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Main The Fleet Ships of the Fleet Loch Fyne History

Late summer 1991 saw the introduction of the second of the new generation Skye ferries into service. Unlike her consort, her name was not really associated with her intended route - from Kyle of Lochalsh to Kyleakin on the 'misty isle'. LOCH FYNE was a twin to the LOCH DUNVEGAN which had been in service for three months already. The last of the old ferries, the KYLEAKIN was displaced from her duties by the new arrival on 12th September of that year, and so it was that the two new sisters became the regular ferries on the now 24-hour route.


LOCH FYNE could carry 36 cars in 4 lanes on her car deck. As with the majority of other Loch Class ferries, passenger accommodation was found right down the starboard side of the hull. Due to the large numbers of passengers that would use this route, the amount of accommodation was significantly increased, so as to cater for up to 250 persons on each sailing. Her lounges were on two levels, with an open deck one level higher still. If there was a downside to their design then it lay in the high sided design of the passenger decks - they could be prone to being caught by the wind.
 

Picture: Tom McGrattan
Launch day at Ferguson's in 1991

When she first entered service, LOCH FYNE and indeed her sister LOCH DUNVEGAN had very wide ramps at both ends of the hull. The central toe plates were lengthened after a short while so as to reduce the risk of long vehicles grounding, rather like the KYLEAKIN had sported previously. The bow and stern ramps could be carried in two positions, either folded as with the rest of the Loch Class and Island Class ferries, or folded out flat like the former Skye ferries had incorporated. During her time at the Kyle of Lochalsh, LOCH FYNE had her ramps folded out flat so as to save time at either terminal. Only when she sailed for her annual overhauls would they be boxed and folded. After a few seasons in service, LOCH FYNE's ramps were replaced with narrower ones which weighed less and therefore put less strain on her hydraulic rams.

The LOCH FYNE would typically sail for overhauls after being relieved by the smaller ISLE OF CUMBRAE during the winter months. When she came back to the route in the winter of 1994/95, it was to be her last season on the short route. Even before she was launched, it was well known that she would only be around for four years, thanks to the toll bridge that had been given the green light by the governemnt. Through 1995 the concrete structure gradually took shape further down the Loch to the west and the inevitable day finally arrived in October. The 16th of that month saw LOCH FYNE and her twin sister dressed with flags as they prepared to carry out the last ever car ferry runs across the narrow stretch of water. Crowds gathered from all over to take one of the several 'last' crossings before the ferries came off service and the bridge was declared open - to the disappointment of many! The following day saw the LOCH FYNE sailing south via Oban, Kintyre and the Clyde for James Watt Dock at Greenock where she would be put on the list for sale. It appeared that this four year old ferry was to become the youngest vessel to be sold out of the fleet!

Two years passed and the LOCH FYNE sat idle in the dock, patiently waiting for someone to buy her and her sister. Several potential buyers came forward during that time but nothing came to fruition. Calmac in the meantime sought permission for the redundant vessels to be de-mothballed and prepared for service once more. This move came not a moment too soon, for the brand new LOCH ALAINN had suffered a major breakdown at Lochaline and a relief vessel was urgently required to keep the route open.

Photo by Donald Booth
Approaching Kyleakin

Photo by Donald Booth
Arriving at Kyle of Lochalsh


Approaching Lochaline with Lord of the Isles behind


Crossing the Sound of Sleat

Initially LOCH FYNE was left on her own in the dock while LOCH DUNVEGAN went north and took over the Fishnish route. This was not to last however, following a further breakdown on the LOCH DUNVEGAN, the LOCH FYNE finally ventured from her lay-up berth and proceeded at her full 9 knots round the Mull of Kintyre and up into the Sound of Mull. Her arrival was well received by regular users of the route and it was agreed that she should become the permanent vessel to serve Mull's secondary crossing.

The decision to keep the LOCH FYNE at Lochaline was no bad thing. Her capacity of 36 cars was a 50% increase on that of the LOCH ALAINN and subsequently drivers turning up for a sailing could be guaranteed a place on the ferry on all but the very busiest of days such as on the Mull Rally Weekend.

Usually overhauled between early in the New Year, the LOCH FYNE has in the past been relieved by either the ISLE OF CUMBRAE or the LOCH TARBERT, but 2007 saw things change due to the increased traffic level as LOCH LINNHE was called in to act as second vessel with ISLE OF CUMBRAE on the main roster. 2008 will see the return of the LOCH ALAINN to the route for which she was built and intended.

The summer months see the LOCH FYNE still managing on her own, although she does sail very full in the peak season, often leaving traffic in the middle of the day.

In addition to her regular duties at Lochaline and Fishnish, LOCH FYNE has also seen service running from Mallaig to Armadale, in lieu of the CORUISK on more than one occasion in 2004 and has also been spotted running berthing trials at Largs and Cumbrae Slip to assess suitability for a vessel of her size on that route. The trials were obviously a success, given the size of the LOCH SHIRA.

It looks certain that the LOCH FYNE will remain the dedicated Sound of Mull ferry for a long while yet. With her large capacity, this so-called 'Super Loch' is still able to cope and there is plenty of scope for development and growth on the route out of the main season. Heavy goods vehicles are increasingly using the route and whereas with previous ferries this would be a cause of queuing, today the LOCH FYNE just absorbs whatever is present, be it a lorry, coach or car. Far from being ready for selling, this ferry will be seen in the fleet for years to come.

Text thanks to SoC Crew (C)


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