27th March 1998
MES system, FRC and inflatable liferafts
Current / Last Route
4th July 1998
A 1964 ship which served on the Ardrossan - Arran route and relieved at Stornoway.
Appledore Shipbuilders Ltd, North Devon
2 x MAK 8 M32, Gear Box: 2 - Ulstein 1500 AGSC 415 / 250 volts, 3 Phase, 50Hz Bow Thruster: 2 x Electric Ulstein 90TV each 7.0 tonnes thrust
Hoist & Lifts:
1x mezzanine deck running half the length of the car deck on the starboard side
1998 - 2015: Oban - Coll - Tiree / Oban - Castlebay - Lochboisdale
2016 - present: Oban - Coll - Tiree / Oban - Colonsay
Additional: Ardrossan - Brodick / Oban - Craignure / Uig - Tarbert - Lochmaddy / Ullapool - Stornoway
Lord of the Isles had only been in service for 9 years when it was decided that she needed replacing on the Coll – Tiree and Barra – South Uist routes. The result was launched from Appledore’s yard in Devon in March 1998. Named Clansman, she was the fifth vessel to carry the name in the fleet, in its various guises over the years. The most recent predecessor had of course been the 1964 built hoist loader which had left the fleet some fifteen years previously.
The new Clansman was some 99 metres in length and could carry 100 cars on two levels. Her main car deck had room for approximately 90 cars and she was also fitted with a mezzanine deck which could be raised and lowered to allow loading of up to 10 more cars per sailing. This deck was situated down the starboard side of the main car deck so that even when it was being used, the vessel could still carry high vehicles on the port side deck.
Her entry into service came on 4th July 1998 when she took over the Lord of the Isles’ busy schedule which included Coll, Tiree, Barra and South Uist. Upon her introduction, calls at Tobermory on her Coll/Tiree sailings ceased as she was too large to berth at the pier.
The new ship once again set new standards of passenger facilities and comfort. Her cafeteria was situated at the bow with the observation lounge directly above it. Aft were a series of lounges, the shop and the bar whilst above was crew accommodation and a relatively small amount of open deck space. She lacked a forward deck, much to the disappointment of many tourists on glorious sunny days. She handled the sea well and still provided a comfortable ride in the roughest seas she ventured out into.
The Clansman was the largest vessel that could safely navigate the restrictive channels at places like Lochboisdale, Gott Bay on Tiree, Scalasaig Bay on Colonsay and Arinagour on Coll throughout the year. Each winter since her introduction, Clansman was chosen to be the large fleet relief vessel and would see service on many other routes covering for fleetmates such as Isle of Lewis, Caledonian Isles, Isle of Mull and Hebrides at Lewis, Uig, Mull and Arran. With her large capacity she was ideal for this role. Her own place at Oban was filled by Lord of the Isles and Isle of Arran in these periods.
New arrivals in the fleet in 2001 and 2003 led to new scheduled being drawn up. The arrival of Hebrides on the Uig Triangle in 2001 saw Hebridean Isles redeployed to the Islay service, which in turn freed up the Isle of Arran to provide extra sailings on the Oban routes in partnership with the Clansman. One of these extra sailings was a weekly run to Barra via Tiree and the Gunna Sound - initially entrusted to Isle of Arran, when she was sent back to Islay for the 2003 season Clansman took it on as part of her weekly schedule, sailing on Thursdays. From the 2003 season Clansman was partnered in Oban by Lord of the Isles - the very ship she was built to replace. The two ships' weekly schedules were intertwined with Clansman taking Coll and Tiree sailings from Tuesday to Saturday and providing several return sailings to Castlebay in the evenings - those on Wednesday and Friday would see her returning the same night to Oban while she would stay overnight on Barra on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays.
In 2003 the Clansman's problem of minimal open deck space was finally addressed. It was revealed that on her next overhaul at Garvel Dry Dock, she (and her sister Hebrides) would be receiving new extensions to their decking, above the area immediately aft of the bar. This was a welcome announcement to the more adventurous passenger who would happily stand out on deck in a Force 8 and horizontal rain and sure enough the Clansman reappeared in time for the 2004 season sporting this new deck space and rectifying her only significant shortfall.
This set the scene for the next 12 years. Summers out of Oban and then winters on the relief circuit. An exception to this came in the winter of 2012-2013 when folk on Tiree and Barra were demanding that Clansman be retained as their ferry the for the whole winter and barring her own overhaul she did indeed stay based at Oban while Hebrides went off on relief.
Further changes came in 2016 when a reshuffle took place. Lord of the Isles was taken away from the Oban routes and Clansman found herself running on a new schedule. Gone were her direct Oban - Castlebay sailings with the Isle of Lewis taking these. Her only scheduled visits to Castlebay were her weekly long haul run to Barra via Coll and Tiree. For the rest of the week she took the daily sailings to Coll and Tiree and also became the main Colonsay vessel, serving the small island five times a week.
The 'mighty' Clansman, as she has become known, is a welcome sight wherever she appears. She has established an enviable reputation for venturing out in the worst of it. She has almost a cult following on Coll and Tiree - she is now into her third decade as their daily lifeline and this shows no signs of changing any time soon.