Ships of the Fleet
LOCH LINNHE’s history
goes back to the early 1980s when the order for four new drive-through ferries
was placed with Dunston’s of Hessle on the Humber. For years previously a
number of routes had seen traffic levels build up steadily and were now at the
point where the small ferries that were used could no longer cope with demand.
Prime examples of this were the Largs – Cumbrae Slip, Lochranza – Claonaig,
Colintraive – Rhubodach and Fishnish – Lochaline routes.
The new ferries were modified versions of the ISLE OF
CUMBRAE, at that time operating the Cumbrae route on her own. Their overall size
was roughly the same as the 1977-built vessel, however their car decks were only
wide enough to take two lanes of vehicles as opposed to three. The space that
would have been allocated for the third vehicle lane, on the port side of the
ships was actually given over to a second passenger lounge in addition to that
on the starboard side. This modification reduced car capacity to 12 but
increased passenger capacity to around 200.
with the ISLE OF CUMBRAE, the new ferries received Voith Schneider
propulsion units fore and aft which meant they could manoeuvre around the
tightest turns and berth with ease at their given slipways. The newbuilds were
also more aesthetically pleasing when they emerged in 1986 and 1987. They had no
funnels as such so their wheelhouses were painted red and given a black top. The
lion emblem was added to either side of the wheelhouse and the mainmast rose at
an angle above it.
Off duty at Largs
with her sister in service
In service at Lochaline
The first of the four
new ferries had been named LOCH STRIVEN. LOCH LINNHE was the second vessel
completed and followed her sister up the east coast from the Humber to Inverness
and through the Caledonian Canal before emerging at Corpach and sailing off down
the loch with which she shared her name. After passing Lismore the LOCH LINNHE
then headed up the Sound of Mull and to Fishnish and Lochaline for berthing
trails. Following successful completion of these, the new ferry then entered
service in early July 1986, replacing the CANNA on the secondary route to Mull.
Her introduction into service brought with it double the capacity on the route
as well as removal of reversing on and off the car deck.
LOCH LINNHE remained on
the Lochaline crossing for about four weeks before transferring to the Clyde in
place of ISLE OF CUMBRAE which then took her place at Lochaline. Upon arrival at
Largs she joined LOCH STRIVEN on the Cumbrae Slip service and allowed a
two-ship, quarter hourly service from either terminal at peak times. Up to 48
cars could be carried in either direction in an hour when both sisters were in
service – a 33% increase on a year earlier with just the ISLE OF CUMBRAE.
The Cumbrae crossing
became the home of the two sisters for 11 years. Both would be in service during
the summers and one would venture off to other routes on relief duties in the
winters while the other one remained at Largs. As such LOCH LINNHE saw service
at Iona, Lochaline, Lismore, Gigha and Bute while on relief duties. In the mid
1990s, like her sister, the LOCH LINNHE saw a winter on the Tarbert –
Portavadie/Lochranza crossing as well.
At Portavadie, loading for Tarbert
1997 saw the Cumbrae Lochs being split up as the LOCH
STRIVEN went north to take over the Sconser – Raasay route. LOCH LINNHE was
given a new partner in the shape of LOCH RIDDON. The following year however saw
LOCH LINNHE leave, also for pastures new. For the 1998 season she was placed on
the Tarbert – Portavadie crossing. Until this time RHUM and then BRUERNISH had
operated the summer service but it was clear that the demand was there for a
larger ferry. LOCH LINNHE brought year round drive through capability to the
route and as a result traffic grew. Gone was the potential problem of there not
being space on the ferry after a lengthy drive down Kintyre.
her success on the Loch Fyne crossing, the LOCH LINNHE was transferred again in
early 1999 when she was replaced by the very vessel she ousted from Largs over a
decade previously. The ISLE OF CUMBRAE arrived to take control of the Portavadie
run in time for the summer season and the displaced ship moved over to the
Western Isles for her next assignment.
Heading out of Kilchoan
Passing Lord of the Isles off Rubh na Gall
Passing Loch Ranza off West Loch Tarbert
In 1999 she began her the next stage of her career when she displaced the EIGG
from the Tobermory - Kilchoan crossing, bringing drive-through loading to this
route as she had done in her previous role. To accommodate her, the slipways at
Tobermory on Mull, and Kilchoan on Ardnamurchan had to be specially widened. Her
crossing time was between 30 and 35 minutes and for the duration of the summer
timetable she gave up to six or seven crossings. LOCH LINNHE was relieved in the
winter months by the RAASAY which in turn allowed her to become part of the
relief pool and in this capacity she saw year-round service all over the
network. Relief duties since 2000 have included the Tayinloan - Gigha, Sconser -
Raasay, Barra - Eriskay, Tarbert - Lochranza, Largs - Cumbrae Slip, Fionnphort -
Iona and Lochaline - Fishnish routes.
One departure from the routine did occur
in the summer of 2001 when LOCH LINNHE switched places with the LOCH RIDDON for
one summer and she returned to the Largs - Cumbrae Slip run. She also called at
Eigg on the 22nd of December 2000 to tow her tiny fleet mate ULVA to Tobermory
for breaking up.
LOCH LINNHE has remained the summer vessel
operating out of Tobermory since 2002, and it looks as though she is set to
become the main vessel on this route for 9 out of 12 months of the year, as she
is becoming a bit on the small side for relief on the Barra and Lochaline routes
- even in the winter months. Her relief for while she is away at Raasay and
Gigha over the winter of 2007/8 is set to be the ISLE OF CUMBRAE.
Despite coming of age and turning 21, LOCH LINNHE is still very much a welcome
member of the fleet, providing reliable service on her own route and providing
useful extra capacity as relief cover for her fleetmates.
Text thanks to SoC
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