Iain McPherson takes advantage of one of the increasingly rare Minch crossings by Clansman from Oban.
With the Lochboisdale service now undertaken by Lord of the Isles from Mallaig, visits by the Oban-based Clansman to the South Uist terminal have become less frequent. However, she still makes the occasional journey there to bring back cattle floats, and I was lucky to catch one such voyage on Saturday 2nd September.
Having completed her morning sailing to Coll and Tiree, Clansman made fast at Oban at 13.30 under Captain Lewis Mackenzie and, after a quick turnaround, we departed just 20 minutes later with a load consisting of one articulated lorry, one motor home and 11 cars.
As we left Oban Bay Coruisk could be seen loading up for Craignure, and as we crossed the Firth of Lorn we passed Isle of Lewis on her voyage in from Barra, followed shortly after by Isle of Mull from Craignure.
At 14.15 off the starboard side we passed Lismore lighthouse and soon we were heading up the Sound of Mull. At 14.40 Lochinvar could be seen heading over to Fishnish (this being her first summer on the crossing from Lochaline).
By 15.20 we were passing Tobermory and the Rubha nan Gall lighthouse off the port side, while to starboard yet another ferry came into sight, as Loch Tarbert headed back to Tobermory from Kilchoan, with Mingary Castle making a handsome backdrop.
Ardnamurchan light was passed at 15.50 as we headed out into the Sea of the Hebrides. Visibility was so good that I could even make out Lochnevis arriving at Muck.
Further to the north, Eigg and Rum loomed across the horizon. After we had passed the Sound of Canna around 16.55, with clear views of the Isle of Skye beyond, I sat down to a plate of CalMac fish and chips. By now there was a slight south-easterly swell running.
Having finished my meal I headed back up to the observation lounge in preparation for our arrival at Lochboisdale. As we headed into the loch, Loch Bhrusda could be seen laid up, awaiting her next job — that of relieving Lochnevis for annual overhaul.
We made fast at the pier at 18.50 and what foot passengers there were went off via the linkspan — not even a gangway was put on.
Clansman was quickly loaded up with a Barratlantic artic, three floats, a tractor and trailer, nine cars and 26 passengers, and we departed at 19.10 for the return voyage to Oban.
With the light beginning to fade, we passed Lord of the Isles off the port side at 19.55 as she came in from Mallaig.
By 23.40 the lights of Craignure could be seen to starboard, and 10 minutes later we were passing Lismore lighthouse to port. Clansman made fast at Oban at 00.20.
Her trip to Lochboisdale and back that day may not have been her busiest, but once again she had proved her speed, reliability and overall usefulness.
All photographs on this page are copyright Iain McPherson.
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