Throughout the domain that’s known as Caledonian MacBrayne there have been many operational issues over the 2013/2014 winter timetable. Many advertised sailings, more than would normally be expected, have been delayed or cancelled due to adverse weather conditions. Ferries have suffered collision damage, having struck piers and breakwaters. Other ferries have returned from their annual service only to breakdown, some even requiring a return to dry dock. In normal circumstances, it is an operational challenge to redeploy the fleet to permit each ferry in turn to be serviced. It is a tight enough operation without the added complications of adverse weather, collisions and breakdowns. Yet, two elderly ladies, the MV Isle of Arran and the MV Hebridean Isles, have come to the rescue, time and again. They too have had their own difficulties. While on a rescue mission to Stornaway, after the freight only vessel suffered major collision damage, the Hebridean Isles also collided with the pier at Stornoway and required repairs. Recently the Isle of Arran required a deep clean after members of the crew took ill. Nevertheless, both vessels have proved their worth, in spite of their increasing years.
On this the first day of the Summer Timetable the MV Hebridean Isles has replaced the programmed vessel, the MV Hebrides. The latter has been in dry dock for her annual service and had not yet completed her sea trials. Tomorrow the MV Hebrides ought to visit Tiree before making her way to her usual route, the Uig-Tarbert-Lochmaddy triangle. Thus it was a Hebridean farewell to Eileanan Innse Gall. The friendly crew cast off with a cheery, “See you next winter!” Or should it be as was suggested, “See you next breakdown!”?
Opinion on the island is divided over the Hebridean Isles. To some she has, “Done us proud.” For others she was totally unsuitable. No matter which side of the divide you stand, we owe a debt of gratitude to her crew and those who work on Tiree’s pier. In the extreme weather of this past winter they have served us well. Thanks!