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Main The Fleet Ships of the Fleet Saturn History

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.

Picture: SoC Crew
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.

 

Saturn 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.

From 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.

As 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 was the 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 Miniature'.


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 when 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 Crew (C)
 

Picture: SoC Crew
Passing Horse Island, Ardrossan
Picture: SoC Crew
At Port Askaig for berthing trials


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