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 An aged fleet, a global pandemic, adverse weather conditions, technical issues and vessels in turn withdrawn for their annual overhaul and certification – these are just some of the issues.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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A Welcome Appearance

It’s Saturday and since last Monday Tiree has not had a ferry from the Mainland port of Oban, or for that matter anywhere else. Prior to that there had been no ferry berth since the previous Tuesday. On one occasion the ferry turned back out in the Passage of Tiree without attempting to berth at Tiree. On at least one day in the past week there has been athe normal daily flight from Glasgow Airport. Understandably the cupboard was almost bare. 

The ‘MV Hebrides’ in Gott Bay

The ‘MV Clansman’, the ferry normally deployed on the Oban, Coll and Tiree route, is down in Liverpool for her annual overhaul and certification. In here place is the ‘MV Lord of the Isles’. However today the ‘MV Hebrides’ made the crossing and she was a welcome sight.  The ‘Lord of the Isles’ has temporarily taken the place of the ‘Hebrides’ on the Uig Triangle.

The View through the link-span

The ‘MV Hebrides’ is the Clyde built sister ship of the ‘MV Clansman’ and both vessels are highly regarded by Skippers, crew and passengers for their suitability for the conditions experienced on the longer Hebridean crossings. Today the ‘MV Hebrides’ lived up to that reputation.

Hold Tight as the ‘MV Hebrides’ prepares to berth

Due to the previous weather disruptions traffic had built up in each of the ports, Oban, Coll and Tiree. Even with two sailings in each direction it is highly unlikely that the ‘MV Lord of the Isles’ could have handled the volume and weight of freight traffic. 

Approaching the pier

Departure from Oban was 30 minutes later than the advertised time of 7:15am which meant that  arrival in Tiree was 25 minutes down at 11:30am.  Conditions were far from ideal.  High tide was at 10:57am The wind was from the SE and gusting to 34mph and due to the recent stormy weather there was still a heavy swell running.

Bow and mid-ship lines first

Conditions out in the Passage of Tiree were murky. Both the Treshnish Isles and the Isle of Mull were under a blanket of cloud. It was literally out of the murk that the ‘MV Hebrides’ appeared in Gott Bay.  No matter the grey skies and threatening clouds, she was a welcome sight.  There was no band or bagpipes to mark the occasion, but there could have been such was the pleasure in her appearance.

The bow and mid-ship lines are caught

As usual the ferry had to swing through 180 degrees in order to berth with her stern to the link-span. The bow lines were cast and caught. The bow and mid-ship ropes hauled in and placed on the bollards and her stern then brought alongside.  The bow ropes were caught but such was the swell there was a delay in lowering the stern ramp. In fact the ramp was lowered and raised, before being lowered again. All eyes were on the tension being placed on the stern ropes.

The bow and mid-ship ropes hauled in

Finally, with the stern ramp lowered the traffic began to roll off. The sheer volume of freight traffic was almost unbelievable in these days of restricted travel due to the pandemic. However, vital deliveries for  the CO-OP and Bùth a’ Bhaile had arrived.  Such was the amount of stock arriving that the CO-OP would close until about 5:00pm in order to safely stock the shelves.  

The powerful thrusters hard at work

The CalMac Status Page spoke of alterations to the advertised timetable being in support essential lifeline services. It certainly was an essential lifeline today.  The last vehicle to board the vessel  was taking the vet to the Isle of Coll.  It was good to know that the ferry safely berthed at Coll and that the vet did not have to continue on to Oban.

The stern ropes being thrown

A livestock sale had been scheduled for today but earlier in the week it had been cancelled as CalMac could not provide two crossings on the day.  Apart from anything else there would have been no room for the additional vehicles necessary for the transportation of the livestock.

An ANXIOUS Wait

The ramp ramp was raised, the vessel secured and the ropes released. The MV Hebrides made her way out to sea bound for Coll and Oban. After her arrival in Oban the intention had been for the MV Hebrides to make a crossing to Castlebay, Barra. However, the sailing was cancelled. It will be interesting to see what tomorrow brings. Will the MV Hebrides make a return crossing to Coll and Tiree before heading back to the Uig Triangle?

Alongside

Island life can be challenging. How we appreciate the skill and dedication of tho skippers, crew and pier staff. In no way taking away from those normally regarded as key workers, it feels like so many people on the island are key workers. 

A freight lorry rolls off
Last on – first off at Coll – note the registration
Preparing to head out to sea

This is ‘Life on Tiree’.

Departing Gott Bay

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The Hours of Darkness

It is not often that the ferry arrives or departs Tiree during the hours of darkness. It is not unknown for the ‘MV Clansman’ to arrive after the sun has set, but it is much more unusual to witness the ‘MV Lord of the Isles’ arrive in Gott Bay in the last vestages of daylight and depart in the darkness.

The MV Lord of the Isles enters Gott Bay

With the ‘MV Isle of Arran’ out of action the ‘MV Lord of the Isles’ is operating to an amended timetable. Instead of arriving in Tiree at 11:00am she arrived at 5:30pm. There was just enough light to catch sight of her out in the Passage of Tiree and watch her swing to starboard in order to enter Gott Bay.

‘LOTI” in Gott Bay

In the presesent circumstances. when only escential travel is permitted. traffic is light. With tomorrow’s sailing cancelled there was perhaps slightly more traffic than might have been expected.

‘LOTI’ approaching the pier

There was a definite nip to the air as we watched the ferry’s arrival. The wind was from the South East and the temperature was 3 degrees C, but it certainly felt like -2 degrees.

LOTI’ prepares to berth with her stern to the link-span

For much of last year we felt it unwise to visit the pier, but with everything much quieter and with fewer people around we consider it safer. Obviously we observe propoer social distancing measures. The latter is not difficult with so few travelling on the ferry.

‘LOTI’ alongside and preparing to draw back to the link-span

The bow ropes were thrown first and then with the stern to the link-span the stern ropes were secured. The ramp was lowered and the traffic rolled off. It certainly did not take long.

The bow and midship ropes secured

The ferry brings a touch of colour even in grey days, but there is something special about the ferry alongside the pier during the hours of darkness. Even ‘LOTI” is like a floating palace of light.

A floating palace of light

With the traffic light it was not long before all the vehicles were safely on board. HGVs and Tankers need to be lashed to the card deck during the passage. This was something we had to remember when we moved to Tiree over seven years ago.

A tanker being lashed to the car deck

With the stern ramp raised and the vessel was secured in readiness for heading out to sea. There was no hanging around this evening and in no time at all the ferry was heading out of the bay on her way to Oban.

The pier staff getting ready to release the ropes

Thankfully we don’t live far from the pier and so as soon as the ‘MV Lord of the Isles’ made her exit – bound for Oban – we headed home for a warming cup of coffee.

It is dark!

This is ‘Life on Tiree’.

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Restless Sea

The British people have a reputation of talking about the weather. It is a good conversation starter and normally gets a response. Living on an island lying off the West Coast of Scotland you are even more aware of the weather because so much depends on it, much more so than if you were living on the Mainland.

The ‘MV Clansman’ enterring Gott Bay

The Isle of Tiree is not flat. It is low lying and sits out in the Atlantic. There is little in the way of shelter, no high mountains and very few trees, consequently a major consideration is the strength of the wind. One of the helpful pieces of advice were were given when we came to live on the island was to be very careful with your car doors when the wind was strong. Injuries are not unknown!

The ‘MV Clansman’ through the spray

Poor visibility can result in the cancellation of the plane as the pilots have to land by sight. Wind, on the other hand, can result in the cancellation of the ferry, due to the sea conditions. When planning to visit the Mainland it is important to consult the weather forecast in advance.

Through the Spray

For several days last week there was very little wind and as a result the sea was unnaturally calm. It was a joy to out walking and with little wind it even felt relatively warm. It must have made conditions easier for those carrying out the on-going works at the pier.

Everything changed on Monday. As predicted it rained for most of the day and several island roads were flooded. The rain continued throughout the night and the wind also got up.

The ‘MV Clansman’ approaching the pier

This morning at breakfast we looked out on a restless sea. From our south facing windows we had a clear view of the waves crashing on the rocks that surround the Scarinish headland.  It was still pleasurable going for walk. It was just different. It felt like a morning to observe the ferry.

The ‘MV Clansman’ preparing to berth

As the ferry turned from the Passage of Tiree (the stretch of Water that separates Tiree from the much larger Island of Mull) into Gott Bay the wind was blowing from the south. So the ferry ran into the bay with the wind behind it. There was little in the way of a bow wave as the ferry made its approach to the pier. What was noticeable were the waves breaking on the shore and the rocks. As they broke the waves sent up spray. It added a touch of drama!

The ferry has to swing through 180 degrees in order to berth with her stern towards the linkspan. (The linkspan is like a bridge that links the ferry’s stern ramp to the pier thus enabling vehicles to roll on and off.)  As the vessel makes this manoeuvre it can appear as if she is heading straight for the pier. Thankfully the skipper and crew know what they are doing.

Hauling in the bow ropes

Although there was a swell running the ‘MV Clansman’ appeared to have little difficulty in berthing. As usual the first ropes to be cast and caught are the midship and bow ropes. Then the ferry cautiously goes aft and the stern ropes are secured. Only then is the ramp lowered.

Cautiously the vessel proceeds aft

The pier feels like the centre of island life for over an hour on the days that the ferry calls. At present it is a hive of activity for much of the time as the work continues on refurbishing the pier. Before lockdown the linkspan was replaced. Then when it was deemed safe to do so work recommenced on refurbishing the old pier. Right now the work on replacing the footway is nearing completion.

Underway

On days when the air is still and the sea calm it is easy to forget just how restless the sea can be. This morning was just a gentle reminder that the sea is restless.

A Wee Face Wash

‘Life on Tiree’ is a personal reflection of our life on Tiree and for that reason we do not normally advertise or promote.  However, just like slogan concerning Glasgow, ‘People Make Tiree’.  Yesterday we received an email for a gentleman asking us to covey his appreciation for all the help that he received from so many when he fell off his bike and broke his hip on the 23rd of September. The list of those who came to his aid is extensive and he wants you to accept his thanks. 

The MV Clansman heading out to sea bound for Coll and Oban

This is ‘Life on Tiree’.

The Pier Works – A night time view
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August Anniversary

The 22nd of August marks the 7th anniversary of our coming to live on the Isle of Tiree. Today it is Saturday, but seven years ago it was a Thursday, Back then on a Thursday it was possible to come to the island for a day because the ferry sailed from Tiree to Barra before […]

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The Unexpected

Tuesday the 4th of August was a stormy day, both wet and windy.  The ferry was on an alert of possible disruption and berthing at Coll and Tiree was not guaranteed.  Even with fins (stabilisers) those who travelled to the island on Tuesday certainly knew that they were on board a ship. They were no […]

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Essential Lifeline Services

On Tuesday the 23 June in support of essential lifeline services there were two sailings from the Mainland port of Oban to Tiree. The first was provided by the MV Clansman which operated according to the the normal lifeline timetable. The lifeline tameable has operated throughout the restrictions placed on transport by the Scottish Government […]

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Unrestricted Travel Update

Yes! That’s correct. Unrestricted travel to, from and around Tiree by imagination. On our last trip we visited the West End of the island to’ Lag na Cleite’, or as it more commonly known ‘Happy Valley’. Today, let us take you on a walk around the East End of the island. North, South, East and West, none […]

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“How Are You?”

Keeping in touch with family and friends on the Mainland makes us appreciate our life on Tiree. We value their concern as they ask, “How are you? Or say ‘Keep Safe.” A common misunderstanding is that our remoteness somehow means that the island’s residents will be untouched by the virus. However, we have been informed […]

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