Ships of the Fleet
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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