Ships of the Fleet
The introduction of a
drive-through ferry on the Claonaig - Lochranza crossing in 1987 was as a result
of enormous demand by car-borne tourists. The LOCH RANZA coped well for five
years on the back-door to Arran but in the early 1990s it was crystal clear that
she did not have the necessary capacity to keep the queues at bay.
package of two new ferries was ordered during 1991 for introduction the
following summer. The first of these was launched from Miller's Yard in St
Monans and took up service on the heavily used Iona service. The LOCH TARBERT
was next down the slip and she was to carry out trials on the Forth before
following in LOCH BUIE's wake through the Caledonian Canal and down to her new
base at Lochranza on the Isle of Arran.
Arriving at Lochranza
LOCH TARBERT's first day in service was on 25th July
1992 and she took her load of cars over to Claonaig whilst dressed overall to
mark the occasion. The LOCH RANZA stood aside and prepared to move off for her
new role as Gigha ferry, replacing BRUERNISH.
The LOCH TARBERT was essentially a variant on ISLE
OF CUMBRAE's design. She could carry 18 cars on her car deck, 150 passengers
could be accommodated in her starboard lounge but also on her two outer decks.
The port length of her hull boasted an extra outside deck above the first
vehicle lane - a feature that was much appreciated by her passengers in summer!
The Lochranza crossing
has always been a seasonal service, so at the end of September, and more
latterly nearly the end of October she would come off the Arran run and assume
other duties. For the first few winters the LOCH TARBERT would be seen covering
at Fishnish, Colintraive and Cumbrae in addition to providing additional
dangerous loads sailings from Largs to Lochranza as an alternative to the more
expensive ISLE OF ARRAN and then CALEDONIAN ISLES having to perform extra
sailings. From 1995 however the Largs -
Lochranza winter sailings were no longer required due to the daily service from
Tarbert to Arran using the winter Portavadie ship (usually one of the 'Baby
Over the seasons the
LOCH TARBERT has seen a general growth in traffic on the Kilbrannan Sound
crossing, but perhaps her busiest period came during a seaman's strike in the
new millennium which saw the CALEDONIAN ISLES rendered immobile. Traffic for
Arran was diverted round via the ferry across Loch Fyne and then Claonaig. With
the inevitable extra traffic the LOCH TARBERT was partnered by the ISLE OF
CUMBRAE, of equal size and the two provided a shuttle service in an attempt to
keep the queues to a minimum.
Each winter she still
changed duties, covering for the ISLE OF CUBRAE at Lochaline, the LOCH LINNHE or
LOCH STRIVEN at Largs and the LOCH RIDDON at Colintraive, but in early 1996 she
ventured well away from her normal sphere of operations when she opened the new
Otternish - Leverburgh route across the Sound of Harris in the Outer Hebrides.
The reason for this was to keep the route open for the brand new LOCH BHRUSDA.
Lowering her stern ramp, having just arrived at
Unloading at Claonaig
Relieving at Largs
Approaching Portavadie on winter duties
In more recent years the LOCH TARBERT has finished each summer on the Claonaig
service before moving round to Tarbert on Loch Fyne in order to start the winter service to Portavadie
and then the lunchtime daily sailing to Arran. This duty usually keeps her
occupied until late November or early December when she goes for her own
overhaul at Ardmaleish. In previous years the LOCH TARBERT has also seen relief
work on the Lochaline - Fishnish, Berneray - Leverburgh, Largs - Cumbrae Slip
and Colintraive - Rhubodach crossings during the overhaul season, while in 2007
she broke new ground by serving Barra and Eriskay for several weeks while the
LOCH BHRUSDA was away.
With changes in the fleet, LOCH TARBERT's winter role will be greatly diminished
in the coming years, as the larger LOCH ALAINN has become part of the relief
pool. Loch Tarbert will, at least for 2007/8 anyway, be restricted to the start
of the winter on the Tarbert - Portavadie run and then in early spring on the
Barra - Eriskay run as it is generally accepted that the majority of the routes
now need larger vessels throughout the year.
With her capacity of 18 cars the
LOCH TARBERT operates on a route that is steadily growing in popularity. In
summer she often sails full or very nearly full while in winter she is now too
limited in capacity for the routes that she used to relieve on. While there is
no doubt she works hard, providing nine return sailings a day to Kintyre and
back, it wouldn't come as a huge surprise if she were replaced in the future and
moved to a route where she could provide room for growth. After all, she has
been at Lochranza for 15 years now - quite an achievement!
Text thanks to SoC
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