcome Return

In sharp contrast with the day before, the weather report stated that Tiree was enveloped in dense fog.  Although it was not a pea-souper, visibility was greatly reduced.  As a consequence of the poor visibility the daily flight from and to Glasgow was cancelled. 

Barely discernable the ‘MV Clansman’

On the way down to the pier I could hear what sounded like a ship’s horn.   A fishing boat was dipping in and out of the fog and this was probably one reason for the sounding of the ship’s horn.

A fishing boat dipping in and out of the fog

Yesterday morning the MV Hebrides took over the sailings on the Uig Triangle to Tarbert (Harris) and Lochmaddy (North Uist). After an early morning crossing from Tarbert to Uig the MV Clansman proceeded to Castlebay on Barra. From there she sailed to Oban. She was in place to be deployed on the 7.15am Thursday sailing to Coll and Tiree.

Arriving in Gott Bay and coming outof the murk

From Tiree’s pier the Passage of Tiree was shrouded in fog and it was out of the murk that the MV Clansman made her welcome return. She was well into Gott Bay before the outline of the ferry could be discerned. It was even further into the bay before she could clearly be seen.

The MV Clansman preparing to berth

With almost no wind and no swell the MV Clansman enjoyed calm conditions for her return to Tiree. In her extended  absence the MV Lord of the Isles covered most of the crossings, although on two consecutive crossings the MV Isle of Mull made an appearance. The latter was down to technical difficulties elsewhere on the network. The MV Isle Lewis which normally operates between Castlebay (Barra) and Oban is berthed in Stornoway (Lewis) with what has been reported as thruster problems.

The MV Clansman in front of the renovated old pier

In line with Covid restrictions both traffic to and from the Mainland was reassuringly mainly commercial vehicles. It was good to see, even from a distance, well known faces among the crew.

Well known faces

The equinox in March and the month of April can still bring with them stormy conditions so it is reassuring to have the ‘Mighty One’ back on duty.

Midship and bow ropes being hauled in

Welcome home.

The ramp lowered and local drivers board the car deck

This is ‘Life on Tiree’.

MV Clansman – A Welcome Return

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Success

It is Monday and after the recent spell of stormy weather things have settled down. It was pleasantly mild for this morning’s walk around Scarinish. Conditions in Gott Bay could hardly have been better for the berthing of the MV Lord of the Isles with hardly a breath of wind and calm seas.

A distant view of the MV Isle of Mull

The aim had been to report on Saturday’s activities at the pier but a busy weekend put paid to that. At last a window of opportunity to give an update.

Through the Linkspan

Anyone with an interest in the ferries serving the Clyde and islands of the West Coast of Scotland  will be aware of the issues facing the ferry operator at the present time. An aged fleet, a global pandemic, adverse weather conditions, technical issues and vessels in turn withdrawn for their annual overhaul and certification – these are just some of the issues.

Turning in order to berth stern first

As a consequence CalMac are having to deploy the remaining vessels in the fleet as best as they can. One look at the ‘Status’ of the various routes is punctuated with explanations like: – Due to a technical issue elsewhere in the network, please note that there will be only stop at Coll. Due to a technical issue elsewhere in the network, this service has been cancelled. Due to adverse weather conditions this service is liable to disruption or cancellation at short notice.

A Bridge Eye View

The ongoing situation has serious consequences for island life and businesses. On the lighter side, those who enjoy ferry watching are able to observe ferries they would not see in more normal circumstances.

With bow across the roundhead

With Thursday’s sailing to Coll and Tiree unable to successfully berth at either port, the MV Isle of Mull undertook the crossing on Saturday morning. Designed for the short crossing from Oban to Craignure on the Isle of Mull, it is not best suited for the longer crossing to Coll and Tiree or to Castlebay on Barra.  Thankfully weather and sea conditions were such the vessel could berth safely and successfully. 

Midship line thrown
Starboard ropes secured

On this occasion a member of the pier staff had to climb one of the dolphins which support the linkspan in order to secure an additional stern rope.  The MV Isle of Mull is high sided and so is more likely to catch the wind. It appeared that no chances were being taken over the ropes.

Not everyone’s Cup of Tea
Ready! Steady! Catch!

As had been reported on a previous occasion this particular vessel is an infrequent visitor to Tiree. She can carry fewer vehicles on her car deck but more passengers. So she has been deployed as an addition ferry when passenger numbers are extremely high – such as the Tiree Music Festival.  The problems facing CalMac and the build up delayed traffic, particularly freight, resulted in the MV Isle of Mull visiting Coll and Tiree on Saturday and Sunday. On Sunday evening she sailed Oban to Barra, returning on Monday morning.

MV Isle of Mull alonhside the pier

Tiree required a delivery of petrol on Saturday and this resulted in the MV Lord of the Isles sailing from Oban to Tiree on Saturday afternoon. The MV Isle of Mull has a fully enclosed card deck and is unable to transport a tanker carrying petrol. There was no return sailing to Oban. Instead the ferry sailed to Barra.

Petrol Tanker on LOTI

In normal circumstances about the 24th of March the ferry would have moved from the winter to summer timetable. This year due to the pandemic this has been delayed until late April.  

MV Lord of the Isles departing Gott Bay – Barra Bound

The summer timetable would normally see the Oban, Coll and Tiree service extended to Barra once a week and in recent years this has been on a Wednesday. This does enable a day visit (about six hours) to Tiree. It has the added benefit of allowing Coll residents to shop at the CO-OP on Tiree. Although traffic is low between Tiree and Barra there are those who appreciate the service.

MV Lord of the Isles entering the Gunna Sound

The ferry would normally sail to Barra via the Gunna Sound – the stench of water separating Coll and Tiree. Last year due to the emergency timetable and covid restrictions this once a week sailing was suspended.

LOTI approaching the navigation buoy in the Gunna Sound

On Saturday it felt a treat to watch the MV Lord of the Isles sail through the Gunna Sound.  As she left the Sound and entered the Little Minch you were conscious, even  from the shore, of the vessel rising and falling.  Normally it would be the MV Clansman that makes the transit so it was great to see LOTI in the Sound. However, it has to be acknowledged she is no stranger to the waters of the sound.

Laeving the Gunna Sound – Rum in the dtstance

This is ‘Life on Tiree’.

Rising and Falling in the Little Minch

Rising and Falling in the Little Minch

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Tantalisingly Close

There seems to be something about Thursdays at present.  Once again on a Thursday the ferry failed to berth at Tiree. The vessel came alongside the pier, the bow ropes were thrown and caught. However, before the stern ropes were even thrown the bow ropes were released and the ferry headed back out to sea.

MV Lord of the Isles in Gott Bay

For those on board they were tantalisingly close. They were not just within sight of Tiree and the pier, the ferry was actually alongside the pier before the decision was made by the skipper to cancel the attempt to berth and head back to the Mainland port of Oban.

Swell Conditions

The status update issued by CalMac at 05:30am warned that due to adverse weather, there would only be one stop at Coll with the vessel operating to an amended timetable. In the event the vessel failed to berth at Coll.

Hopeful

Before leaving home to observe the ferry a further update had been issued stating that the vessel was unable to berth at Coll at 09:55 due to heavy swell. 

Through the Linkspan

With the MV Clansman replacing the MV Hebrides, which is down in Birkenhead for her annual overhaul and certification, the ferry relieving on the Oban, Coll and Tiree route is the MV Lord of the Isles {LOTI}. Whether or not the MV Clansman would have successfully berthed is an unknown.

So far – So good!

It was through breaking swell that the MV Lord of the Isles could be observed entering Gott Bay from the Passage of Tiree. She progressed  towards the pier and prepared to berth with her stern to the linkspan.

Still hopeful

For a brief moment the atmosphere was tense as it appeared that LOTI was not even going to attempt to berth.  However, she then slowly proceeded to come in stern first.

Slowly Progressing astern first

Although successfully coming alongside and the bow ropes being caught, the stern was never secured.  The whole operation took around 10 tense minutes. For those on board there was nothing else but a return to Oban.

Almost Alongside!

There is no sailing to Coll or Tiree under the Winter Timetable. The next crossing is 6:15am on Saturday.  The big question is will there be room on either sailing on Saturday?

Bow ropes secured

The MV Lord of Isles makes two crossings to Tiree due to limits placed on her. This was made even worse today.  Those planning to travel to Tiree by ferry had been advised – Due to shipment of lifeline supplies, passenger space will be very limited so any passengers looking to travel are highly advised to book in advance.  No doubt heavy goods vehicles are already booked on Saturday’ sailing(s) so it may prove difficult for those unable to land today to be accommodated on Saturday.

A vain attempt to berth

Whether your destination was Coll or Tiree those  making the journey today will have spent almost 8 hours on board by the time the vessel berths in Oban.  There is the prospect of spending another 2 nights in Oban, that is providing they can be accommodated on either of  Saturday’s sailings.

Sadly NOT Today

Those unable to board at either or Coll or Tiree today have faced similar prospects, but al least they did not have to spend almost 8 hours on the ferry. It looks like the CO-OP will be busy on Saturday afternoon.  

Under Way

 Life is uncertain whether you live on the Mainland or an island.  Here on the Isle of Tiree we are simply reminded of this fact in dramatic fashion. 

Heading Back out to sea

The is ’Life on Tiree’.

Oban Bound
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One Day Sail

It is a matter of the correct spelling. Should it be ‘Sail’ or ‘Sale’. On Tiree today both would be acceptable. You may be wondering, ‘How come?’

The ‘MV Clansman’ arrives back in Gott Bay fresh from Oban/Liverpool

The ‘MV Clansman’ made her first appearance in Tiree today since her overhaul and certification down in Liverpool. In fact she only arrived in Oban Ferry Terminal at 5:17am having departed Liverpool the previous day.  At 6:24am she departed Oban bound for Coll and Tiree. And what a beautiful morning to make the crossing. She brought the sunshine with her.

The M’V Clansman’ preparing to berth stern first

In her absence the ‘MV Lord of the Isles’ took over the route. However due to the sheer number of weather related cancellations the ‘MV Hebrides’ was taken off her normal route, the Uig Triangle, and she covered two crossings to Coll and Tiree, but a third had to be cancelled due to the weather. In the meantime the ‘MV Lord of the Isle’s went north to cover the Uig – Lochmaddy  (North Uist) sailings.

The ‘MV Clansman’ coming alongside the pier

Today, Thursday, it is a One Day Sail with two crossings. The ‘MV Hebrides’ is at present berthed at Brodick on the Isle of Arran and is no doubt waiting for dry docking on the Clyde.  Tomorrow Coll and Tiree do not have a timetable sailing and by Saturday the ‘MV Clansman’ will no doubt be relieving on the Uig Triangle. So it is literally a ‘One Day Sail’. 

Preparing to throw the stern ropes

Although departing Oban about 10 minutes down on the advertised time (6:15am) the ‘Clansman’ arrived in Tiree at 10:01am. Externally she looked fresh and clean as she prepared to berth. It was a beautiful sunny morning with blue sky over the island.

The ‘MV Clansman’ alongdide the pier – mail van in foreground

The reason for the two crossings is the other ‘One Day Sale’. It was held at the Tiree Rural Centre observing the appropriate covid19 guidance. The sale of cattle of all classes was due to be held last Saturday but had been postponed due to the weather.

The first cattle truck to arrive
The second truck to arrive

The cattle trucks are always a colourful sight as they progress up the pier and then head for the Rural Centre at Crossapol. Later in the day they will return in time to catch the second sailing of the day which is specifically put on for their benefit.

Local Halier – I.A. MacKinnon
Double Delivery today – with no berthing on Tuesday

The Clansman had an advertised arrival time in Oban of 2:25pm however according to Marine Traffic she berthed at 2:07. Her departure for Tiree was 2;45pm. The second crossing was a Tiree only sailing.

The Clansman heading out to sea bound for Coll and Oban

As the sun was setting the traffic began to arrive for the evning sailing direct to Oban. Inbound to Tiree the traffic was light. Included in the outbound traffic were three livesstock trucks, a tractor and cattle trailer and articulated lorries from the two major haulage contractors on the island. The foot passengers were mainly those who had been involved in the cattle sale.

The ‘MV Clansman reappears in Gott Bay jusst after sunset

Unlike previous days the sea was calm and the berthing straight forward. With it still being February the pier lights were on and this added to the overall picture.

Sailing past the roundhead

As the vessel entered the Bay much of the sky surrounding the island was a shade of purple or pink. By the time the vessel was opposite the pier the sky was much darker. It was great to have the ‘Mighty One’ back, even if it was only for a day.

Preparing to berth stern first

The moon had risen much earlier, even before sunset and added to the sense of theatre. This evening’s crossing was to be by moonlight. Whether or not the passengers on board would appreciate that fact was immaterial.

Give me the moonlight

Although it had been mainly a bright day with aonly an occasional shower by the time the ferry arrived there was a real nip to the air. Even without a stiff breeze it was penetrating. The coat had to be zipped up and the hood affording proteection to the head.

Cattle trucks boarding

Sailings under the cover of darkness are rare on Tiree and are generally at the time of livestock sales. Perhaps even more than in daylight the cattle trucks add to the colour of the occasion.

Prepared to head out to sea

With it being a direct sailing to Oban, with no stop at Coll, it should not be too late an arrival in the town. Still by the time the trucks both cattle and those of the local haulage expertds, it will have been a long day.

Oban Bound

It might just have been for one day but it was great to see the ‘Mighty One’ back on duty and serving the islands of Coll and Tiree. All we can say is, “Haste ye back! We miss you when you are not here.”

Night Vision Required

This is ‘Life on Tiree’

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