‘We all want to have a sail on her’

A short distance between Port Glasgow and Greenock, but a giant step for MV Glen Sannox: the half-complete ferry, launched nearly three years ago, is delicately manoeuvred downstream on Monday 10 August 2020 for adjustments at Garvel Dry Dock

A sudden wave of animation engulfed the west of Scotland ship enthusiast community on Monday, when MV Glen Sannox made the short journey under tow from Port Glasgow to dry dock specialists Dales Marine at Garvel Clyde. Stuart Craig was among the throng waiting to record the event, and several other CRSC members contributed illustrations for his report.

Nothing very exciting has been happening at the ‘Tail-o-the Bank’ during the last few weeks, as we are all painfully aware. And as we also know, nothing much seems to have happened with the progress of CMAL’s Glen Sannox in that same neck-of-the-woods either.

When hopes were high: Stuart Craig was among the optimists on 21 November 2017, the day Glen Sannox was launched from Fergusons’ Port Glasgow shipyard

And so the recent rumour that the half-built ship, which has dominated the  Port Glasgow shoreline since her launch in November 2017, was to be moved to Garvel Dry Dock this week created a lot of interest among ship-starved enthusiasts.

I was one of them – so hungry for something to feed my video camera that I pounced on the chance of grabbing anything remotely nautical and raced down to the river with a half-empty camera battery.

Why was she being moved? I was asking myself the same question on the drive down. Apparently she needs a new bulbous bow. Strange — I thought the one she sports was fairly new! Hull inspection and a few other ‘techy’ issues also need to be addressed, my anonymous informer had let slip.

By the time I got to Port Glasgow two tugs were already well placed: Boxer had Glen Sannox on the ropes — two of them swinging from the stern — and Wrestler had a good grip at the bow.

A couple of caged, garishly-helmeted pilots were swung aboard by hoist and crane, and the anticipation that the ship was soon to be on the move was growing. But then, in true Glen Sannox style, nothing happened for a while; perhaps she was reluctant to leave the sanctuary of Fergusons’ yard.

Suddenly Boxer shifted into reverse, performed a backwards shuffle and Glen Sannox was on the move. Wow! She wasn’t superglued to the quayside after all! Slowly she was swung round and those watching were able to confirm that the far side of her hull was painted too!

Passing the lighthouse perch at Port Glasgow en route to Garvel

With her bow pointing downstream and the tugs now joined by BiterGlen Sannox was dragged slowly but steadily the mile and a half down river to the entrance of Garvel Dry Dock.

By the time I reached the quayside behind the Premier Inn, near to the dock entrance, a small crowd had gathered and cameras clicked as the considerable bulk of the ‘Sannox’ was hauled and urged onwards within almost touching distance of those on the quay.

The red battery warning light of my camera was now blinking menacingly at me. Would I have enough ‘juice’ for the final round? With lots of tender nudging and prompting, the black and white (and a touch of ‘red all over’) Glen Sannox was skilfully delivered to the mouth of the dock – just as my camera threw in the towel.

As she slid behind the wall of the dock I was drawn to the irony of the notice painted on her hull (both sides) “Built by Fergusons”. Why had nobody thought of adding “Half” to the start of that?

Perhaps this first voyage of Glen Sannox will herald a change of luck for her. We all want to see her, and her rusting sister at Port Glasgow, enter service. We all want to have a sail on her.

In fact, we all want to have a sail on anything! Exciting prospect? Well, I don’t get out much. Like Glen Sannox I’ve been locked up too long.

We hope this overview of Glen Sannox’s day ‘on the move’ gives a flavour of her progress to enthusiasts unable to be there, especially those living further afield or lacking access to social media. CRSC is grateful to Walter Bowie, Gordon Law, Graeme Phanco, Jim Phanco and Eric Schofield for contributing photographs.

Glen Sannox and Clyde Marine’s tug Wrestler start the manoeuvre at Ferguson Marine, with Yard No. 802 (Glen Sannox’s sister) sitting on the slip to the left

Moving off Ferguson Marine’s fitting out berth at the start of Monday’s adventure, with Clyde Marine’s Boxer in attendance

Panoramic view of Glen Sannox inching her way past Inchgreen

‘Don’t rush me, I’m on my way’

Making the turn outside James Watt Dock, with Waverley at Custom House Quay (centre) and Ocean Terminal (right) forming a backdrop

Argyll Flyer slips out of James Watt Dock as Glen Sannox approaches

Who is watching whom?

Biter, Wrestler and Boxer start lining everything up for the final approach to Garvel

Just about every available enthusiast and his dog (and camera) was in attendance for Glen Sannox’s arrival at Garvel

Getting up close as the mouth of Garvel Dry Dock comes within reach. One of the reasons for the dry-docking is to replace the bulbous bow, about which rumours have been circulating ever since the vessel’s launch in November 2017

A little kick up the backside to nudge Glen Sannox forward?

‘Just a little bit further, please’

Nearly there: Glen Sannox pokes her bow into Garvel Dry Dock, completing the excellent work done by the tugs of Clyde Marine

Up close, the barnacles on Glen Sannox’s hull speak of years of inactivity, stuck in the water half-finished at Port Glasgow instead of ferrying passengers to their island destinations

‘Calnac’ — is someone trying to say something here? The vessel’s owner is actually Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (aka the Scottish taxpayer)

Temporary quarters: Glen Sannox settles in for a week of remedial work

A wider view of the scene at James Watt Dock on 12 August, with Loch Tarbert, a military craft and a support vessel also visible

Air b’n’b: Hebridean Princess (above right) is among the vessels welcoming Glen Sannox to the home of Dales Marine Services at Garvel


Yard No.801: ready for launch

Glen Sannox: worthy of the name?

‘I name this ship’

One Thousand and One Gems from the CRSC Archive: MV Glen Sannox (Members Only)

Have you caught up yet with News & Reports, the CRSC website’s extensive library of posts over the past four years? Feel free to roam by clicking here.

Published on 13 August 2020