Favourite sailings — to Fort William with Oban Gaelic Choir

‘A gloriously sunny afternoon’: Waverley approaches Oban’s North Pier, with the cruise ship Astor lying at anchor

After a day of comings and goings in Oban Bay, Charles McCrossan enjoys a glorious cruise up Loch Linnhe and back.

In 2009 I was involved in arrangements for the Oban Gaelic Choir to perform on Waverley while she sailed from Oban to Fort William and back on the evening of Sunday 31st May. After enjoying the spring flowers and colours on the West Highland line journey, I arrived at Oban on a gloriously sunny afternoon and found Oban Bay very busy.

Dancing to Waverley’s tune

The cruise ship Astor was anchored at the north end of the bay and Quest, arriving shortly after I did, went alongside the North Pier. At 20,000 and 1,200 gross tons respectively these two vessels are very much in the minnow category of the modern cruise ship world, but Astor was a particularly impressive sight in the confines of Oban Bay. Her tenders, scuttling to and fro, added to the buzz of the bay. The three hours I had to wait for Waverley passed very quickly.

Clansman was alongside with technical problems, but there were regular smoky signs of attempts to get her going again, and she did manage to change berths as other CalMac service vessels came and went about their business. Lord of the Isles was first to depart before Isle of Mull arrived on the regular service from Craignure.

As she was leaving again, Margaret Sinclair arrived with what appeared to be a Highways maintenance team onboard. Shortly afterwards Isle of Arran appeared round the north end of Kerrera, and then it was the turn of Eigg to detach herself from Raasay and make ready for a trip to Lismore. Isle of Arran just got away as Isle of Mull returned from Craignure and, while she was still manoeuvring onto the linkspan, Clansman eventually set sail. Quest moved off the North Pier to allow Waverley to berth, and then it was time to meet up with the choir prior to boarding.

Waverley had a good loading to Fort William and the choir entertained those on board all the way there and back. As well as the choir there were numerous solo singers, a piper and dancing — and the combination of the music and voices as Waverley sailed on Loch Linnhe on what can only be described as a magical evening was very well received by all on board.

‘Waverley stalwarts’ who had been on many of her Western Isles sailings commented that it was the best night they had ever experienced. The beautiful evening weather just sealed it and we enjoyed a spectacular sunset as a bonus. At the end of the day Waverley and Isle of Arran looked good in the twilight.

This was a great day. There were opportunities to photograph all sorts of combinations of vessels, and it was certainly a day to be grateful for the world of digital cameras.

Oban Gaelic Choir, led by their conductor Sileas Sinclair, entertain Waverley’s passengers during the sail up Loch Linnhe

Lord of the Isles departing Oban for Coll and Tiree, with the cruise ships Astor at anchor and Quest at the North Pier

Isle of Mull (right) berths as Clansman gets underway on her delayed sailing to Barra, with Quest (left) at the North Pier

Sunset as we sailed down Loch Linnhe, with the vapour trail from a jet plane reflected on the water

Eigg (left) detaches herself from Raasay before moving round to the slip to take up the Lismore run

Isle of Arran at Oban beneath a floodlit McCaig’s Folly

Waverley at the North Pier after a hard day’s work

Ten of the Best — the countdown begins

Ten of the Best — Nos. 8 and 7

Ten of the Best — Nos. 6 and 5

Ten of the Best — Nos. 4 and 3

Ten of the Best — the runner-up

Ten of the Best — the chart-topper

Favourite sailings — now it’s your turn

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Favourite sailings — by MV Hebrides from Stornoway to Ullapool and back

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Favourite sailings — round trip to Colonsay and Port Askaig from Oban