Western Isles Report 2005

Words and pictures by Martin Longhurst

Waverley left dry dock on Monday 25 April under tow by two tugs, which took her to Custom House Quay, Greenock.   Safely tied up, there was a period of slowly running in the brand new bearings before she ran trials, adjusted compasses and finally steamed up river to Pacific Quay.

Final preparations and crew training filled the rest of the week, before she left Glasgow for her Western Isles season on Friday 29th.   Had the weather been the same as the previous day, she could not have sailed round the Mull of Kintyre as it would have been too rough.

The timetable was given very largely as scheduled although the weather was characterised by cold northerly winds and frequent showers.   Unfortunately the wind strengthened towards the second weekend, causing one Mallaig call to to lost.   The first weekend was based at Oban with cruises to Armadale (Skye), the Four Lochs and Corryvreckan and Iona.   Mid-week, the paddler moved north to give a series of sailings from Kyle of Lochalsh and Portree.  On Friday 6 May she repositioned south to spend the night alongside Tobermory (Mull) pier before returning to Oban for trips planned to land on Rhum (Saturday) and Coll (Sunday).

Waverley sweeps into Oban Bay with the Isle of Kerrera beyond her

On her final approach to Oban's North Pier

The sailing involved a return to Tobermory before striking out from the sheltered waters of the Sound of Mull.   Passengers were warned at Oban that conditions might be too bad to make it to Rhum and subsequent reports from shipping lead to the decision to adopt an alternative cruise.   This took the paddler back along the Sound of Mull before turning north up Loch Linnhe.   She hugged the western shore to take full advantage of the lee before crossing to the east bank to enter Loch Leven to view the Ballachulish Bridge.    Then back south and by sticking to the eastern shore, the steamer circumnavigated the Island of Lismore in the process.   Then back to Tobermory, to give Oban passengers an hour ashore, before the final leg back.

Alongside Tobermory pier on Saturday 7 May

On arrival back at Oban a crew photograph was taken for the Scania house magazine.  Alistair Black took the opportunity to take a similar view himself, but some crew members had to leave, so it is not complete.

From left to right: Chris Rolland (Steward), Neil O'Brien (Chief Steward, Balmoral), Pat Nolan (Seaman), Robert 'Rab' Lennan (Second Engineer), Alan James (Shopkeeper), Gordon Reid (Relief Chief Engineer), Ian 'Corky' McCorkindale (Fireman), Lorraine Gouland (Chief Officer), David Sneddon (Steward), Baiba Vectirane (Stewardess), Philip Lock (Relief Master), Craig Peacock (Catering Manager), Tony Estibero (Seaman), Luke Davis (Master), Colin Hughes (Chief Steward, Waverley), Aiden Jennings (Trainee Second Officer), Madjic Czucha (Fireman), Brendon McCormack (Seaman), Gordon Donaghy (Seaman) and last but not least Jim McFadzean (Purser).  Apologies for any spelling mistakes!

Sunday dawned bright and sunny but still pretty windy.

CalMac's Isle of Mull heads for the Railway Pier as Waverley lies at the North Pier

The paddler raises steam prior to her departure

Waverley was due to sail direct to Coll, but again passengers were warned that it may not be possible to reach the Inner Isle.   The plan now was to traverse the Sound of Mull towards Ardnamurchan Point to look at the actual conditions.   So Waverley sailed from Oban and headed out down the Sound of Kerrera then north to Duart Point.   Approaching the western end of the Sound, CalMac's Clansman was spotted inbound.   Her captain reported that conditions in the open sea were too rough for Waverley to make Coll.

So Captain Luke Davis turned his ship north into Loch Sunart, waters the paddler had only rarely visited previously.

The passage up the Loch twisted and turned

Loch Sunnart runs easterly for nearly 15 miles

Waverley then reversed her course and headed for Loch Linnhe to give passengers an hour ashore in Fort William, passing within 10 miles of the head of Loch Sunart.

Conditions at the western end of the Sound of Mull

Approaching the Corran Narrows in Loch Linnhe

Corran - a product of George Prior's yard

Fort William - the red and white structure is the steamer pier

On the final leg to Oban, a snow covered Ben Nevis is shrouded in cloud - note the rainbow

On Monday 9 May the paddler was due to steam back to Ayr.   Although conditions were moderating, this would not have been possible so a cruise to Tobermory and back was substituted and coaches laid on to Ayr for the Inclusive Tour passengers.   Waverley returned light shortly afterwards.

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