31st October 1975
Current / Last Route
29th January 1976
A small island off the west coast below Skye
James Lamont & Co Ltd., Port Glasgow
Re-engined at Timbacraft, Shandon
now fitted with 2 x Scania D9 93M35 turbocharged 6 cylinder diesels
Hoist & Lifts:
Disabled access, toilets
1976: Portree/Sconser - Raasay
1976 - 1986: Lochaline - Fishnish
1986 - 1990: Spare vessel
1990 - 1997: Kyles Scalpay - Scalpay
1997 - 2008: Ballycastle - Rathlin
Canna was the penultimate Island Class ferry to be built. Launched on 31st October 1975, she entered service at the end of January the following year on the Portree - Raasay route, a service soon to be replaced by a more direct crossing from Sconser on the eastern side of Skye, near the mouth of Loch Sligachan. The new route took Canna only 15 minutes and consequently the service was greatly enhanced, with far more sailings each day.
Canna was replaced after just 3 months on the Raasay crossing on 30th April by the eighth and last member of the Island Class - appropriately named Raasay. She hung around for a couple of days before moving off for her next duties further south for the Sound of Mull where she spent a few weeks as back-up ferry on the Fishnish - Lochaline crossing to the Coll. It was not long before the Coll was relegated to spare capacity as the CANNA took over as the main dedicated Lochaline ferry. This duty involved up to 14 or 15 return sailings a day and a particularly tight turn to arrive on the slipway at Lochaline.
Canna remained on the Lochaline run for the next ten years and rarely deviated from it. Her annual overhauls would be relieved by Coll, Rhum or Bruernish. In the early 1980s it was becoming clear that the Fishnish crossing had far more potential for generating traffic, and indeed it was not unknown for Canna to sail full for the peak periods on summer days. Indeed she would often be seen partnering the Coll which would be sent up to assist her during the busiest periods.
It was inevitable that, eventually, a larger vessel would be assigned to the Sound of Mull route and on 4th July 1986 she duly handed the route over to the brand new Loch Linnhe. Canna was relegated to a spare role for the first time in her career and she remained in the area for a month or so and indeed resumed the Fishnish service temporarily in early August when the Loch Linnhe sailed south to Largs and switched places with the larger Isle of Cumbrae. The ex Cumbrae ferry duly arrived on the scene and replaced the Canna - for good this time. A role as spare vessel then followed for the redundant Island Class ferry. The next two years saw the Canna employed on a variety of duties, the most notable of these being an excursion to Shapinsay in Orkney in April 1987.
In addition to winter relief work, covering for Rhum, Raasay and Morvern amongst others, the Canna was also employed as summer backup ferry on the increasingly busy Fionnphort - Iona crossing, assisting the smaller Morvern with the thousands of coach-borne tourists that would make the journey over from Oban. She remained the spare Island Class ferry, assisting the Rhum for example on the busy Lochranza service prior to the Loch Ranza returning for the summer seasons.
1990 saw a return to regular service when, due to new regulations being introduced, the smaller KILBRANNAN was to forced off the Scalpay service. The Canna was the chosen replacement on the short crossing and she duly replaced the smaller vessel after a unique afternoon of two-ship service on 20th March of that year. The next seven years were spent plying the few hundred yards between Kyles Scalpay on Harris and the slipway on Scalpay; a crossing of just three minutes - barely enough time to fully raise the ramp before lowering it at the other side!
Overhauls were usually taken at Goat Island in Stornoway when she would be relieved by one of her sisters, with bunkering taking place at nearby Tarbert every couple of weeks.
The Canna spent seven fairly uneventful years in charge of the Scalpay crossing. Towards the end of the 1990s, the high standard of care and maintenance provided by her Scalpay crew meant Canna was in far better condition than the rest of her class. This was recognised by HQ and rewarded with her selection for reassignment to CalMac’s only ‘foreign’ service. Canna left the Outer Hebrides and sailed south to Ballycastle where she became the full time car ferry serving the island of Rathlin. In her new role Canna became the only vessel in the fleet scheduled to sail on Christmas Day, giving one return sailing from Ballycastle.
Canna remained on the Rathlin service exclusively for over a decade, coming off only to proceed to Corpach for her annual overhauls each summer, with Raasay taking her place for those two or three weeks. The completion of Canna’s first decade at Rathlin coincided with fundamental changes within CalMac itself – like the rest of her fleetmates, she was transferred to the newly named Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL for short) and was operated by CalMac under the operating guise of Rathlin Ferries.
The following year however saw CalMac losing the Rathlin contract to an Irish operator, Rathlin Ferries. 1st June 2008 was the date the new service was supposed to come into being, however their vessel failed to secure a passenger certificate and was limited to carrying just 12 passengers. CalMac’s service was extended by a month and then on 1st July she was chartered by CMAL to Rathlin Ferries and continued to sail, albeit no longer part of the CalMac fleet.
Canna sailed on for a further decade before a replacement vessel, the dumpy looking Spirit of Rathlin, was purpose-built for the Rathlin service. Canna’s charter was terminated and owners CMAL put her up for sale, her future by no means certain.
Happily though, Canna sails on today, having been purchased in 2018, put through an extensive refit at Mooney Boats’ yard in Killybegs and made ready for the next phase of her career. She left Killybegs on 27th February 2020 and made for her new home at Burtonport, Co Donegal. She now serves Arranmore Island where she is in the company of sisters Morvern, Rhum and Coll, though not all for the same operator.