So far in this series Eric Schofield has drawn inspiration from the collection of steamer and ferry tickets he has amassed over the past 50 years, using them as the starting point for reminiscences in words and pictures. This time, he has chosen an occasion when he was not able to retain his travel tickets. Instead, his ‘ticket’ takes the form of the first page of travel amendments put in place by CalMac to accommodate the extra passenger traffic occasioned by the Tiree Music Festival over the mid July weekend in 2018. Eric summarises the resulting journey as ‘turning bad luck into good luck’.
No 13: Midsummer amendments at Oban
The printed amendments covered five A4 pages, showing sailings by Clansman from Wednesday 11th to Wednesday 18th July and also M.V. Isle of Mull on Monday 16th, and it was the latter sailing which first aroused my interest. Due to her larger passenger carrying capacity, Isle of Mull was to leave Oban at 0545 for Coll and Tiree, arriving at the latter island at 1000 to uplift the returning hordes of festival goers, as she had done in recent years.
Here was an unusual opportunity to get ashore and photograph the ‘Mull’ at Tiree, then perhaps return on her at 1100, admittedly on a very crowded ship, or preferably have more time ashore for walking/exploring before returning by Clansman on the additional evening call at 1900.
That idea was scuppered when I later found out that the A85 road was going to be closed for re-surfacing at Innis Chonain near Lochawe village for a number of nights over this period from 9pm to 7am. Driving up to Oban for an early start and the late return home were both out the question.
An interesting alternative was, however, staring me in the face. With Isle of Mull away to Coll and Tiree, her place on the Oban/Craignure service was to be taken by Clansman, an almost equally rare opportunity to take some not easily obtained pictures. I resolved therefore to travel up to Oban in time for Clansman’s 0950 crossing to Craignure.
This allowed me to fit in another idea I had had for many a year but never quite managed to find the right time to do — walking to and from Duart Castle and spending time there filming the ferries passing Lismore and Lady Rock. The shoreline around Duart is the closest point on Mull to these iconic sights on any passage up or down the Sound of Mull.
In addition to photos of Clansman and Coruisk passing Lismore Lighthouse, as a wee bonus I got an unexpected shot just before 1400 of Clansman on her last Craignure/Oban run diverting south of Lady Rock to avoid a yacht which was struggling to cope with the currents in the main channel.
I had reckoned that my timings would not allow much chance of photographing Isle of Lewis. This proved to be the case: I was restricted to a long-distance view over Duart Bay as I was making my way back to Craignure and she was heading for Barra.
With Isle of Mull running late on her return from Tiree, she also passed at a distance just as I was about to board Coruisk.
However, my return sailing to the mainland provided another unusual photo opportunity: as Coruisk made her way back to Oban (also going south of Lady Rock, I think simply to use up time), Hebridean Isles was spotted in the distance sailing up the west coast of Kerrera on her normal Wednesday run from Kennacraig, Port Askaig and Colonsay to Oban. Coruisk continued to crawl along at about half speed. Then for a while she lay off in Oban Bay because there was no available berth: the late-running Isle of Mull was still loading for her 1555 Craignure sailing, but now an hour behind schedule. Once Hebridean Isles had set off from Oban on schedule at 1645, Coruisk was able to move into that vacated berth.
Although the weather was somewhat cloudier than what we had all become used to in the brilliant summer of 2018, it remained warm and dry. I was thrilled to get some excellent shots, especially those from the shoreline below Duart Castle. All in all it was another excellent day to add to the memory bank.