Waverley in the Western Isles 2007
by Martin Longhurst
Pictures by Martin Longhurst except where stated
The paddler started off her season in fine style as timetabled from Glasgow at 07.00 on Friday 4 May bound for Greenock, Campbeltown, Port Ellen and Oban. This turned out to be the best day for a week weather-wise but the steamer was able to carry out her full programme with only minor amendments for weather reasons. The planned call at Port Ellen did not take place owing to a timetable clash, CalMac having implemented a substitute timetable as Port Askaig pier was closed for renovations.
On 6 May, the planned early morning return sailing to Fort William was cancelled as a steam leak had to be attended to. The afternoon's schedule was also varied as Waverley did not carry out the Four Lochs schedule but instead headed down the Sound of Mull for a sail up Loch Sunnart, owing to stress of weather. The following day she was able to reach Coll but used the sheltered Sound of Mull in both directions.
Numbers were good throughout and there were no parking spaces to be had in Armadale such was the demand to steam across to Inverie in Loch Nevis for Waverley's first call at the new pier on Tuesday 8 May. Nearby is the remotest pub in the Good Beer Guide. accessible only by sea. Although the steamer's call only lasted 30 minutes, over 100 people were served - some more than once.
Inverie on 10 May (Roy Tait)
Saturday 12 May saw another very unique the paddler's history. This was the occasion of her first call at the island of Colonsay. Starting at Tobermory and picking up at Oban, this sailing also circumnavigated Mull. There was a good deal of sunshine and blue sky and the sea was like a millpond as we cleared the Sound of Kerrera and set course for Colonsay. Captain Luke Davis soon brought the steamer alongside the car ferry pier at Scalasaig.
A special minibus tour of the island had been arranged at £7.50 for 14 lucky people. We, however, beat a track to the brand new Colonsay Brewery and we enjoyed a pint of their excellent IPA and 80/- Ales. All too soon Iain Quinn was blowing Waverley's whistle to summon us back, on board. Backing away from the pier, dolphins could be spotted across the bay.
Backing away from Scalasaig Pier
Staffa - Fingal's Cave to the right
Then we turned north towards Mull, then west along the island's coast to the Ross of Mull and crossing the Sound of Iona. Then north again up the seldom seen west coast of Iona and so on to leave Staffa to port. On cue, Purser Jim MacFadzean coaxed his cassette player into life so we could listen to Mendelssohn's Fingal's Cave at the appropriate moment.
To the north, a grand vista of Canna, Rhum, Muck, Eigg and an odd Cuillin of Skye, not to mention Ardnamurchan Lighthouse. Then east to enter the Sound of Mull before the paddler made her final call of the season at Tobermory. Then the final leg back to Oban, which was reached just before eight o'clock.
Approaching Oban Pier on 12 May
Bright and early at 06.35, Waverley steamed off light to Fort William to start Sunday's sail at 09.00. Back at Oban, a disappointing number joined the steamer for the special trip to Iona, where a commemorative service for the paddler's Diamond Jubilee was held at the Abbey.
View from the landing boat by Roy Tait
MV Loch Buie rounds the anchored paddler on passage from Iona to Fionnphort (Mull)
Landing at Iona was made by the launches, Ullin of Staffa and Odin of Staffa. In view of the church service, the timetable allowed extra time on the sacred isle - in fact, the stay was 2.5 hours. At 5.40 the steamer weighed anchor and gently turned before heading back for Oban along the southern coast of Mull.
The south coast of Mull
Approaching Oban, two pieces of excellent news were announced. Firstly, Purser Jim revealed that the two stalwart draw ticket sellers had taken £2,000 in the first 10 days of the season. This year the PSPS is running a national draw, the first prize, kindly donated by Fred Olsen Line, being a cruise of their "new" liner Balmoral. Deryk Docherty made the second announcement which concerned the sale of the first of the Diamond Jubilee house flags. Several of these have been made and embroidered with Waverley's different sailing areas. As this was the "official" end of the Western Isles, the first of the series was available. Sealed bids had been lodged throughout the 10 days. Deryk, as Company Secretary of WSN, now opened the envelopes. He announced there were nine serious bids and the successful bidders were Gavin Stewart and Shelagh Holt, who are Glasgow working party regulars.
Iain Macleod (left) presents the flag to Shelagh and Gavin
They were presented with their "prize" by WSN Chairman Iain MacLeod on arrival at Oban. Watch out for your opportunity to bid in your area!
Sailing back south on 14 May (Roy Tait)
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