With a growing number of women joining CRSC, it is wholly appropriate to ask new recruit Susan Forrest to answer this amended batch of questions in our regular ‘On the Spot’ series. Susan lives on Cumbrae with her marine engineer husband Alex. Both are big supporters of paddle steamer Waverley and regular attenders on CRSC cruises. Let’s hear her considered opinion on the ferry scene, and beyond.
What is your earliest memory of sailing on a ferry?
Travelling every other weekend from my childhood home in Kilmacolm to our holiday house on Great Cumbrae. In those days it was the ‘Maids’. It was also good fun getting the car ferry from Fairlie or Wemyss Bay: this would be the day when school broke up for summer. I remember the turntable on the hoist of the ABC ferries — it was quite exciting driving onto it and being swivelled round by the crewmen before entering the ‘garage’. It was Mum who drove us down in her wee car, a Mini Clubman and later a Renault 5. I can also remember the hovercraft landing in Kames Bay right in front of our window. We thought it was exciting.
Apart from crossing to your home island of Great Cumbrae, what was the most recent sailing you took?
While on a pre-Christmas holiday in Lanzarote, we went on the Fred Olsen ferry Bocayna Express from Playa Blanca to Corralejo in Fortaventura. On the weekend before that holiday, we went via CalMac’s Rothesay, Colintraive and Tarbert ferries to the top reach of the Crinan Canal to see it empty. We came back via Western Ferries.
Holidays: which Scottish island would you choose?
I love Mull. I like sailing into Tobermory harbour on our boat, and there are nice walks there. The one to Rubha nan Gal is one of my favourites, it’s so peaceful, only a mile there and a mile back. You can sit on the rocks and watch the ferries sail past.
Do you have a favourite steamer or ferry?
It has to be Waverley. I don’t remember enough of the older steamers. I also love the Swiss steamers.
About the ferries, my views are probably biased by what my husband [retired CalMac chief engineer Alex Forrest] thought about them. For example, he always liked Clansman, and he was present when Finlaggan was being built.
If young enough, what was your favourite ‘streaker’, or if older, your favourite ‘Maid’?
I remember the ‘Maids’ as a young girl, but I don’t remember any one in particular. I was never keen on the ‘streakers’ — when I knew them, they were ‘done’. Whenever my husband came home from a shift on them (two days on, two days off in those days), I could always smell the boat from his clothes when he came in the house. Iona was the same — a ‘diesely’ smell. But I do like Bute and Argyle. You can sit at the tables at the bow and get this panorama from Toward to Ailsa Craig, while eating your roll and sausage.
What name would you give to the second of the ferries being built at Fergusons just now? You can be imaginative!
Glen Rosa. But I am certain it will never sail.
Looking back, what is the perfect example of the Clyde steamer, or car ferry?
I don’t have an answer for this one. As a youngster, we just went from A to B. Later, being married to a CalMac engineer, I probably got some inside info which made me realise every ferry has its weak point.
What would you like to see happen on the Clyde or Hebridean ferry scene over the next few years?
New ferries. More reliable. Interchangeable. Standardised linkspans.
What new west coast route would you like to see open up?
I would like to see the Oban to Coll and Tiree ferry return via Colonsay and the south of Mull.
Each year more and more women are joining CRSC. Why do you think that is, and what is attracting them?
Excursions are something women are happy to go on without necessarily involving their partners, and the Club’s social occasions make you feel welcome, without everyone having to talk about ships.
What inspired you to join CRSC?
I have got to know a lot of members over the years from sailing on Waverley, and I have sailed on a good few CRSC excursions. I would have joined years ago if there had been joint membership for married couples similar to PSPS. [*see below]
Do you think the YouTube or Zoom meetings that the Club has instigated in the last two years have been a positive change?
They have their place — they kept the Club going during Covid — but I think people will use them now as an excuse not to attend meetings in person. My husband says you only really get the buzz and the banter when you are in the room at Jurys Inn.
What makes you continue your membership of CRSC?
Quality of publications. Most members are a friendly bunch, and the subscription is good value.
What could the Club do better?
I’d like to see CRSC developing more contact with CalMac management so that we can have a more imaginative excursion programme. Also it would be good if the Club could get rid of its ‘anorak’ image. It’s full of old men. I don’t mean that in a derogatory way, but the Club needs to find a way of attracting younger folk — more than just talking about it. We were at the 80th anniversary dinner, and more recently at the 90th. Will there be a 100th? I don’t think so. Who is going to follow on?
* Married couple membership of CRSC is now available on application firstname.lastname@example.org
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Published on 13 January 2023