The Busy Hub of Oban

Lord of the Isles heads out of Oban Bay on 22 May 2018, as Isle of Lewis waits patiently to enter. Copyright Stuart Craig

It has been likened to Crewe interchange, Clapham Junction or Charing Cross Station — the watery hub that is Oban Bay. On Tuesday 22 May 2018, Stuart Craig, anticipating  a busy day, headed north with cameras to see the ferry comings and goings for himself.

This was expected to be a hectic day at Oban, for with the return of Clansman to Oban, following her repairs and relief duties, the CalMac timetables were trying to revert to summer normality. I really wanted to film my favourite ship Hebridean Isles inbound from Lochboisdale, as I had never filmed her sailing towards Oban from my favourite rocky perch below Dunollie Castle. This overlooks the north end of Kerrera and allows a great view up towards Craignure.

There had been some last minute timetable amendments for the day. Hebridean Isles was due in at 1230, some two hours earlier than previous days. Also, one of the sailings from Craignure was being held back 45 minutes – all to prevent congestion at Oban. Let’s see what happened.

I was positioned and ready by noon, at which time Isle of Mull and Lord of the Isles were occupying the linkspans at Oban. Here is the sequence of events that followed. The times given are when the ships passed Dunollie:

Hebridean Isles is passed by Isle of Mull

1225 Isle of Mull departs for Craignure, and passes Hebridean Isles inbound from Lochboisdale. Hebridean Isles and Lord of the Isles then occupy the linkspans.

1330 Coruisk passes inbound from Craignure.

1340 Hebridean Isles passes Coruisk in the bay and heads out round the west side of Kerrera, sailing light to Islay to take up her usual roster.

1400 Clansman appears from the far side of Kerrera, inbound from Colonsay.  She passes Coruisk in the bay, heading back to Craignure. Clansman now shares the pier with Lord of the Isles.

1410 Loch Striven passes, bound for Lismore.

Coruisk inbound from Craignure

1515 Isle of Mull, inbound on a delayed Craignure departure, passes a static Isle of Lewis south-east of Lismore. The ‘Lewis’ is inbound from Castlebay and awaiting a berth.

1520 Clansman departs the linkspan, bound for Coll and Tiree. She vacates the berth for Isle of Mull and passes a motionless Isle of Lewis off the north end of Kerrera.

1530 Lord of the Isles passes, outbound for Lochboisdale. She too passes a very patient Isle of Lewis.

­1535 Isle of Lewis passes inbound, and then shares the pier with Isle of Mull.

Out at sea Loch Striven and Coruisk could be seen heading back to Oban, but after three hours sitting on my rock I decided I had had enough. I stretched, yawned and drove home. Seven CalMac ships plus a berthed Hebridean Princess was a fair catch for the day.

A  video selection of these movements will be available in September on the next edition of the CRSC DVD.

Lord of the Isles departs Oban Bay on 22 May 2018, pictured by Stuart Craig from his perch beneath Dunollie Castle

Isle of Lewis is kept waiting for a berth at Oban, while Clansman heads out into the Firth of Lorn. Copyright Stuart Craig

Favourite ferry: Hebridean Isles, inbound from Lochboisdale, sweeps into Oban Bay. Copyright Stuart Craig

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