Ships of the Fleet
The brief yet eventful history of the third Coruisk goes back to early in the
new millennium when permission was granted for CalMac to put out to tender for
the contract to build a new generation of sheltered water vessel.
The brief was that the new vessel would operate in the Sound of Sleat, between
Mallaig and Armadale in the summer season and as winter relief ship on the
Upper Clyde routes in the winter months. This duty effectively spelt the end
for the much-loved and widely-travelled favourite, Pioneer.
The contract was awarded to Appledore Shipbuilders in North Devon and it was
there that construction of Yard No 190 took place. In an unusual move on
CalMac's part, the name of the new vessel, and also that of a smaller newbuild
for the Sound of Harris route, was announced in advance of the launch. The
Appledore construction was to become the third vessel to carry the name
Coruisk, a name wholly appropriate given her summer employment.
The design of the new vessel could certainly be described as unique, with
there being no other fleet member looking anything like her. She was of drive
through design, incorporating bow and stern ramps (her bow ramp also being
protected by an open visor in a similar fashion to those found on Orkney and
Shetland inter-island ferries). As her duties involved Clyde related work in
the winter months, a side ramp was also included on the port side towards the
Coruisk under construction at Appledore's
Viewed end-on the new vessel towered above everything else. Clearance on the
car deck was to the height of 5.1m and above this there were two passenger
decks. One of these passenger decks contained the main lounge areas as well as
toilet facilities and a small shop/kiosk. A small external deck area was also
to be found on this level, both fore and aft of the lounges and from here
stairways led to the open deck above.
On this deck there was also a fair amount of crew accommodation, although more
was added over time once the vessel settled down into service. The bridge sat
even further up and gave the master a true aerial view down over the bow and
A new Coruisk arriving at Gourock
As well as the overall appearance of the Coruisk, another departure from
normality (in fact something which at the time set a precedent) was the
feature of having azi-pod propulsion. The Schottel system which was installed
incorporated rotating pods which protruded out beneath the hull, and onto
these were attached two propellers. Although the end result was the same as
using Voith Schneider units in that the system was a combined steering and
propulsion unit, the vessel was much harder to control and manoeuvre -
something which would make her rather unpopular on one particular route in due
Following her launch at Appledore's in early 2003, Coruisk was fitted out to
very high standards and set a new level of comfort to be found on new Upper
Clyde ferries. Her delivery voyage saw her leave Appledore on 2nd August and
make her way through the Irish Sea entering the Firth of Clyde for the first
of many times the following evening.
Coruisk spent her first night in Scottish waters safely tied up in the James
Watt Dock before venturing out the following lunchtime to Gourock where she
undertook her first berthing trials. Her first visit to Wemyss Bay took place
the following day, 5th August and after a further five days of berthing trials
she set off on her long voyage to Mallaig, which she reached the following
Pioneer, which had been keeping the Mallaig - Armadale route open during the
summer stepped aside on 14th August and handed over to the new ship which
carried out her first commercial sailings on that day. She was officially
named over at Armadale by Baroness Michie at a special ceremony.
Coruisk undertaking berthing trials at Dunoon
The old favourite, MV Pioneer
All was not plain sailing for the English-built ferry though and only a couple
of days after her arrival in Mallaig she was out of service with technical
problems causing much grief and head-scratching! Pioneer (which had been
scheduled to undertake a special two-part cruise back to the Clyde one last
time) was called back into service on a short-term basis, thus disappointing a
substantial number of would-be cruisers. The problems were sorted out and
Coruisk re-entered service on 22nd August and thus normal service was once
This situation was somewhat short-lived, and those technical problems that
plagued Coruisk in the previous days seemed to pale into insignificance on the
evening of Sunday 24th August when, coming into Mallaig harbour, the vessel
lost power and manoeuvring capacity. The result was Coruisk striking a reef at
the harbour entrance and losing one of her azi-pods in the process. The
removed propulsion unit was perched high and dry on the exposed reef for all
to see as the tide receded! The vessel was then manoeuvred into the harbour
and her 20 passengers were taken off safely.
Coruisk's damaged azi-pod
Various Lochs were redeployed as a temporary measure whilst the new ship was
escorted by tug to the Clyde for urgent repairs and the fitting of a new azi-pod.
She would not in fact return to service at Mallaig before the end of the
Coruisk's return to service was not until well into the winter timetable and
she acted as the relief vessel for a short while on the Gourock - Dunoon
crossing, using her port side ramp at the Cowal pier of course. It has to be
said that she was not a tremendous success down at HQ, taking a long time to
get alongside, compared with the Streakers and their Voith Schneider units.
She required further modifications along the port side hull to alleviate
berthing problems at Dunoon and new belting was the answer this time.
Later on that winter (2003/2004) Coruisk ventured further down the Firth of
Clyde and sought employment on the Bute run, partnering one of the Streakers
after a somewhat disastrous period at Dunoon, during which she seemed to rack
up nothing but complaints from passengers. Unfortunately all was still not
plain sailing at Rothesay either. New electrically controlled gangways had
been installed at specific points on both Wemyss Bay and Rothesay piers,
however unfortunately they were proving awkward to use and Coruisk required
additional modifications during her first annual overhaul to accommodate the
new structures. Detachable 'ears' were fitted which provided an additional
platform for the gangways to be landed on. The ears, or 'lugs' as they became
known were removed prior the ship's departure for northern waters.
Apart from an overall increase in the time taken to berth, Coruisk did appear
to settle down into a routine on the Wemyss Bay - Rothesay crossing. She
wasn't there for too long, but in that time she did appear to begin to redeem
herself following her disastrous 2003 season.
The summer season for 2004 saw her returning to dock to have her ears removed
before sailing round via the Sound of Islay and Sound of Mull to Mallaig,
where she replaced the Lochnevis on the Armadale route. On this route, as the
Lord of the Isles had previously, Coruisk loaded via her bow ramp at Mallaig
and stern at Armadale, offering a true drive-through service once again.
Coruisk approaching Dunoon on winter duties
Her season was largely uneventful, although she was prevented from sailing on
a number of days by high winds and poor weather conditions which, despite her
stabilisers being deployed, were too much for her. Her high sided
superstructure certainly didn't help matters. She was also summoned back to
the Clyde in early September 2004 to have her original propulsion unit
refitted and the spare one removed for maintenance and repairs. Again on this
occasion, Loch Fyne was sent to Mallaig to relieve and there was other
shuffling of baby Lochs in order to maintain an acceptable service at
She was back at Mallaig by mid September and saw out the rest of the season as
per schedule. There was the odd afternoon when gales would set in (as occurred
on Thursday 16th September) and she would be off duty for the rest of the day,
but on the whole the remainder of the summer timetable was largely uneventful.
The winter was once again spent on the Clyde only this time (2004/2005) she
served exclusively on the Wemyss Bay - Rothesay route in tandem with Juno,
Jupiter and Saturn as well as relieving for their overhauls. The 'lugs' were
of course reattached and barring the occasional diversion to Gourock in poor
weather (which prevented anything berthing at Wemyss Bay) she settled down
very quickly, although berthing times were still rather lengthy.
Coruisk settled into normal duties
in the Sound of Sleat
2005 saw Coruisk leaving the Bute run in the capable hands of the three
Streakers while she went off north once more. The summer was again uneventful
and once again she was sharing Mallaig pier with the smaller Lochnevis (and
her relief vessel Raasay of course) for the duration. By the time it came to
returning south for the winter months all was very different on the Clyde. For
the 2005/2006 winter timetable, Coruisk was again to be found on the Wemyss
Bay - Rothesay route however her regular running mate was the brand new Bute,
another development of the new generation of Upper Clyde ferries. The two
relative newcomers seemed to work well together and certainly Coruisk was kept
busy through the winter.
Due to her design it was not necessary for her to go into dry dock on this
occasion for her overhaul. Instead she came off service for a few days and was
inspected by divers in the Holy Loch (apparently this can be carried out in
place of every other annual overhaul) before moving to the JWD for general
So despite a very shaky start upon her arrival back in 2003, the Coruisk does
seem to have settled down and turned into a reliable member of the fleet.
Whether she will ever win a place in people's hearts as the ship she replaced
did (Pioneer) remains to be seen. She certainly looks very different to any
other past or present vessel and comment is often passed on her appearance.
Certainly lessons were learned following her arrival and those lessons appear
to have been acted on with the Bute and follow-up newbuild Argyle.
Text thanks to John MacLeod (C)
Coruisk and Bute at Rothesay