Tentative Steps

There is good news, the island is slowly opening up with the return of summer temporary residents, regular holiday visitors and holidaymakers visiting Tiree for the first time.  At present the number of visitors is limited by the reduced passenger capacity of the ferry due to social distancing measures. 

Sheep grazing on the Machair at Caolas

In Scotland there are 5 COVID-19 protection levels (0-4) and Tiree along with most of Scotland’s islands, except the Isle of Skye which is connected to the Mainland by a bridge, is in Level One. Although this allows some more freedom to meet, great care still needs to be observed in order to prevent the introduction of the virus to the island.  Visitors are welcome but it is Scottish Government advice to do 2 Lateral Flow Tests before travelling to the island.

Caolas at the East End of Tiree

Tiree Medical Practice have issued an important message for all visiting the island. The message is available online. Other Covid related information for visitors is available and should be read and acted upon.

Ruaig for great beef

CalMac (Clyde and Hebridean Ferries) in the past month and more have had a whole series of vessels failing. The most notable is the MV Loch Seaforth, which suffered damage to one of her engine bearings and further issues to the engine crankshaft. This led to the MV Isle of Lewis being withdrawn from the Oban Barra sailing and transferred to the Ullapool Stornaway service. All this had a ripple effect across the whole network. The encouraging news is the MV Loch Seaforth has left dry dock (28/05/2021) and providing sea trials are successful she will return to her home waters.

The late arrival of Sunday’s delayed sailing

Thankfully the MV Clansman has continued to serve Coll and Tiree, although the network problems led to some changes to the normal timetable. On a Wednesday the ferry normally includes a sailing to Barra resulting in a later return sailing to Coll and Oban. Latterly this was replicated on a Thursday. Additionally the Sunday sailing from Oban to Coll and Tiree and return was delayed until 3:15 (instead of 07:00) to enable the ferry to return from Barra., having sailed there the previous evening.

The MV Clansman in Gott Bay on Sunday

Last Sunday the sailing was further delayed due to operational reasons and then shortly after the MV Clansman had departed Oban Ferry Terminal she had engine problems and there was some question of a possible return to Oban. To the relief of the crew and passengers the issue was resolved and the ferry was able to continue with her sailing to Coll and Tiree.

Magnificent Gott Bay

The sun came out to welcome the arrival of the ferry. It had been a wild and wet morning and early afternoon but the sky was blue and the sea was calm in Gott Bay as the ‘Mighty One’ berthed.\

Spring has finally sprung

On Wednesday evening those looking skyward were treated to a full moon known as a Blood Moon. Although the same could not be said for much of the UK, the full moon was clearly visible in the night sky above Tiree. The red colour was obvious, however the camera ought to have been mounted on its tripod. The full moon has resulted in quite dramatic tide conditions. We are now at that time of the year when on Tiree the hours of darkness are increasingly limited.

This week’s Blood Red Full Moon

Throughout the pandemic the island’s Baptist Church has hosted its ‘Sunday Gathering’ on Zoom and later in the day releasing a recording of the event on YouTube and Facebook. On the first Sounday in June the church will be able to meet once again in An Talla, the island’s community hall. The encouraging news is that although numbers will be restricted due to social distancing measures, congregational singing is permitted as at present the island is in ‘Level One’. Those intending to attend on the Sunday will be required to register their intention to come in order to avoid being disappointed as numbers are restricted.  The intention is to continue to continue to broadcast on Zoom and whenever possible to release a recording later.

Leaping for Joy

For the Baptist Church, these are the first tentative steps. Masks will still be required, hands will be required to be sanitised, and we will have to sit socially distanced – but it will be great to meet together in the same space.

Tiree Baptist Church Welcomes You

This is ‘Life on Tiree’.

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Welcome LOTI

Today the Isle of Tiree welcomed the arrival of ‘LOTI’, otherwise known as the ‘MV Lord of the Isles’. For operational reasons Tuesday’s sailing had been cancelled and there is no timetabled sailing on a Wednesday. So the arrival of the vessel was most welcome and especially as the Skipper was a ‘Tiree Man’.

The MV Lord of the Isles in Gott Bay, Isle of Tiree

Few people appear to refer to the ferry by her full title, most calling her ‘LOTI’. She was not due to visit Tiree until the 24th of January when she replaces the ‘MV Clansman’ while the latter goes for her annual overhaul and inspection or to replace another vessel due the same treatment. The official explanation for the present visit is ‘operational reasons.’ Since Monday evening the ‘MV Clansman’ has not left her berth at Oban Ferry Terminal other than to allow the ‘MV Isle of Lewis’ to use the berth.

LOTI prepares to come alongside the pier.

When a ferry breaks down the status refers to the cancellation or delay as due to ‘technical reasons’. When the cancellation is down to the weather or sea conditions the reason is clear. However in this instance the reason given was ‘operational reasons’ – make of that what you may.

LOTI coming alonhside the pier

Tiree, like many of the Hebridean Islands, is under the Scottish ‘Level Three’ resitrictions. The Mainland and the Isle of Skye are under Scottish ‘Level Four Plus’ restrictions. This week the Island of Barra has reported a few cases of the virus and the Island of Coll, Tiree’s near neighbour, has reported at least one case of the virus. It would be so easy for the virus to arrive on Tiree and perhaps more than at any other time during the pandemic there is a need for vigilance and observation of the Goverment guidance intended to stop the spread of the virus. It is an ever present danger.

The vessel alongside – the stern ropes are secured before the ramp is lowered

In the winter months the ferry traffic is light and this is especially so in the present circumstances. However, with no sailing on Tuesday inbound traffic to Tiree was up, but nothing compared to normal. Any additinal traffic was mainly freight.

Local drivers board the ferry to collect lorries etc

As the day has gone on the weather has improved and LOTI sailed in to Gott Bay with her bow facing blue skies. By the time she departed for Coll and Oban she took the blue skies with her. What a contrast today has been compared to yesterday. Most unusually we never ventured outside yesterday.

The stern ramp raised in preparation for sailing

With the vessel movements complete and foot passengers transferred the stern ramp was raised in preparation for sailing. Although the ferry would visit Coll on its way to Oban to take Coll traffic on board, all the traffic, vehicle and foot passengers, boarding at Tiree was bound for Oban.

Waiting to cast the stern ropes

It would be a pleasant sail to Oban with a flat sea and hardly a breath of wind. It was low tide and with LOTI’s low stern care has to be taken with the stern ropes. Tiree remains snow free but those arriving in Oban today would get quite a shock if they were travelling any distance. Much of the Mainland is under a blanket of snow.

Clear evidence of low tide

By the time LOTI arrives at Oban Ferry Terminal it will be more or less dark. Today’s sailing was 45 minutes later than normal – for operational reasons. ‘LOTI’ her skipper and crew were a welcome sight today. Perhaps the ‘Mighty One’ will be back on duty on Saturday, even if it is only for a few days. Those who serve on the ferries and who work on and at the pier are indeed on the frontline.

A watchful eye from the wings of the bridge

Thank You!

LOTI’s Departure

This is ‘Life on Tiree’

LOTI heads out to sea
Haste Ye Back

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Tiree’s Not Immune

The Golf Ball (The NATS Radar Station) still sits on top of Ben Hynish. The Ringing Stone is still accessible from Vaul or Balepheterish. The ancient broch at Vaul still looks out over Atlantic waters. And Tiree‘s beaches are just as stunning as ever. Yet, although Tiree is often described as being remote – Tiree […]

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