Ships of the Fleet
The final act of
modernisation on the Clyde routes in CalMac's network took place in February
1978 when the third and final streaker entered service on the Wemyss Bay –
Rothesay crossing. Saturn was another design modification on the Juno and
Jupiter and when she was launched at Troon late in 1977 it was immediately
apparent that she would be easily identified from her fleetmates.
Gone was the lower level bridge; Saturn instead
having her wheelhouse raised by one deck level. Gone also was the tripod mast
immediately behind the side ramps and next to the funnels. What did not change
however was the overall layout of the vessel’s passenger accommodation being
as it was, concentrated towards the bow with a lounge and ticket office
immediately forward of the car deck while upstairs was the cafeteria and lounge
whilst upstairs again there was an increased amount of open deck space
accessible to passengers. Saturn’s raised bridge allowed her passenger deck to
be extended forward of the bridge, giving her travellers a view ahead –
something that is prevented on the Jupiter and Juno.
Arriving in original condition at Wemyss Bay
Although launched in 1977
the new ferry’s introduction was delayed by technical problems and teething
troubles. The Glen Sannox took the responsibility of seeing through the
conversion of the Rothesay route to drive through operation and began using the
new linkspan set along the pier adjacent to the railway station at Wemyss Bay.
At Rothesay however, the only possible solution that could be adopted was to
mimic the method of loading that had already been adopted at Dunoon some years
previously, with a linkspan set into the face of the pier and the ferry
discharging via one of its side ramps. Glen Sannox was fitted with a hoist and
side ramps, although the hoist was not needed at Rothesay, and had been
converted to stern-loading back in the early 70s.
entered service and displaced the Glen Sannox on what was emphatically ‘her’
route. As with her consorts at Gourock, Saturn’s hull forward of the car deck
and beneath the superstructure sported the title ‘Rothesay Ferry’ for all to
see. After settling into her new routine, Saturn seldom deviated from her
designated route, and indeed occasionally received assistance at busy periods
from Juno or sometimes Jupiter.
1986 Saturn’s ties to the Wemyss Bay – Rothesay crossing were cut to some
extent with the introduction of a new rostering policy that saw the streakers
switch between one service and another. As it turned out, the Saturn became more
closely tied to Dunoon although still saw regular service on her original run.
Approaching Gourock pier
Crossing to Wemyss Bay
Passing Toward Point
Into the 1990s and the pattern of switching routes
and rosters continued. Pioneer had by now lost her hoist but kept side ramps so
was also to be seen partnering the Rothesay ferry at peak periods. From 1994
Bute was actually designated two ferries on a daily basis; Pioneer and whichever
of the streakers happened to be on Bute duty at the time. In this respect Saturn
was no longer regarded as the main Rothesay ferry.
with her semi-sisters,
Saturn also undertook her fair share of the Clyde cruises
through the 1990s. These were operated by the so-called 1A vessel between the
additional peak sailings on the Dunoon crossing, although since 1999 there have
not been such duties to perform.
Since Pioneer’s withdrawal from active service in
2003 all the remaining streakers; Juno, Jupiter and Saturn have been in constant
service (barring of course overhauls). This has been due to the need for two
ferries permanently required at Rothesay and the third being required on duty at
Gourock. (The new Coruisk assisting on the Clyde routes when the regular ships
are in for overhaul).
Although the Wemyss Bay - Rothesay route was the last to have been modernised in the 1970s, it
first to receive the next generation of ferries in the shape of the Bute which
entered service in July 2005, having completed her delivery voyage from Poland
and run trials on the Clyde. It was announced that one of
the streakers was to be withdrawn upon the Bute's introduction, however
following the potential threat of a rival operator on the Arran route, CalMac
changed their plans and deployed the youngest of the streakers as a second ferry
to the island, thus keeping the older streakers in service at Dunoon and Bute.
Saturn was duly upgraded to Class III standards for her passenger certificate
and commenced her first ever stint sailing to the island known as 'Scotland in
Heading out from Ardrossan to Brodick
The initial period was for the summer holidays and seemed to be on an
experimental basis but it was a great success and loadings were impressive.
There were a few occasions when the weather would prevent her from sailing and
all her traffic would have to be carried by the larger Caledonian Isles, but in
general she ran the service well and thoughts turned to whether other Streakers
could be utilised in similar ways in the future, after the second Rothesay ferry
had been introduced of course. The trial finished after the Cowal Games weekend
Saturn headed back up to assist Juno.
Following the end of the high summer season in 2005, the Jupiter was laid up out of
service at Rosneath. This ensured continued duties for Saturn during the
winter months and she spent most of the time operating the Gourock - Dunoon run.
Swinging round to face Ardrossan
She did return south to Ardrossan for a ten week period in high summer 2006 and
she operated the same timetable as she had done the year before, whereby she ran
three return sailings a day, leaving Brodick at 0715, 1030 and 1545. Loadings
were again impressive and Saturn was often sailing well over half full. Her
Arran season ran until early September although she did return to Dunoon for the
Cowal Games once more. Her winter involved a period of being laid up alongside
Juno at Rosneath, while Jupiter took all Dunoon sailings, however she was called
into action on her original route in February 2007 when construction work at
Rothesay prevented the use of Bute and Coruisk. This should have lasted just six
weeks however in late April the Streakers were still in service. (Juno actually
fell by the wayside on 22nd April when she was withdrawn and Bute was finally
able to resume service.
Spring 2007 saw
Saturn remain in service on her original route alongside the
Bute. She was on duty until 4th May when the new Argyle finally entered service,
first of all carrying out a VIP cruise and then taking her first revenue-earning
sailing at 1815 from Wemyss Bay. The idea was that she would then go off service
for maintenance while Argyle settles in, however she was back in service at Rothesay a few days later when the new ship suffered from a computer glitch. It
was another couple of weeks before Saturn was able to relinquish Rothesay duties
once again. She then took some Dunoon sailings and then made ready for her now
routine high summer role as second Arran ferry.
Again she ran the three return sailings from Arran to the mainland under the
same timetable as the previous year and the duration of the service was again
extended well into September. She broke new ground over the weekend of 15th and
16th when she left the Clyde for the very first time. Saturn was despatched to
the Western Isles in order to undertake berthing trials at Port Ellen, Port Askaig and Kennacraig. She left Arran at 0600 on the Saturday morning, reaching
Port Ellen 6 hours later. She spent the afternoon in the company of the regular
Islay ferries, Hebridean Isles and Isle of Arran, tested Port Askaig linkspan
and then sailed for Kennacraig. She was back at Arran by the end of the
following day and resumed additional duties.
Text thanks to SoC
Passing Horse Island, Ardrossan
At Port Askaig for berthing trials