Waverley – Western Isles 2014
Waverley performed faultlessly during her eight-day programme of cruises in the Western Isles of Scotland. Passenger loadings appeared to be on par with 2013 and whilst the weather was markedly better that last year, grey skies and rain showers were a recurring theme.
Echoing the public address announcement made on behalf of the passengers during the return trip to the Clyde, thanks are due to Captain O’Brian, the officers and crew for a successful and enjoyable eight days in the Western Isles.
Day 1: Tuesday 27th May
Glasgow – Greenock – Lochranza – Port Ellen – Oban
Waverley, with the usual gentle assistance from the tug Biter, departed Pacific Quay on schedule and paddled down the Clyde for Greenock. The day will forever be known by those on board as the ‘The Great Fleece Day of 2014’ as the souls swapped their outer garments for one of the new and stylish Waverley fleece jackets. Down in the souvenir shop the shopkeepers’ arms were moving faster than Waverley’s connecting rods as they sold one fleece after another after another.
With Campbeltown pier unavailable Waverley called at Lochranza and Port Ellen en route to Oban.
A heavy rain shower greeted the arrival in to Oban where passengers dispersed with more haste than usual to their respective coaches, B&Bs, hotels and in one notable instance, tent.
Day 2: Wednesday 28th May
Oban – Armadale – Mallaig – Inverie – Armadale – Mallaig – Kyle of Lochalsh
Day 3: Thursday 29th May
Kyle of Lochalsh – Portree – Gairloch – Portree – Kyle of Lochalsh
Day 4: Friday 30th May
Kyle of Lochalsh – Raasay – Portree – Raasay – Portree – Kyle of Lochalsh – Tobermory
The evening sail from Kyle of Lochalsh to Tobermory around Ardnamurchan Point was idyllic with the weather getting better and better, ample reward for those who had chosen to sail with the ship and were not dissuaded by the late hour of the arrival nor the early departure next day.
It is of course a popular misconception that Ardnamurchan Point is the most westerly point on the British mainland. In fact that honour belongs to Corrachadh Mòr three quarters of a mile south of Alan Stevenson’s granite lighthouse.
Day 5: Saturday 31st May
Tobermory – Oban – Armadale – Inverie – Armadale – Oban
The walk to the ship under cloudless skies was reminiscent of one particular scene in the movie ‘Whisky Galore!’; a solitary church bell punctured the 7am silence as suddenly lots of people emerged from doorways all around the town to converge on the pier. The incessant rumble of trundling luggage broke the spell.
Day 6: Sunday 1st June
Oban – four lochs cruise & a whirlpool – Oban / Castles & Ceilidh Cruise
With the cruise liner Astor anchored in Oban Bay Dirk gently canted Waverley.
The evening ‘Castles & Ceilidh’ cruise brought together passengers ranging in age from a barely dressed 18 up to a sprightly 103. Trail West evidenced why they had been recognised as Scottish Dance Band of the Year 2013 by filling the floor of the Jeanie Deans lounge. A great evening was had by all.
Day 7: Monday 2nd June
Oban – Iona – Oban
The passage to Iona became increasing lively until the ship entered the more sheltered waters of the Sound of Iona. The anchor was dropped and one of Gordon Grant’s boats came along side. The skipper of the tender was not happy that the passenger transfer could be conducted in total safety so regrettably – but correctly – the landing at Iona was called off. Waverley weighted anchor and completed a circumnavigation of Mull during her returning to Oban.
Back at North Pier Lord of the Glens stood off from her berth as Waverley’s mildly moistened passengers disembarked. Waverley promptly departed for her overnight anchorage in Craignure Bay.
Day 8: Tuesday 3rd June
Oban – Port Ellen – Tarbert – Largs
Lord of the Glens once again vacated the berth at North Pier to allow Waverley’s self-loading cargo to board for the final sailing of the Western Isles programme. The early morning drizzle of Oban Bay quickly subsided and the weather steadily improved as Waverley steamed south making good time.
Approaching Port Ellen Captain O’Brian announced that the advertised call would not be made because of the unavailability of pier staff.
Back in the lower Firth of Clyde the MacBraynes pennant that had graced the bridge for several days was lowered and replaced by the usual pilot exception flag. That wasn’t enough though to stop the Pilot boat speeding out to greet the ship as it passed Hunterston. It was interesting to note the Pilot boat also flew a pilot exception flag. With at least one pilot visible on board should it have been flying a pilot on board flag? Discuss.
Having not made the planned call at Islay the ship arrived just over an hour early at Largs where all the passengers disembarked. The goodbyes, thank-yous, see-you-soons and nice fleece were of necessity brief as many had a train to catch.
Whilst the 1952 ScotRail ‘Waverley Stopper’ sped intermittently from Largs to Glasgow Central, Waverley steamed light ship to Greenock to berth overnight. Next morning, having shed most of her crew, she sailed back up the Clyde to Pacific Quay where she will remain in the care of engineers and volunteers until her next advertised sailing on Sunday 22nd June.
Also enjoy the blog posting ‘Doon the Watter – Skye Style’ by Skye-based photographer and self-confused Waverley lover Andrew Woodhouse here.
“The Mighty Paddler in a Majestic Landscape” Video
Keith Robertson walked up The Storr on Skye to film this short but dramatic clip of Waverley in the Sound of Raasay.
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“Paddles from Kyle” Video
Alasdair MacKenzie has produced this 30 minute video record of the cruises from Kyle of Lochalsh to Portree, Gairloch and the circumnavigation of the islands of Raasay and Rona.
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P.S. When next on on board Waverley be sure to purchase one of the desirable and popular Waverley fleeces before they sell out. Do it quickly as it is likely “that there are only two left in your size.”