Ships of the Fleet
Loch Ranza’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
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.
Arriving at Lochranza
As 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.
first three of the new ferries had been named Loch Striven, Loch Linnhe and Loch
Riddon respectively. The fourth and final one put in an appearance in early 1987
when she replaced the Rhum on the 30 minute crossing from Lochranza on Arran to
Claonaig on the Kintyre peninsula. Her arrival brought the completion of that
particular phase of improvements on the routes operated by smaller members of
the fleet. The Lochranza route was the fifth to be upgraded in twelve months, in
terms of vehicle and passenger capacity.
Lying at Gigha
Loch Ranza has led
a far more sheltered existence than her counterparts. She spent five seasons on
the summer only crossing of the Kilbrannan Sound with a little bit of relief
work in the winters on other routes such as Fionnphort – Iona and Lochaline -
Fishnish. Overhauls were usually carried out at Ardmaleish on Bute in the quiet
season before she returned to service in March or April, depending when the
summer timetable started.
In the Sound of Gigha
Pulling away from Tayinloan
As with many other
routes in the network, the demand for this secondary crossing grew as the 1980s
were left behind. After only 5 years in charge of the Lochranza crossing a new
and larger ferry was introduced. The new arrival had a capacity for 18 cars –
basically a more modern version of the Isle of Cumbrae. The Loch Tarbert entered
service in July 1992, at which point the
Loch Ranza moved away for a new role.
She had been promised to the islanders of Gigha when her replacement was announced
and she duly took up service on the 20 minute sailing from Tayinloan on the
mainland, to the south of West Loch Tarbert. The vessel she replaced was the
Bruernish, the main Gigha vessel since Tayinloan slipway was completed back in
Loch Ranza brought drive-through capacity to Gigha for the first time.
One new factor in her current role has only surfaced
in the last year or so and can perhaps be seen as a sign of climate change.
Winter storms in 2006/7 seemed to be far worse than in previous years and the
Sound of Gigha seemed to bear the brunt of the weather at times. The slipway at
Tayinloan fell to the mercy of the heavy swells that developed and for a good
part of December 2006 and January 2007 the slipway was rendered unusable due to
large amount of sand and seaweed being washed up. During this time the
Loch Ranza had to deviate all her sailings to Kennacraig - a full hour's sail to the
north. Vehicles were carried but disembarking at Kennacraig wasn't guaranteed
due to the linkspan only being at a suitable angle at certain states of the
tide. Her passenger certificate was reduced to 12 for the temporary route and
assistance was required from the Loch Linnhe.
Heading into West Loch Tarbert
Lying at Kennacraig linkspan
Heading from Kennacraig to Gigha
The seaweed situation resurfaced in February 2008 and Loch Ranza was once again
diverted to Kennacraig on three return sailings a day. Bad weather caused
numerous cancellations during that period. Raasay was even dispatched from Oban
in order to provide assistance if needed, however she merely lay at the south
pier on Gigha.
history is almost complete. She has remained on that one route for the last 15
years, barring her annual overhauls when she is relieved by usually the Loch
December and January. With Gigha not really being a major tourist destination is
seems unlikely that a larger ferry will be needed therefore it seems logical
Loch Ranza will stay at Gigha for a while yet.
Text thanks to SoC