Fraser MacHaffie tells the story of the rescue and restoration, 20 years ago, of the beautiful little cruise ship that now graces Loch Shiel.
Reading the very interesting account from Ken Mills of his ‘Three Lochs Tour with a difference’ reminded me that Sileas on Loch Shiel is now in her 20th year with Jim Michie.
Sileas was built in 1940 at the Silver yard at Rosneath for the Admiralty and this must make her one of the oldest excursion ships now sailing in Scotland. She had a varied career after finishing her Admiralty work at Invergordon; too varied to list here, but in the 1990s Vital Spark, as she then was, was laid up near Dervaig in Mull, and was purchased by Jim Michie in late 1996. He had her brought to Samalaman Bay at Glenuig in Moidart, where the work of restoring her to service was carried out. Given the name Sileas she was taken to Lochailort and then overland to Loch Shiel.
In July 1997 she was launched into the loch at Guiseachman Bay, one of the few locations where road (or track) and depth of water coincided. The following April Sileas brought cruising back to Loch Shiel.
Because of my interest in Loch Shiel (see Clyde Steamers No. 13) Jim Michie gave me these two photographs, before and after restoration, on one of my trips with Sileas from Glenfinnan to Acharacle. It’s a beautiful sail and Jim is a very welcoming skipper.
Information on Sileas’ timetable, with contact details, can be found at Loch Shiel Cruises
Fraser MacHaffie is a ship historian who regular contributes to Clyde Steamers, CRSC’s annual magazine. His book Scotia and Caledonia is available from the CRSC Shop.
See also ‘Photo of the month’ for