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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 further south.
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 busiest periods.

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.

Picture: Bill Main
Loading at Scalpay


On her current route

Picture: SoC Crew
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 Crew (C)

Other Articles of Interest:
Fleet Feature: 'Island Class'


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