Eric Schofield: All tickets please (27)

Tight fit: a mobile home is stern-loaded onto Hebridean Isles at the ‘wrong’ berth at Kennacraig — one of the surprises encountered by Eric on his day out to Islay and Jura, during which he sailed on five ferries, including former CalMac veteran Canna, on charter from Ireland

By September 2021, when CRSC Honorary Secretary Eric Schofield wrote what he thought was the final article in his ‘All tickets please’ series, he reckoned he had exhausted his extraordinary collection of steamer and ferry tickets, gathered in the course of more than 50 years of west coast sailing.                                                    
Fortunately for us, Eric’s fount of enthusiasm has not dried up. Recently he made a day excursion which, he says, “seems worthy of recounting, not for any particularly notable event other than the adventurous spirit which still flows freely in this ageing body”. And so here, matched to his beautiful photographs and the obligatory tickets, he relates the latest of his west coast exploits.

Eric’s tickets for his Islay/Jura trip on Friday 8 April 2022

Having spent a considerable number of days last month printing off the enclosures which accompany the Club’s AGM notice and the 2022 edition of ‘Clyde Steamers’, I felt it only right that I treat myself to a ‘day away on the boats’ – but what to do? CalMac’s website showed that, due to a large grain ship occupying the berth at Port Ellen pier (the berth favoured in northerly winds), Hebridean Isles’ 1000 sailing from Kennacraig would be diverted to Port Askaig. This suited me perfectly, as a midday arrival there would allow me more time to meet up with an ‘old acquaintance’ of years gone by. With the Argyll and Bute Council ferry, Eilean Dhiura, away for annual overhaul, the former CalMac ‘daft duck’ ferry Canna had been chartered for a couple of weeks’ duty on the crossing to Feolin on Jura.

On board Isle of Cumbrae, crossing Loch Fyne to Tarbert

An early start would be required. A quick study of the service schedules showed that, with an even earlier start, I could make a circular tour involving sailings on five different ferries. That would mean heading off from my home in Giffnock to McInroy’s Point in time for the first crossing of the day at 0630 on Sound of Soay, driving from Hunter’s Quay to Portavadie for Isle of Cumbrae’s first return across Loch Fyne to Tarbert, and continuing to Kennacraig to meet up with Hebridean Isles. Over at Islay there would be ample time to cross to Jura on Canna and finally get Finlaggan’s 1530 sailing to Kennacraig, followed by a drive on the A83/A82 back to Glasgow.

This almost ‘spur of the moment’ decision to take advantage of standard ferry crossings would prove thoroughly enjoyable, with a couple of interesting surprises to entertain me.

The early morning cloud and bitter cold wind meant that, on the crossing to Hunter’s Quay aboard Sound of Soay, my camera stayed in its bag, but by the time I was on the road high above the Kyles of Bute the sun was up, the view of the west Kyle hinting at a fine day to come and just begging to be recorded. I bagged first place in the queue for the crossing to Tarbert on Isle of Cumbrae (or Eilean Chumraigh if you prefer it in Gaelic).

Weighing up the procedure for loading a mobile home at Kennacraig

On arrival at Kennacraig, the prompt Hebridean Isles was just nosing into the usual berth. Surprise No. 1: having loaded vehicles and foot passengers, the ramp was raised, gangway off and Hebridean Isles began reversing out from the berth 15 minutes before schedule, with the master coming on the tannoy to advise that we were backing round into the other berth to stern-load an extra-wide mobile home that I had earlier seen sitting on a trailer in the marshalling area. The tricky loading manoeuvre was smoothly accomplished in one go: I felt like giving a round of applause to the driver of the trailer.

Surprise No. 2: this would come roughly half way on passage when none other than Catriona crossed ahead of us as she made her way back to the Clyde from her spell as relief vessel on the Fishnish/Lochaline run.

‘There was Canna — instantly recognisable even in her Arranmore Ferry Company colours’

Arriving at Port Askaig, I looked over to Feolin, and there was Canna instantly recognisable even in her Arranmore Ferry Company colours but with a different forward mast (although similar in style to her original). I filled the next hour by taking pictures from sea level, and then from the hill above the pier, including a sequence showing Hebridean Isles on her 1245 departure to Kennacraig. I then took Canna across to Feolin and sauntered off for a walk down the peaceful Jura coast to an ideal spot, sheltered from the cold north wind, to enjoy my sandwich lunch in glorious solitude.

Later, after returning across the Sound of Islay to Port Askaig, I climbed the hill again in time to take photographs of Finlaggan’s arrival. On the sail back to the mainland, a final scenic shot of Hebridean Isles against a backdrop of the Paps of Jura seemed to sum up a day of perfection.

On return to Kennacraig there was the possibility of making it back to Tarbert in time to catch the final crossing to Portavadie and later Western Ferries’ sailing from Hunter’s Quay — but I was out to enjoy my day and did not fancy the stress of worrying whether the slight delay in getting my car out of the haphazard Kennacraig car park could cause me to miss Isle of Cumbrae’s final run. A laid-back approach to the day was my favoured option. I allowed ample time for photo opportunities at each stage of my journey: I hope the accompanying selection gives a flavour of a thoroughly absorbing day out.


‘On the road high above the Kyles of Bute, the sun was up and the view of the west Kyle was just begging to be recorded’

Departure from Kennacraig on Hebridean Isles

Surprise No. 2 — Catriona heading down the Sound of Jura en route for the Mull of Kintyre and the Clyde

Hebridean Isles leaves Port Askaig for the return journey to Kennacraig

Canna at Feolin Slip, Jura

Canna offloading at Port Askaig Slip

Finlaggan arriving mid afternoon at Port Askaig: Eric returned on her to the mainland — his fifth ferry of the day

How to sum up ‘a day of perfection’ — Hebridean Isles against a backdrop of the Paps of Jura

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Click here to see the entire series of Eric Schofield’s ‘All tickets please’.
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Published on 23 May 2022