We could not have made a more impressive start. While CRSC members and friends were gathering at McInroy’s Point on the evening of 21 June 2016, no fewer than five passenger-carrying ships crossed paths in front of us: you wouldn’t be able to organise it better.
In the foreground, Sound of Seil nudged her way towards the linkspan, dressed overall for our midsummer charter. Behind her, Sound of Scarba set off with a compliment of cars and commuters on the service run to Hunter’s Quay. Ali Cat, heading for Dunoon, passed Argyll Flyer, heading for Gourock. And there in the background, steaming downriver, was Waverley.
This was one of the most relaxed and convivial events in CRSC’s recent excursion calendar — an evening cruise that felt like a private party. Sound of Seil’s spacious car deck was at our disposal, and there was ample time not just to talk to everyone on board, including Captain Roddy Buchan, but to savour the special evening light of midsummer.
We set off at an impressive lick, darting past a succession of sail boats from the Gourock yacht club. Hastened by a light breeze and the prospect of meeting Waverley up Loch Long, we took in the sights of Blairmore, Cove and Ardentinny before passing Finnart and fixing our gaze on the Arrochar Alps. Loch Long may not have been bathed in sunshine, but its forested landscape and quietly populated shoreline projected a timeless appeal.
Waverley — with her own charter party — turned at the mouth of Loch Goil, and was soon racing past to the accompaniment of frantic waving, siren sounds and clicking cameras. Time for speculation: when was the last occasion two Clyde excursion ships of different companies passed each other in Loch Long on an evening cruise? The consensus was that you would have to go back to the 1920s to find something similar.
After proceeding a little further up the loch, we turned and cruised back towards open water, the headwind now encouraging many of our number to gather inside Sound of Seil’s passenger cabin, there to partake of a plentiful supply of tea, coffee, cakes and biscuits. We were soon passing Kilcreggan and turning towards the Ashton shore. The cruise, lasting just over two hours, had flown past.
This was Sound of Seil’s first evening excursion since — well, since a similar CRSC charter 12 months ago. Our latest venture enjoyed much better weather but engendered much the same feeling: a sense of camaraderie, of shared impressions, of common enjoyment of a special occasion.
In such conditions, and against all expectation, a utilitarian vehicle ferry takes on a new, engaging personality as cruise ‘steamer’. Thanks to Western Ferries for making Sound of Seil available, to Captain Buchan and his crew for their kind welcome, to chief engineer (and CRSC committee member) John Newth for facilitating the event, to Anne Mitchell for her catering expertise and to CRSC cruise coordinator Neil Guthrie for organising a memorable midsummer charter.
Published on 22 June 2016