‘I name this ship…..’

Afloat for the first time: the new Glen Sannox sits proudly in the waters of the Clyde immediately after her launch at Port Glasgow on 21 November 2017. Copyright CRSC

Stuart Craig took his reporter’s notebook along to Ferguson Marine for the launch of the new Arran ferry. Here is his personal view of the proceedings.

The weather tried its best to dampen the enthusiasm and pride on the faces of those at Ferguson Marine’s Port Glasgow yard this afternoon for the launch of the new CMAL ship MV Glen Sannox. It failed miserably, for this was a proud and auspicious day for the yard and its workforce.

Being lucky enough to acquire a ticket for the launch of the Arran-bound ferry I hurriedly splashed my way through the puddles from Port Glasgow station and found myself amid a throng of excited, happy-looking people, many of them wearing orange jackets and hard hats. Nodding to a few familiar faces I was hoping to find a suitable spot from where to hold aloft my camera.

High anticipation: Stuart Craig (centre foreground) awaits the launch of the latest Clyde ferry. Copyright CRSC

I needn’t have worried: the huge bow of Glen Sannox towered above everyone and I was glad I had brought my wide-angle lens. Looking like a huge cardboard cut-out of a ship one could almost smell the paint. I found a suitable spot and realised I was wedged between CRSC Past Presidents Ian McCrorie and Andrew Clark. The bulbous bow towered above us and I looked round and wondered how we three had found our way into the VIP grandstand! Maybe because I happened to be wearing an orange jacket too.

As we waited for the main event we mused over whether this was Ian’s fourth Glen Sannox launch. Meanwhile the orange jackets scurried around and under the ship, hitting bits of wood with mighty hammers. Then the VIPs emerged from their canapes and fortunately there was still enough room for them, although we three had taken the front seats. Feeling under-dressed amid all those peaked caps and uniforms, we did our best to look the part.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish Transport Minister Humza Yousaf, CMAL’s CEO Kevin Hobbs, Ferguson Marine’s owner Jim McColl, a chaplain, a young apprentice from the yard, a flower-girl  and other dignitaries suddenly appeared on the podium and it was clear the show was about to begin.

Chocks away! Within seconds the vessel had started to move — to the astonishment and admiration of those in the yard and aboard Clyde Clipper in the river beyond. Copyright CRSC

The elements then combined to try to throw a spanner in the works, or at least adversely influence the occasion. As the chaplain gave the ship her blessing the heavens not so much opened as descended around us in one big, wet, nebulous fug.

Then as First Minister Nicola stepped forward to send the ship on her way, a squall blew across the podium and prompted her to adlib that this was a taste of the elements the new Arran ferry would be sailing in. Hopefully not — this summer’s been bad enough.

The bottle was immediately driven against the bow and as the amber liquid cascaded down we all watched intently to see if we could spot the ship’s first slide towards the Clyde.

We waited a minute. A foreman in a white hat shouted something into his phone and the indolent ship duly did as she was told.

Accompanied by enthusiastic cheers, a few gasps and possibly a wee tear, Glen Sannox slid rather gracefully towards the river and then plunged in, stern first. She floated! Smiles and cheers all around. I pushed my way past the dignitaries back to the station, a big smile on my face too.

This was a momentous occasion for the 110-year old yard. As Jim McColl put it, this was a much larger ship than their last launch. How fitting that a Clyde-built ship, with such a proud historic name, should enter the river on which she is to serve. I can feel a CRSC outing to Arran coming soon….well, fairly soon.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, accompanied by Jim McColl, awaits the go-ahead on the launch podium. She spoke of the pride felt by all on Clydeside and of the importance of shipbuilding to the community. Copyright CRSC

“I name this ship…..”: Nicola Sturgeon smashes the bottle against the bows of Glen Sannox. Copyright CRSC

Glen Sannox enters the water amid cheers and the sound of bagpipes. Copyright CRSC

Four tugs were in attendance for the launch. Copyright CRSC

Job done? Glen Sannox sits at the fitting-out wharf at Ferguson Marine after her launch, amid speculation that it may take a year and more before she is ready to enter service. Copyright Jim Phanco

Glen Sannox: worthy of the name?

Yard No. 801: ready for launch

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