Favourite sailings — Round Arran to Campbeltown; 14 hours to ’Boisdale and back

Midnight scene at Oban: Lord of the Isles prepares to depart from the Railway Pier

Inspired by Stuart Craig’s ‘Ten of the Best’ series, Cameron Shaw recalls two memorable sailings — one on the Clyde, the other in the Hebrides.

LORD OF THE ISLES to Lochboisdale and Barra — 29 February 2016

Stuart Craig’s account of crossing the Minch on Lord of the Isles reminded me of a trip I undertook on her in February 2016. It was the calm after the storm and before the storm. On the Sunday LOTI was due at Lochboisdale for a 0630 departure but she had been storm bound for approximately 3 days in Oban. It had come to my attention that she was taking a 0000 from Oban to Lochboisdale via the Small Isles and then Barra, before completing her day with the journey back to Oban and then out to Colonsay.

‘I got my ticket with no inkling this would be a 14-hour trip’

After some hard thought I decided to go. At Oban I was greeted by the sight of LOTI and Hebrides, which had been covering for Clansman. I went and got my ticket, with no inkling that this was going to be a 14-hour round trip.

LOTI left Oban with fewer than 10 passengers. The Captain made no mention of heavy swells or possibly a longer passage due to the Small Isles detour, but no sooner were we past Kerrera than she started to roll.

I stayed up on deck to see Craignure with Isle of Mull berthed up, then went to the lounge for a nap. I was woken whenever the ship rolled violently, and began to realise we were heading direct for Lochboisdale, not via the Small Isles.

The next time I awoke, it was the cook to say breakfast was ready! We were alongside Lochboisdale early, and left on time for Barra, where we had an equally quick turnaround, with a lot of islanders now onboard. Heading back to Oban, the sun came out and we were with the swell.

It made made for a great return voyage, with wonderful views of the Sound of Mull — and before entering Oban I was greeted with Hebrides going to Coll and Tiree. The cherry on top that day was making the 1400 sailing to Mull before heading home!

No sooner had Lord of the Isles completed her journey back from Barra than she left for Colonsay

ISLE OF ARRAN to Campbeltown, outward via Kilbrannan Sound, return via Pladda — August 2015

It was a Sunday in August 2015. The sun was out, but so was the wind — so much so that Isle of Arran’s sailing to Campbeltown was on amber alert. I went to Ardrossan hoping I’d get pictures of ferry movements, never expecting to have as good a day as I did. To start off, I watched Caledonian Isles cant out of Ardrossan almost as if her Master had underestimated the wind. She powered up, shot out of Ardrossan and promptly met the incoming Isle of Arran — a spectacular sight as both ships glazed in the morning sun.

Leaving Campbeltown, with Davaar Island ahead

I then watched Isle of Arran leave on her 1105 sailing to Brodick, but it wasn’t until about 1200 that I got a text to say the Campbeltown sailing would be operating as normal. That was when I decided a trip to Campbeltown was in order. I waited for Isle of Arran to come back from Brodick — only this time, as she approached Ardrossan, she didn’t seem to slow down, nor did her thrusters make any sound. It was then I realised she was heading for the Irish Berth.

I eagerly waited to board in a line of 14 passengers. I think the number of cars was about the same — not forgetting a 1980s retro-style vehicle that clearly amazed the crew. The wind had calmed rather dramatically since earlier and the heat of the sun was making up for it, so I went up on deck for departure. We left Ardrossan bang on time and manoeuvred out slowly — but once the bow was aligned with the exit, off we went. Instead of heading to port, however, we veered to starboard, which could mean one of two things: either we had broken down and were holding off, or we were going to Campbeltown via Kilbrannan Sound. Luckily it was the latter — a miracle!

As we passed Lochranza at 15 knots, I could see Loch Tarbert in the distance battling the southerly swells that were coming in. We arrived at Campbeltown behind schedule but managed the turnaround in only 10 minutes, so we ended up leaving only five minutes late. As I sat down for dinner and admired the passing views of Davaar Island and Ailsa Craig, I thought my day couldn’t get much better. But after a nice long conversation with the Master, who had been passing through the passenger lounge, I managed to get up on the bridge. What a way to finish the day on my favourite vessel — and a lot better than my original plan of getting a few pictures.

Favourite ship

Visit to the bridge

If you have yet to catch up with Stuart Craig’s ‘Ten of the Best’ series, you can find Nos. 10 and 9 here, Nos. 8 and 7 here, Nos. 6 and 5 here and Nos. 4 and 3 here. Look out for his top two in the next couple of weeks.

If you wish to contribute your own most memorable trips to this series, please send a short description of them, preferably with accompanying photographs, to info@crsc.org.uk