Main The Fleet Ships of the Fleet Clansman (V) History

LORD OF THE ISLES had only been in service for 9 years when it was decided that she needed replacing on the Coll – Tiree and Barra – South Uist routes. The result was launched from Appledore’s yard in Devon in March 1998. Named CLANSMAN, she was the fifth vessel to carry the name in the fleet, in its various guises over the years. The most recent predecessor had of course been the 1964 built hoist loader which had left the fleet some fifteen years previously.
The new CLANSMAN was some 99 metres in length and could carry 100 cars on two levels. Her main car deck had room for approximately 90 cars and she was also fitted with a mezzanine deck which could be raised and lowered to allow loading of up to 10 more cars per sailing. This deck was situated down the starboard side of the main car deck so that even when it was being used, the vessel could still carry high vehicles on the port side deck.

Her entry into service came on 4th July 1998 when she took over the LORD OF THE ISLES’ busy schedule which included Coll, Tiree, Barra and South Uist. Upon her introduction, calls at Tobermory on her Coll/Tiree sailings ceased as she was too large to berth at the pier.

Picture: SoC Crew
Under construction at Appledore's yard

Picture: SoC Crew
Undergoing berthing trials at Ardrossan
Picture: CalMac
On her first day in service
The new ship once again set new standards of passenger facilities and comfort. Her cafeteria was situated at the bow with the observation lounge directly above it. Aft were a series of lounges, the shop and the bar whilst above was crew accommodation and a relatively small amount of open deck space. She lacked a forward deck, much to the disappointment of many tourists on glorious sunny days. She handles the sea well and still provides a comfortable ride in the roughest seas she ventures out into.
Picture: SoC Crew
Arriving at Coll
Picture: SoC Crew
Clansman's bridge

The CLANSMAN was the largest vessel that could safely navigate the numerous channels at places like Lochboisdale, Gott Bay on Tiree, Scalasaig Bay on Colonsay and Arinagour on Coll. In the six years she has been employed on these routes she has not as yet found herself with inadequate capacity for the traffic levels on offer.

Each winter since her introduction, CLANSMAN has been the large relief ship and has seen service on many other routes covering for fleetmates such as ISLE OF LEWIS, CALEDONIAN ISLES, ISLE OF MULL and HEBRIDES at Lewis, Uig, Mull and Arran. With her large capacity she is ideal for this role. Her own place at Oban has been filled by LORD OF THE ISLES and ISLE OF ARRAN at various points over the years, although since CORUISK’s introduction at Mallaig, LORD OF THE ISLES has been based at Oban once more and so has assumed the role of relief unit when the larger vessel has been called away.

In 2003 the CLANSMAN’s problem of minimal open deck space was finally addressed. It was revealed that on her next overhaul at Garvel Dry Dock, she (and her sister HEBRIDES) would be receiving new extensions to their decking, above the area immediately aft of the bar. This was a welcome announcement to the more adventurous (ok…brave!) passenger who would happily stand out on deck in a Force 8 and horizontal rain.

Approaching Brodick while relieving Caledonian Isles

Entering the Gunna Sound

For the 2004 season, CLANSMAN duly returned from her winter travels sporting this new deck space. She has continued to give a reliable service to those communities she serves. A new recent addition to her timetable schedule has been a weekly service where she would call at Tiree first of all and then pass through the Gunna Sound and across the Minch to Castlebay on Barra. Calmac have taken to marketing this full day return sailing as a special cruise from Oban and so far it seems to have been very popular for those wishing for a taste of the Outer Isles but are based very firmly on the mainland.
Picture: SoC Crew
Passing Rubh na Gall lighthouse
Picture: SoC Crew
Loading at Uig while standing in for Hebrides

CLANSMAN is most definitely a very useful ship. She is able to operate a wide number of routes and is able to offer her passengers excellent facilities on board and allow relaxation in the comfort of her observation lounge, or one of her reclining lounges for example. Given that she is about the largest vessel that can venture into the waters that she calls home, it is fairly safe to say that barring some sudden redeployment to another route on relief, she will remain one of the dedicated Outer Isles ferries.

Text thanks to SoC Crew (C)

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