Isle of Mull as a Clyde Ferry
For over 30 years the Isle of Mull has served the island with which she shares her name, continually plying back and forth between Oban; Gateway to the Isles and Craignure. In addition to sailings to Mull, when she was first introduced she was called on to serve Colonsay three times a week as well. With a capacity of around 80 cars and 1000 passengers, Isle of Mull was ideally suited to the routes for which she was built to serve, however as with almost all other vessels in the fleet, she has seen service on a number of other routes.
After a few months of service, Isle of Mull was sent to the Tees Dockyard to be sliced in half and to have a new section of hull inserted before being welded back together. This prepared her for more seasons on the Mull run, however soon after she spread her wings and saw service on the company's most northern route - the exposed crossing from Ullapool to Stornoway. The Mod was being held on Lewis and her high passenger certificate was required to cope with passenger numbers. The Suilven, in a very rare deviation from the Minch, came south to maintain the link to Craignure for ten days.
Eilean Mhor (note name change from Eilean Mor)
Eilean Fraoich II
Eielean Fraoich II and Lochfyne
It was to be almost 2 decades though before Isle of Mull was to see any relief service on the Clyde. Her only visits there prior to 2007 were for annual overhauls at Garvel, or for repairs like those to her bow visor in early 2005. Not until December 2007 did Isle of Mull enter public service on a Clyde route; from Ardrossan to Brodick to allow regular Arran ferry Caledonian Isles to go off to Garvel for her own overhaul.
Firth though, she had to spend the best part of 3 weeks in JWD and Garvel drydock as part of her own refit. She called in at Gourock on a glorious autumn morning in early November and posed for the cameras as numerous members of our forum congregated nearby (although none of us knew who everyone else was until the photos appeared online over the following days!)
Isle of Mull spent 9 days in the dry dock and emerged on 21st November. Her overhaul then took another week or so to complete and she then moved to Gourock to collect her crew's vehicles before sailing down to Ardrossan on 29th November. At 1920 on that evening she entered service on the Clyde for the first time, taking over from the Caledonian Isles. Unfortunately this spell of service coincided with a spell of particularly awful weather. She had been in charge of the Arran run for less than 48 hours before she suffered her first disruption. Saturday 1st December saw the first of numerous unplanned visits to Gourock.
Dhuirnish approaching Rhubodach
Dhuirnish and Eilean Buidhe
Bruernish and Dhuirinish, Inchmarnock, 1985
Dhuirnish laid up at Port Bannatyne
Fortunately there were at least some calm days during Isle of Mull's stint as relief Arran ferry, and she was able to get in to Ardrossan every so often. Monday 3rd December was one such day and SoC took a day trip over to Arran to get rare pictures of Isle of Mull there. Some of the photos from that day are shown below.
Caledonian Isles was back in Ardrossan on 17th December and returned to service two days later. Thus ended Isle of Mull's brief stint as a Clyde ferry and she left Ardrossan early on the morning of the 19th. After passing through the North Channel she made for Islay's south eastern corner before entering the Sound of Islay. Once again we were lucky enough to have some guys out in the field with cameras at the ready as she came past Port Askaig. The tide had just turned and she slowed right down as she passed by and pressed on towards Colonsay and Oban.
And so it was that Isle of Mull returned to her normal life as Craignure ferry just in time for the busy festive period. Sadly though, due to her numerous diversions to Gourock in the three weeks she was on the Clyde, it is likely that Clansman will be assigned to Arran on relief in future instead.
6 June 2020