For Gordon Law, winter is not a reason to hibernate but a season to celebrate. In this three-part diary for 2016-17, he outlines the variety on offer for anyone with a bit of time to spare and a camera at the ready.
There is no doubt that most ship enthusiasts have a favourite part of the year.
For some, the build-up to summer and the subsequent play-out of the timetables with associated good weather is paramount. Others prefer the quieter off-peak (or ‘shoulder’) spring or autumn periods with less predictable weather, while Waverley ‘affectionados’ look for something different to enjoy in the paddler’s schedules.
My preference is the period between the September weekend and Easter. Unusual calls brought about by overhauls or special visits make Largs, my home town, an ideal base, although AIS, a knowledge of the CalMac overhaul schedule and a bus pass are all handy to capture the moment.
Autumn 2016 began with a visit to Renfrew on September 25 to picture the Clyde appearance of the classic motor vessel Balmoral, making a welcome return north from the Bristol Channel. The ship is pictured here at Renfrew: I heard the voice of our very own Iain Quinn, over the tannoy system, even before the ship came into sight!
My next venture was to sail on and picture the new Catriona between Lochranza and Cloanaig on October 5. This outing proved one thing: with a sluggish Catriona struggling to maintain Loch Tarbert’s timetable and ‘Jackie Stewart’ driving the Blackwaterfoot bus, I was potentially left waiting for an hour for a Brodick bus until I was picked up by an Arran Deliveries van, driven by a mature lady, for a trip back via Machrie Moor.
The attempted excursion of Hebrides up Lochmaddy Main Street (causing extensive damage and a trip to the Clyde for repairs) gave me my next photographic opportunity. The ship called at Ardrossan on October 15 to pick up crew cars on her way back north following successful trials.
I next captured Hallaig at Largs on October 23, calling to unload crew cars en route from Raasay to Garvel Dry Dock for overhaul.
Things were starting to warm-up at Largs and the next visitor was Hebridean Princess on a late season cruise. The illustration (top of page) finds her in the company of Loch Riddon on October 30.
Another stranger appeared at Largs on November 3 in the shape of Loch Dunvegan, heading to Troon for overhaul after contributing to the camper van colony on the pier.
On November 9 my son Graeme and I headed to Oban for a trip on Clansman to Colonsay. The memorable feature of this trip was that the two of us were the only foot passengers who boarded. We were joined by five drivers and six vehicles — the McLennan Deliveries vehicle was loaded by an Oban-based driver and unloaded by a Colonsay-based employee at Scalasaig. We both remarked that it is easy to see why CalMac haemorrhages £9m of taxpayers’ money every month.
Traffic on the ferries may be quieter in winter months, but during my brief visit north I still managed to photograph Clansman, Isle of Mull, Loch Striven and Hallaig at Oban and Lord of the Isles at speed in the Firth of Lorn, heading to Birkenhead for overhaul.
Gordon Law is CRSC Calendar Editor and a Past President of the Club.