Ships of the Fleet
Life for the Lochnevis started in the
late 1990s when the announcement came that a new vessel was to be constructed as
part of a multi-million pound investment for upgrading ferry services in the
Since 1979 the Lochmor had been in
charge of the routes from Mallaig to Rum (or as it had previously been spelled,
Rhum), Eigg, Canna and Muck. She was a capable little vessel of around 30m but
the time taken to get round all four islands was about ten hours and took the
majority of the daylight hours. In addition she was unable to berth at three of
the isles and lacked a vehicle capacity.
The first new ferry to form part of this
new investment was the mighty Hebrides, destined for the Uig triangle. Smaller,
but nonetheless packed with state-of-the-art facilities was the new £5.5m
Lochnevis, reviving a classic name from many years ago. Construction commenced
at the Ailsa yard in Troon – coincidentally the birthplace of her predecessor
Lochmor 20 years earlier.
The new ship’s design was unlike
anything seen before. Whilst primarily a passenger route, the new ferry was also
earmarked for operating a winter service to Armadale on Skye, which would see
her loading a fair number of cars. With this in mind, her size would inevitably
be far greater than the ship she was to replace. Indeed her car deck can best be
described as cavernous, with space for 14 cars and wide enough to comfortably
load two articulated lorries side by side. This latter facility was a design
requirement enforced by the powers-that-be and would very seldom, if ever, be
required for the crossing to and from the Small Isles! Loading was by means of a
huge stern ramp, folded into two sections as on the other Loch Class ships,
although this one was designed for use with conventional slipways and the
linkspans at Mallaig and Armadale.
LOCHNEVIS ready for launch
Close up of the azi-pods
The ramp’s length was a safety element to ensure that the azi-pod
propellers were free of grounding risk when the vessel would come astern towards
a slipway. This would work by lowering the main ramp down into the water while
the ship crawls gently astern so that the first part of the ferry to contact
land would be the ramp as it lands on the slipway. To use a linkspan the
Lochnevis would berth in the same way as one of the larger vessels although the
linkspan would have to be lowered into the water to avoid a steep climb from the
Forward of the car deck lay the majority of the crew
accommodation, while above could be found the cafeteria (known for its excellent
breakfasts!!). Aft of the cafeteria was the upper extremities of the car deck
and there were passageways running towards the stairways at the stern. On the
starboard side of the cafeteria was the gangway entrance for use at Canna.
Forward of the cafeteria seating was the serving area and galley. On the next
deck was to be found the observation lounge with its rows of seating arranged
diagonally across the breadth of the lounge. This area also seems to double up
as a dormitory, for whenever the SoC Crew have been aboard, other passengers
used the seats as mattresses! There was further officers accommodation forward
of the lounge, while to either side there were heavy doors leading to the open
LOCHNEVIS' main passenger lounge
The open deck space was impressive to
say the least. For a start the Lochnevis was designed to incorporate an open bow
where passengers could enjoy the view ahead – something of a rarity on Western
Isles ferries these days. Aft of the lounge was an area of red plastic seating,
again laid out in a diagonal arrangement. To the port side was the fast rescue
craft launching platform, while to starboard was the single funnel and the
hydraulic goods crane immediately aft again. The bridge was located immediately
above the lounge and was of a design which provided the master with all-round
Launching took place on 8th
May 2000, with the ceremony being performed by Rev Alan Lamb, Minister in the
Small Isles. Fitting out followed this and trials were carried out. During these
Lochnevis called at Largs, Wemyss Bay, Rothesay, Ardrossan and also at
Colintraive where she was able to use the slipway. Once her trials were complete, the
new ship ventured north to her new home of Mallaig, carrying out a few berthing
trials along the way, like at Sconser on Skye. The Lochmor was sold out of the
fleet and the new Lochnevis quickly settled in to her new role. Unlike the
smaller ferry, the Lochnevis employed a propulsion involving three azimuth pods
mounted towards the stern. These pods removed the need for separate rudders as
they rotated to point the propeller blades in the desired direction of thrust.
This took care of basic propulsion while at the bow, Lochnevis was ably assisted
by two powerful bow thrusters for when docking took place in tight spaces.
LOCHNEVIS leaving Mallaig for Eigg
Initially the Lochnevis carried out her duties in the same
way as her predecessor, only faster. Her service speed was set at around 12/13
knots – similar to that of Juno, Jupiter and Saturn on the Clyde. She could get
round all four of the Small Isles in around 7 hours and so could offer two full
round trips in a day if need be.
At the same time as her construction was
announced, it was also revealed that the isles were to have new terminals
constructed. Until this time, and for many, many years previously, flit boats
and tenders were the order of the day. The Loch Arkaig and more recently the
Lochmor had been unable to land goods at three of the islands as only Canna –
the most remote of the archipelago – boasted its own pier. Upon her approach to
Port Mor on Muck, Galmisdale on Eigg and Kinloch on Rum, smaller boats such as
the Ulva, Dart Princess, Wave and more recently Laig Bay would come out from the
shore with passengers and goods for the mainland. They would then board the
ferry in what some saw as a precarious ship-to-ship transfer, but what regulars
classed as routine. Passengers traveling from the mainland would then complete
the process in reverse and the ferry would then move on to its next destination.
At Canna the ship would actually tie up alongside the pier towards the eastern
end of the island, where goods could be taken ashore by crane and passengers
were spared the chance of a soaking, instead going ashore by way of the gangway.
For her first few seasons the Lochnevis carried on as her
predecessors had done for many years before her, but new slipways and piers
gradually took shape and eventually in 2004, the now established ferry was able
to berth stern-in at the new slipways. She tied up at the piers which were
nothing more than huge blocks of concrete connected by steel walkways for the
shore crew to negotiate while handling the ropes. The pier at Eigg was not
actually located on the shore of the island itself. Due to the depth of the
water at the chosen location, it was necessary for the slipway to be set out a
considerable distance from the shore and connected to the island via a causeway.
This was also not the location favoured by either the islanders or Calmac
themselves, but the council insisted that Galmisdale Bay be used. As a result
the narrow channel and tight turning space could, and still does lead to the
Lochnevis having to miss her calls at Eigg in rough weather for safety reasons.
Into 2006 and the next new pier steadily takes shape at Canna. Eventually here
too she will be able to use her stern ramp at the new slipway, thus completing
the improvements to the Small Isles route for the time being.
Jumping to the present now and the Lochnevis has been in
service for 5 years. In addition to her regular duties serving Rum, Eigg, Muck
and Canna she also operates the winter vehicle service from Mallaig to Armadale.
In this role she provides one return sailing in the early morning before her
Small Isles sailings and then another in the late afternoon on weekdays.
According to one of her crew, she is the only vessel in the fleet that sees more
activity and sailing hours in the winter than she does in the summer!
Lochnevis craning goods aboard at Canna
Swinging to berth at Muck
Each winter, usually in late October,
the Lochnevis takes leave from Mallaig and heads south to the Clyde, following
in the footsteps of her summer consort Coruisk as she goes out of service for
annual overhaul at Garvel. At the start of her career she was relieved by the
ever-popular Pioneer (in fact the relief Small Isles sailing on 1st
November 2003 turned out to be Pioneer’s last passenger sailing with Calmac, as
Lochnevis by then had returned from the Clyde). Since the 1974 ferry’s
withdrawal and sale to foreign interests, the Lochnevis has been relieved by a
combination of passenger launches chartered in for a three week period and also
the Island Class ferry Raasay, using the linkspan and slipways to convey goods
and occasionally vehicles to the isles.
Several years ago few would have
envisaged a ship the size, and indeed with the level of comfort of the Lochnevis
operating on a route which carries far fewer passengers than others in the
network. But sure enough there she is, plying her way out of the Sound of Sleat
six days out of seven on her busy schedule. Come 2006 and her schedule was set to
become even busier with the completion of another new pier at Inverie in Loch
Nevis. Lochnevis had been mentioned in connection with operating a regular ferry
service to Inverie in addition to her Small Isles commitments. There was,
however, insufficient time in her schedule to fit in this extra duty and nothing
more has been heard of the rumour ever since.
Text thanks to SoC
Lying at the pier with Pioneer at Mallaig
Lying at Port Ellen en route from JWD to Mallaig
Lochnevis and Coruisk off Mallaig
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