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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
On Wednesday afternoon we had good reason to go to Baugh and so we took the opportunity to park at Crossapol and have a walk along Baugh beach. The forecast for the day was for cloudy conditions and it has been more less accurate. It was a calm afternoon thus the title ‘Calm Crossapol’.
Unlike the Island of Coll, on Tiree there is no long drive to reach a beach. On Tiree in many places you can just step out of your car and onto the sand. ‘Balmy Baugh Beach’ sounds great but there is no way that description would suit the beach today. However, it was certainly mild.
Baugh beach has rocky bookends, but the beach itself is composed from Tiree’s famous white shell sand. This afternoon it was low tide and the sense of expanse is enhanced – not that it needs enhancing.
The waters around the island are shallow and the beach itself is gently sloping – the slope being almost imperceptible.
Oyster Catchers (apparently misnamed) love Tiree and most people on Tiree love oyster catchers. In fact Tiree’s St Ayles Skiff is named ‘An Gille-Brìghde’. For those who do not have the Gaelic it means ‘The Oyster Catcher’. And the colours of this popular Tiree bird are reflected in the paintwork.
Tiree has a resident RSPB Officer and for those with a love of bird life Tiree has much to offer. Migratory birds often use Tiree as a convenient stopping off point. Sitting out in the Atlantic birds that have been blown off course sometimes make landfall on the island.
This afternoon the breaking waves were not deafening. Often it can sound as if an express train is hurtling along the beach. It is not an unplesant sound but it can be incessant.
Although it was a calm afternoon the waves kept breaking. It was fascinating watching the display and this made you wonder what it might be like with a gale force south easterly wind.
Turning round to walk back towards the car how different it was. Ben Hynish was under a blanket of dark grey cloud. This was a black and white world.
The oyster catchers with their black and white plumage were on what was now agrey beach and only their orange bills gave a hint of colour.
As we continued back towards the car the ominous grey clouds dominated the land and seascape. It was like being in another world. Yet. . . .
A glance backward – east along the beach – everything was very different. Blue predominated and as a result the long dune was reflected in the thin layer of water slowly draining towards the tide’s edge.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’ 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.
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.
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’.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Not unexpectedly the ‘MV Hebrides’ returned to the Mainland port of Oban without berthing at either Coll or Tiree. CalMac issued a statement at 14:16 stating that, due to adverse weather conditions the MV Hebrides did not berth in either Coll or Tiree and is currently returning back to Oban with an ETA of approximately […]
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 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 ‘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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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?
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.
Flights and sailings to islands such as Coll and Tiree are described as lifeline services. Transport Scovtland states, There are several Highlands and Islands air routes which would not be commercially viable without support, so Transport Scotland help to make these routes successful. We use public service obligations (PSOs), which are obligations imposed on a carrier to provide a set level of service on a particular route in order to ensure that the service satisfies fixed standards of continuity, regularity, capacity and pricing.
A week ago a national newspaper reported that Scotland’s biggest ferry operator CalMac has come under fire for wasting fuel and damaging the environment running a full service of empty ferries during the Covid-19 pandemic – a day after promoting its green credentials. During the first lockdown there was certainly a much reduced service. This past week it haas been reported that CalMac is reviewing the need to run a full service of empty ferries during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, there is another perspective. For many islands the ferries are a vital lifeline service. Not all trafic is seen in passenger numbers for commercial vehicles are often shipped unacompanied.
What is sometimes forgotten is that for islands such as Coll and Tiree the ferry service is literally a lifeline. Islands are no longer self-sufficient and have come to rely on the ferry for the importation and exportation of all kinds of freight including food. If the local shop has run out of something that you need you cannot simply pop round the corner to the next store.
Thursday’s sailing from the Mainland Ferry Terminal of Oban was on an alert due to an adverse forecast of high winds. Normally it would have made at least one stop at the Isle of Coll, but it was sailing direct to Tiree with no guarantee of berthing. The ferry departed Oban on time, sailed up the Sound of Mull and proceeded south down the Passage of Tiree. The vessel made to enter Gott Bay, but she had no sooner made the manouvre than the skipper made the decision not to attempt a berthing. Thus the ‘MV Lord of the Isles’ swung round and headed back to Oban
This year the ferry has been a LIFEline service in a very specific way. The Covid19 vaccine arrives on the island by ferry. Today, Thursday, those in in the 70-75 age group were being vaccinated – thankfully the vaccine arrived on Tuesday’s ferry. This was fortuitous, as the weather is set to deteriorate over the next few days with winds gusting to over 60mph. There may well not be another sailing to Tiree until Monday at the earliest. It is a good thing we have done the week’s shoppingI Outbound the ferry was due to carry ‘bloods’ and other specimens for testing on the Mainland.
I suppose unless you live on one of the Hebridean islands you cannot fully appreciate just how vital the ferry is to daily life – to things that you take for granted if living on the Mainland. This is simply a fact of island life. How we appreciate living on Tiree and are thankful for the provision of both the daily flight service and the ferry service five times a week in the winter (weather permitting). We are grateful too for an excellent Medical practice who have been able to go ahead with vaccinations. (We have to declare a vested interest – having been vaccinated today.)
For several days now we have had sunshine on Tiree. During this time much of Scotland has been under a blanket of snow, experienced freezing conditions and had several days of related travel disruption. Although we have had sunshine there has been a real nip to the wind from the east, but the temperature has been higher than on the Mainland. Last night the temperature in Braemar was -23C° (the UK’s lowest in 25 years) . On Tiree the temperature fell to 1°
What a pleasureit has been to look out across the water to snow capped mountains on neighbouring islands and on the more distant Mainland. This has been a pleasure that many have commented on.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
We have been living on Tiree now for over seven years and it feels that this is one of the most prolonged spells of icy weather. We have it on good authority that the island’s roads in many places were like a skating rink this morning. Tiree’s position out in the Atlantic and the fact that it is low lying means that in the winter the weather is generally much milder than on the Mainland. The other side of the coin is that we are more conscious of the wind.
Todasy as we set out for our morning constitutional we had to be extra careful because of the icy conditions. We did not want slip on the ice and fall and have to visit a hospital in Oban or Glasgow, Hospitals are under enough pressure without us adding to it!
As usual we made our way down to the pier and then back up the road and across the Machair to the old harbour. As we stepped onto the Machair we saw a crofter out feeding the sheep – and the gulls with an eye towards a ready meal.
Over the past few days, even when the sky has been blue over Tiree, Ben More on the Isle of Mull has been hidden from view, shrouded by menacing clouds. This mornng the clouds parted suficently to give us a hazy, wintry view of the Munro. Oh! These clouds add something to the view.
From our south facing windows we loook out across the Passage of Tiree towards the Paps of Jura. At first light today we had a clear view of the Paps but soon the clouds built up and obscured our view. We don’t have to walk far from our home to look out across the Passage towards Ben More. As we walked across the Machair we caught a glimpse of the peak peeking through the clouds which wrapped around the Munro like a scarf.
Later after a warming cup of coffee it was time to head across to the Memorial situated off Pier Road. The ‘MV Lord of the Isles’ (LOTI) was just heading out to sea bound for the Isle of Coll and then onto the Ferry terminal at Oban. The Memorial and its surrounds afford a great view across the island and out to sea.
Although later in the afternoon the clouds began to build up over Tiree, earlier in the day there was blue sky over the island. The clouds that hid the Paps of Jura and the Rum Cuillins had a fascination all of their own. Only the other day someone remarked to us how dramtic the clouds were – and with all manner of formations.
On Saturday we said farewell to the ‘MV Clansman’. It will be several weeks before her return to service. On Sunday she made her way to Liverpool for her annual overhaul and certification. On Sunday we welcomed the ‘MV Lord of the Isles’ as the relief vessel. Recently she paid a visit to Tiree when the ‘MV Clansman’ had to undergo a deep clean.
In the past 10 months we have rarely ventured far from Scarinish, the crofting township where we live, but each day there appears a freshness to the land and seascape. We may see the same view but often with a different perspective, We are so grateful that we felt the call of God to live on Tiree – and its a great community to belong to.
Well! The weather forecast was correct for Tiree. For the most part of the week the forecast was for wintry showers turning to snow on Saturday. Snow is not unknown on Tiree, but it is an unusual occurrence, therefore it is something noteworthy.
The island in many ways gets the best of both worlds. From a snow free Tiree we can look out on snow capped neighbouring islands and distant mainland mountain peaks.
Last evening around 23:30 hours we happened to look out the window and to our pleasant surprise the roof of the car had a covering of snow. It was too dark to see any distance but the road around Pier View was covered in snow.
Waking up we wondered if the snow would still be around and we were not disappointed. In fact it appeared to be slightly more than a dusting. Not enough to bury the grass but certainly enough to turn it white.
Much as we would like to have gone out other responsibilities meant that we had to stay indoors. Not even the thought of photographing the ‘MV Clansman’ in such a setting could draw us out. This was all the more difficult as this was the last sailing she would make to Tiree until later in February. Tomorrow witnesses the ‘MV Lord of the Isles’ (LOTI) take over the route in the absence of the ‘Clansman’.
Before getting down to work, the opportunity was taken to photograph the view from our home, For the time being that had to do.
Around 12:30 we managed to put work aside and get out for a walk, It was just our normal walk, down Pier Road to the pier and then back up and across the Machair to the old harbour. By this time Pier Road was more or less clear of snow. It was mainly the verges that had a covering. From the pier we looked across Gott Bay and Ruaig to the snow capped Rum Cuillins. How sharp and impressed they looked. Across the Passage of Tiree Ben More on the Isle of Mull was shrouded in dark clouds.
Looking across Gott Bay towards Gott and Kirkapol, we could see the sand covered in snow – right down to the water’s edge.
The sky itself was dramatic. There was bright blue sky, jet black sky, shades of grey and shafts of sunlight. Tiree’s wide skies had it all.
It was great to be out. We didn’t meet many but the few we did see were appreciating the wonder of a snowy island landscape.
Now come walk with us around the old harbour – Enjoy the views!