Crossing Time: 7 hours (Round Trip)
Regular Ship: Lochnevis
Mallaig - Rum / Eigg / Muck / Canna
Mainland - Rum - Eigg - Muck - Canna
Pre 1979: Loch Arkaig
1979 - 1999: Lochmor
2000: Lochmor / Lochnevis
2001 - Present: Lochnevis
Arran / Coll / Pioneer / Raasay / Loch Bhrusda and various chartered vessels.
Mallaig: Linkspan fitted in 1994 at main ferry berth. Train station located close by. Vehicle marshalling area and office facilities located adjacent to the town centre.
Rum: Newly completed purpose-built terminal to allow transfer of passengers and goods from ship to shore without the aid of a flitboat.
Eigg: Newly completed purpose-built terminal to allow transfer of passengers and goods from ship to shore without the aid of a flitboat. The slipway is located at the end of a long causeway set out into a bay on the south of the island. A local tractor is used to offload the crates of supplies brought in by the ferry.
Muck: Newly completed purpose-built terminal to allow transfer of passengers and goods from ship to shore without the aid of a flitboat.
Canna: The island always had its own pier and slipway, although the slipway is only suitable for the Island Class vessels. Goods are loaded and unloaded from Lochnevis by means of her crane. A new pier and slipway has also been completed allowing Lochnevis and other Loch Class vessels to load vehicles.
In the days before the car ferry, the Small Isles of Rhum, Eigg, Muck and Canna (three of which provided the names for small car ferries) were served by traditional mail steamer; the Loch Arkaig. Towards the end of the 1970s it was clear that a new vessel was needed, and given the specific requirements of the route, considerable consultation was sought with islanders themselves.
It was a good thing that the new ferry was ordered when she was and she arrived not a day too soon for the Loch Arkaig had suffered the undignified mishap of sinking at her berth at Mallaig earlier on in 1979. Between this unfortunate incident and the new Lochmor arriving, the Small Isles, as they are known, were served by vessels ranging from the former Clyde ferry Arran to the tiny bow-loading Coll of 1973.
When the new Lochmor did eventually put in an appearance she was something quite different to the rest of the fleet - designed specifically with the cargo requirements of her route in mind, as opposed to car-carrying. Her service speed of approx 10 knots meant she could take a tour of all four islands in around 10 hours.
The Lochmor was a reliable member of the fleet and remained in charge of the Small Isles duties for two decades before finally being replaced by the much larger Lochnevis in November 2000.
The new ferry was a unique design. Her car deck could hold up to 14 cars (more recently reduced to 10 or 11) and this was accessed by means of a huge stern ramp - quite unlike anything seen before in the fleet. The reason for this large ramp was that she was designed to be able to load directly from any linkspan or slipway on her travels without the risk of grounding and damaging her propellers. Initially the Lochnevis continued with the tried and tested practise of meeting flitboats at Rum, Eigg and Muck. Only at Canna was there a pier to berth at for the first couple of seasons. Slipways were soon under construction and from 2003 she was able to use her mighty stern ramp at all but Canna.
The Lochnevis has seen a little more variety than her predecessor since her introduction. Not only does she handle all the Small Isles sailings but also in winter, thanks to her being able to carry vehicles, she operates a reduced-capacity service to Armadale on Skye; one in the early morning before her Small Isles duties and then one in the early evening upon her return.
During the couple of weeks a year when she is off duty in dry-dock she has previously been relieved by the Pioneer, however with the latter vessel's disposal in 2003, this duty has fallen to a number of smaller vessels. Initially Raasay was used during overhaul periods – she would carry any vehicles required and the timetables and scheduling of the relief sailings were somewhat random and seemingly a closely guarded secret until a couple of days beforehand. As well as Raasay, a passenger vessel was now also required to run to the normal timetabled hours. This would usually involve CalMac chartering in one of the Staffa tour boats (Ullin of Staffa / Fingal / Highest Apple). Since 2008 the overhaul relief run has been handled by the Loch Bhrusda and chartered passenger craft.