Photo of the month: May 2017

Two decades ago, in July 1997, the newly renamed Sileas entered the waters of Loch Shiel for the first time. Copyright Jim Michie

Fraser MacHaffie tells the story of the rescue and restoration, 20 years ago, of the beautiful little cruise ship that now graces Loch Shiel.

Reading the very interesting account from Ken Mills of his ‘Three Lochs Tour with a difference’ reminded me that Sileas on Loch Shiel is now in her 20th year with Jim Michie.

Sileas was built in 1940 at the Silver yard at Rosneath for the Admiralty and this must make her one of the oldest excursion ships now sailing in Scotland. She had a varied career after finishing her Admiralty work at Invergordon; too varied to list here, but in the 1990s Vital Spark, as she then was, was laid up near Dervaig in Mull, and was purchased by Jim Michie in late 1996. He had her brought to Samalaman Bay at Glenuig in Moidart, where the work of restoring her to service was carried out. Given the name Sileas she was taken to Lochailort and then overland to Loch Shiel.

In July 1997 she was launched into the loch at Guiseachman Bay, one of the few locations where road (or track) and depth of water coincided. The following April Sileas brought cruising back to Loch Shiel.

Because of my interest in Loch Shiel (see Clyde Steamers No. 13) Jim Michie gave me these two photographs, before and after restoration, on one of my trips with Sileas from Glenfinnan to Acharacle. It’s a beautiful sail and Jim is a very welcoming skipper.

Information on Sileas’ timetable, with contact details, can be found at Loch Shiel Cruises

Fraser MacHaffie is a ship historian who regular contributes to Clyde Steamers, CRSC’s annual magazine. His book Scotia and Caledonia is available from the CRSC Shop.

Vital Spark, built at Rosneath in 1940, is pictured at the time of her rescue in March 1997, before being restored and renamed. Copyright Jim Michie

Sileas as she is today — the pride of Loch Shiel. Copyright C. Kennedy Mills

See also ‘Photo of the month’ for

September 2016

October 2016

November 2016

December 2016

January 2017

February 2017

March 2017

April 2017