For many observers of the West Highland ferry scene, a visit by MV Isle of Lewis to any pier other than Castlebay, Oban, Stornoway or Ullapool is an event worthy of note — and a chance to get a rare photograph. These visits usually come without much advance notice, so it is fortunate indeed when someone on the spot captures the scene on camera for the rest of us — as Iain Erskine kindly did for CRSC on the occasion of Isle of Lewis’s latest visit to Craignure on Tuesday 28 May.
Due to Clansman’s technical problems, forcing her to remain tied up at Oban since the weekend of 25/26 May, CalMac was obliged to do some juggling with the schedules in order to honour commitments and keep traffic flowing.
On Tuesday 28 May Isle of Mull undertook Clansman’s sailing to Coll and Tiree. To maintain the flow of traffic to and from Mull, where the smaller-capacity Coruisk would otherwise have struggled to cope on her own, Isle of Lewis called at Craignure en route from Barra to Oban. She repeated the call outwards from Oban in the early afternoon before heading back across the Minch.
During Isle of Lewis’s morning call at Craignure, Lord of the Isles passed inbound from Lochboisdale to Oban. The ‘Lewis’ was also pictured with Coruisk, which waited off the pier while the Barra ferry loaded up vehicles bound for the mainland.
The sight of these ferries at Craignure was all the more noteworthy for being bathed in early summer sun. Although Iain Erskine as port manager is always aware of what is going on, it is sometimes not possible for him to leave his office because, as he says, “things take over.” For Isle of Lewis’s 28 May visit, however, “I had a decent heads up.”
Iain was also on hand the following morning to record the juxtaposition of Isle of Mull and Isle of Lewis at Craignure (see photo at bottom of page), where the ‘Mull’ made a ‘passengers only’ stop on her way to Coll and Tiree.
When the ‘Lewis’ was re-assigned to the Barra run in 2015, many thought her superior speed and capacity would have been more useful on the Craignure service. However, in a recent CRSC interview, Captain Alex Morrison of Isle of Lewis confirmed that the pier there “is a bit rickety for regular use by Isle of Lewis.”
Elizabeth Ferguson, Chair of the Mull and Iona Ferry Committee, was recently quoted as saying that “We have been campaigning for improvements to Craignure pier for years, yet [Argyll and Bute] Council have done nothing of substance in response.”
As Isle of Lewis headed out to sea, keen-eyed observers of the ferry scene were left to speculate when Clansman would be back in service — and when the ‘Lewis’ might next be back at Mull.
For up-to-date information on changes to scheduled services throughout the CalMac network, please consult the online service status and information here.
Iain Erskine is CalMac Ferries Ltd’s Acting Area Operations Manager, Argyll & Lochaber. CRSC is extremely grateful to Iain for letting us publish his photos.
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Published on 28 May 2019.