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VOYAGE REPORT: Caledonian MacBrayne


By Iain McPherson

July 19, 2000

On Sunday, while watching the farming forecast, I noted that all that coming week high pressure was to cover the west coast of Scotland. With the need to get photographs of the ISLE OF ARRAN at Colonsay, it being nearly ten years since I had a good look round the Island. I decided to do the Wednesday trip from Kennacraig .

Wednesday morning arrived with my alarm going off at 3.55 am.

With sandwiches packed I set off to cross the Kyles of Bute aboard the former Sky ferry LOCH DUNVEGAN. The only other vehicle waiting for shipment was the local milk tanker . Once on the mainland I made good progress down the A83 on the shores of Loch Fyne . I Arrived at Kennacraig ferry terminal as the ISLE OF ARRAN was berthing following her 05.30 am departure from Port Ellen which is the ferry terminal at the south of the Island.

She lies there overnight 3 times a week Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays . ISLE OF ARRAN quickly unloaded and then started to reload for Port Askaig & Colonsay .The first vehicle on was the petrol tanker bound for Colonsay. Rules state that all hazardous goods must not be shipped on enclosed car decks. Along with a further 5 commercials, 2 artics belonging to local haulier Mundles, 38 cars, 151 passengers & 26 crew we departed 5 minutes late at 08.20 .

As we neared the entrance to West Loch Tarbert looking ahead

in the distance the LOCHRANZA could be seen making her first crossing of the day from the Isle of Gigha to the mainland terminal of Tayinloan. Having passed the entrance to the Sound of Jura, by 9.49 the ISLE OF ARRAN was well on her way up the Sound of Islay, passing McAuther's Head lighthouse. At 10.21 the Master reduced speed as we were making our approach to Port Askaig . Already tied up as well as the Islay lifeboat was the Jura ferry the EILEAN DHUIRA. This vessel was built by McTay Marine Ltd , Bromborough at a coast of 750,000. She is 25.6m long with a beam of 6.25m. She can carry around 10 cars & 50 passengers. Serco Denholm operate the ferry on the 5 minute crossing from Port Askaig to Feolin on Jura for Argyll & Bute Council. 

Loading at Port Askaig took some time. This was due not only to the volume of traffic for Oban , but all Colonsay traffic having to be reversed on board . Also boarding for the day trip to Colonsay were around 40 cyclists. At 11.07 the stern ramp was raised and we were our way 30 minutes late at 11.10, heading North up the Sound of Islay with a total of 227 passengers , 51 cars , 2 commercials, a small coach, the petrol tanker for Colonsay & also a mobile crane bound for Oban. 

At 11.24 on our starboard side we were passing the second whiskey distillery on Islay's East coast Bunnahabhain. Rhuvaal lighthouse at the North-east tip of the Island was passed at 11.38. Coming out of the sound of Islay the Isle of Arran was taking a North Westerly course for Colonsay, which could be seen in the distance. By now the cloud had broken up and with the sun shining many of the passengers were sitting out on deck. Because of new passenger regulations passengers on certain routes require to register their details, which meant that all passengers who came on board bound for Oban were called by the chief steward through the P.A system to register their details at his office which is situated on the main deck .

At 12.20 the ISLE OR ARRAN berthed at Scalasaig pier on the Isle of Colonsay. Quickly down the gangway I walked round to the headland across from the pier to take my photos . With taking the photos there the ISLE OF ARRAN's  fast rescue craft which she, like other members of the Cal Mac fleet where all given during there annual overhauls could be seen. The ISLE OF ARRAN departed at 12.45 for Oban with a further 29 passengers, 23 cars & a lorry belonging to local haulage firm MacLellan motors of Oban. I now had about 5 hours to spend walking around this beautiful Island. As it was launch time and the visibility was good I decided to make for the highest point of the Island Beinn nan Gudairean from where looking North the Arran could be observed disappearing into the distance.

After lunch, I then walked back down and along a track which led me back to the pier in readiness for the arrival of the ISLE OF ARRAN. She was due to arrive at 18.00. Just before she came in, a heavy shower which had been threatening by the late afternoon started. Thankfully it didn't last long, and I was able to photograph her arrival now under the command of Captain Norman Martin. We set off at 18.30 30 minutes late for Port Askaig . There was now low cloud and rain on the journey to Islay. Once back in the Sound of Islay the cloud lifted and the rain cleared almost as quickly as it begun . At 19.24 a small coaster passed us on our port side just off Whitefarland Bay Jura . At 19.28 the Arran began to swing to starboard and started making here approach to Port Askaig. The ISLE OF ARRAN was made fast by Captain Martin at 19.36, with a quick turn around we departed for Kennacraig at 19.51. I then decided that as the cafeteria was now quiet I would go down and have my dinner which as usual was to be steak pie. While tucking in to this fine meal the Chief Steward announced at 20.10 that this would be the final call for hot meals .

At 21.18 we were entering West Loch Tarbert. With the tide in our favour , the Arran had made up time and it looked as if we would be back on time . At exactly 21.45 she berthed back at Kennacraig , 13 hours and 25 minutes after departing.

Along with traffic both for Islay and Colonsay their were a lot of people not only taking the day trip to Colonsay but also the full days cruise to Oban and back. With the M.V HEBRIDES being built at Ferguson's ship yard Port Glasgow for the Uig service. When she is completed the Hebridean Isles , presently on the Uig service, will be transferred to the Islay route. With the Isle of Arran becoming spare vessel.

Having enjoyed reasonable weather on the above trip. I would say that combined with sailing on what for me is my favourite vessel in the Cal Mac fleet the Isle of Arran , made for an enjoyable day .


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