To the Loch of Heaven


Leaving Portree Waverley headed south again on a cruise that would take her back through the Sound of Raasay, Kyle of Lochalsh, Kylerhea and Sound of Sleat. En route she made her first call of the year at the little Skye port of Broadford. Although the approach to that pier – in fact the stone stump of a longer (wooden) structure that closed in the 1930s – is not straightforward, Captain Colledge made the maneouvre look easy despite never having been there before. A goodly number of passengers joined the paddler, which had made her first visit to Broadford in 1995. That had been the first call by a paddle steamer since the 1930s; in the early part of that decade, after the finale demise of the long-lived paddle steamer Glencoe, the lovely little clipper-bowed paddler Fusilier, a product of the McIntyre shipyard at Paisley in the River Cart (one of the main tributaries of the Clyde – the Waverley was built in the other, the River Kelvin), became the last ever paddler to call at Broadford – until Waverley changed that little bit of maritime history in the same way that she has done all around the coasts of the British Isles in the last quarter century.


MacBrayne’s Fusilier, a veteran of 1888, served on the Portree Mail service until her withdrawal in the 1930s. Sold by MacBrayne she had a short career on the Lancashire coast

Waverley’s first ever call at Broadford – in 1995









Cautiously, but expertly, Waverley approaches the Stone Quay of Broadford


As she reached the southern end of the Sleat sound, the morning veil lifted from the sky and sunshine abounded again. Waverley’s renowned West Highland weather record was being maintained. As the ferry Lord of the Isles had just left the great herring port of Mallaig, terminus of the West Highland Railway, Captain Colledge warped her head round into the ferry berth rather than use the knuckle dolphin of the old harbour breakwater which is now partly replaced in that task by the new outer harbour. On most of her previous visits to Mallaig Waverley had used that knuckle berth although on her memorable first ever call at Mallaig in 1988 she had actually berthed ‘port side to’ at the old wooden fish quay in the inner harbour. Ordinarily that would have been an awkward berth for Waverley to extract from given her limited helm when going astern slowly. However, the manoeuvre was unnecessary on that occasion due to a lack of fishing vessels in the harbour that day, almost exactly 14 years ago. In such circumstances Waverley was able to warp herself stern-first round onto the end berth of the fish quay and leave the harbour of Mallaig going ahead, the only time that she has ever done this feat.







Waverley on her first ever call at Mallaig in 1988 berthed at the fish quay in the inner harbour – her only visit


Many children from Mallaig Primary School joined for the cruise into Mallaig’s adjacent sealoch, Loch Nevis, the loch of heaven – a neighbour and foil of Loch Hourn which we had visited a few days earlier. Waverley steamed as far as she could in Loch Nevis; to Tarbet and Kylesmorar returning via the bay at Inverie. The weather was marvelous, almost as good as the vessel’s first visit to the loch in 1989 when she carried about 800 passengers from Mallaig (a record?) in a heatwave.

A view of CalMac’s new ferry Lochnevis from Waverley in Mallaig Harbour


Returning to Portree we had our last clear view of the pier of Raasay with the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry Loch Striven, emigrant from the Cumbrae service on the Firth of Clyde, alongside on the service to Sconser in Skye. Raasay pier is curious in its location, quite distant from the main settlement on the island. The derelict buildings behind the pier are all that gives a clue to the reason for the pier’s location. These buildings are the remains of an iron ore mine that once boosted Raasay’s economy. Although derelict they do not mar the scenery here, strangely they seem to complement it.



Raasay Pier, the former mine and the ferry Loch Striven


Waverley cannot secure fuel supplies in the Hebrides and this calls for considerable effort on the part of Chief Engineer Ken Henderson to arrange special imports by road tanker from central Scotland to Oban and Kyle.  So, after depositing her passengers at Portree, Waverley headed back to Kyle for bunkers. By the time that operation was finished it would be well after 10 pm and little time for the long-suffering engine room crew to sample the local hospitality. We stood and watched Waverley sweep away from Portree astern, in the silence of the evening the paddle beat echoed around the Port of the King – memorable moments.


Waverley leaving Portree for Kyle at 8.30pm


Waverley dwarfed by the massive headlands of Portree Harbour



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