Ships of the Fleet
CANNA was the penultimate Island Class ferry to be built. Launched on 31st
October 1975, she entered service at the end of January the following year on
the Portree - Raasay route. Now almost 30 years old, the CANNA is one of just
four of the little ferries still in CalMac service.
The service from Portree was soon replaced by a more direct crossing from
Sconser on the eastern side of Skye, near the mouth of Loch Sligachan. The new
route took CANNA only 15 minutes and consequently the service was greatly
enhanced, with far more sailings each day.
CANNA was replaced after just 3 months on the Raasay crossing on 30th April
by the eighth and last member of the Island Class - appropriately named RAASAY.
She hung around for a couple of days before moving off for her next duties
The new CANNA then headed south for the Sound of Mull where she spent a few
weeks as back-up ferry on the Fishnish - Lochaline crossing to the COLL. It was
not long before the COLL was relegated to spare capacity as the CANNA took over
as the main dedicated Lochaline ferry. This duty involved up to 14 or 15 return
sailings a day and a particularly tight turn into the slipway at Lochaline.
CANNA remained on the Lochaline run for the next ten years and deviated from
it only for her annual overhauls when she would be relieved by COLL, RHUM or
BRUERNISH. In the early 1980s it was becoming clear that the Fishnish crossing
had far more potential for generating traffic, and indeed it was not unknown for
CANNA to sail full for the peak periods on summer days. Indeed she would often
be seen partnering the COLL which would be sent up to assist her during the
It was perhaps inevitable that a larger vessel would be assigned to the Sound
of Mull route, and in 1986 this happened. The entry into service of the new LOCH
LINNHE saw the little Island Class ferry relegated to a spare role for the first
time in her career. She remained in the area for a month or so and indeed took
over temporarily in early August when the LOCH LINNHE sailed south to Largs and
switched places with the larger ISLE OF CUMBRAE. The ex Cumbrae ferry duly
arrived on the scene and replaced the CANNA - for good this time. A role as
spare vessel then followed for the redundant Island Class unit.
The next two years saw the CANNA employed on a variety of duties.
Approaching Lochaline in summer 1981
Arriving at Fishnish in 1982
In addition to
winter relief work, covering for RHUM, RAASAY and MORVERN amongst others, the
CANNA was also employed as summer backup ferry on the increasingly busy
Fionnphort - Iona crossing, assisting the smaller MORVERN with the thousands of
coach-borne tourists that would make the journey over from Oban. She remained
the spare Island Class ferry, assisting the RHUM for example on the busy
Lochranza service, prior to the LOCH RANZA returning for the summer seasons,
until 1990 when due to new regulations being introduced, the smaller KILBRANNAN
was to be taken off the Scalpay service. The CANNA was the chosen replacement on
the short crossing and she duly replaced the smaller vessel after a unique afternoon
of two-ship service on 20th March of that year.
The next seven years were spent plying the couple of hundred yards between Kyles
Scalpay on Harris and the slipway on Scalpay; a crossing of just three minutes -
barely enough time to fully raise the ramp before lowering it at the other side!
Overhauls were usually taken at Goat Island in Stornoway when she would be
relieved by one of her sisters, with bunkering taking place at nearby Tarbert
every couple of weeks.
Loading at Scalpay
On her current route
Approaching Corpach for an overhaul
The CANNA spent seven fairly uneventful years in charge of the Scalpay crossing.
Towards the end of the 1990s, when Calmac were expanding into Northern Irish
waters, the CANNA was earmarked for a new duty. Following the successful trial
of BRUERNISH on the Ballycastle - Rathlin crossing, the former Fishnish and
Scalpay ferry was replaced in the Outer Hebrides by a rather battered looking
RHUM and she then set sail for her new home.
To this day the CANNA has been the regular Rathlin ferry on the 45 minute
sailing and curiously enough she is the only ferry in the fleet that is
scheduled to make a sailing on Christmas Day each year, giving one return
sailing from Rathlin and back.
2007 turned out to be CANNA's last full season in the active CalMac fleet.
In line with the rest of her fleetmates, she was transferred to the newly
named Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL for short) and was operated by
CalMac under the operating guise of Rathlin Ferries. Early in 2008 however
it was revealed that the company had failed to secure the new contract for
running the route, having been undercut by an Irish company. Officially the
new operators (in the charge of a Mr Ciaran O'Driscoll) were supposed to
start on 1st June however it was to be another month before they actually
took over the route, as their passenger vessel had failed to secure its
passenger certificate, a legal requirement if they were to carry more than
12 passengers! CANNA therefore continued to sail as normal under the Rathlin
Ferries banner, however from 1st July she left the fleet when the new
operators took over and she was chartered from CMAL to O'Driscoll's company.
Text thanks to SoC
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