Lochalsh (III)

Gaelic Name:

Type:

Callsign:

IMO:

MMSI:

Launched:

Acquired:

Steel MV

7101607

11th February 1971

Entered Service:

Disposed:

17th June 1991

N/A

DIMENSIONS

Length:

34m

Draught:

Breadth:

2.2m

12.8m

Gross Tonnage:

CAPACITIES

Passengers:

Cars:

Crew:

Lifeboats:

200

28

3

Inflatable liferafts

Current / Last Route

31st March 1971

225

DETAILS

Ordered By:

Cost:

Registered:

Launched by: 

Named after:

Caledonian Steam Packet Co.

Glasgow

TECHNICAL

Builders:

Newport Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. Ltd.

Yard No:

0

Engine Builders:

Gardner Engines Ltd., Manchester.

Machinery:

2 Oil 4SCSA 8 cyl. 5 1/2” x 7 3/4”. 2 Voith-Schneider propellers

Speed:

8

Hoist & Lifts:

FACILITIES

Small passenger lounge along starboard side

ROUTE TIMELINE

1971 - 1991: Kyle of Lochalsh - Kyleakin

History

The new Lochalsh of 1971 closely resembled her sister Kyleakin and for general description and a history of her duties as Skye ferry the reader is referred to that vessel's profile. Even more atrociously delayed than Kyleakin – both ferries had been assured for delivery by the end of June 1970 – the Lochalsh was finally floated on Tuesday 11th February, without ceremony, and towed to Kyle from Newport by the tug Wrestler on Tuesday 23rd March. She was handed over to the CSP on 31st March and duly took her place on the Kyleakin service.

She could be readily distinguished from Kyleakin by her masts; the 1970 ship had a simple navigational light support from her wheelhouse, but Lochalsh boasted very elaborate, and rather splendid, tetrapod masts at each end, and looked distinctly elegant as she shuttled back and forth across the Kyle, like a vast two-headed swan. Until 1978 – when Kyleakin's ramps were modified – Lochalsh was the more efficient of the two and ended to be in more constant summer service than her sister. Like her sister, she was equipped with radar at her 1983-1984 refit (as usual, at Stornoway) and saw her wheelhouse first adorned with a CalMac funnel emblem and later painted fully to resemble a funnel; but neither was ever adorned with the “Caledonian MacBrayne” lettering on their hulls.

Lochalsh, at Christmas 1988, unfortunately starred in what could have been CalMac's most serious accident in the Company's very long history. Leaving Kyle at 6:50 pm in stormy conditions on Friday 23rd December, the ferry was hit by a freak wave; this damaged her seaward ramp and left it trailing in the water, leaving the vessel quite impossible to steer in the 60-knot westerly wind. Utterly helpless, Lochalsh was blown eastwards and far into Loch Alsh; two Naval tenders, in quick pursuit from the BUTEC base at Kyle, finally got a rope on board off Balmacara, with Mallaig lifeboat and two rescue helicopters additionally in attendance.

With their aid and shelter, Lochalsh was able to inch home to Kyle, finally tying up at the Railway pier at 10:10 pm. Her sixty blanched and shaken passengers were duly helped up the steep ladder, though it was the following day before the ferry was able to proceed to Kyleakin and offload her vehicles – 18 cars and two lorries. Her damaged ramp was then lifted and welded shut, lest she be required to give (single-ramped) assistance to the relief ferry Isle of Cumbrae over the festive season. With the return of Kyleakin from overhaul, Lochalsh sailed for her own refit to Stornoway on Friday 6th January 1989.

The episode, attended – of course – by much publicity, was a huge embarrassment for Caledonian MacBrayne Ltd., and public reaction when it emerged that neither of the ageing Skye ferries was equipped with ship-to-shore radio or even lifejackets might readily be imagined. The West Highland Free Press duly reported the outcome of the Company's internal inquiry; managing director Colin Paterson told the paper it had been a “freak accident” and praised the chargehand of the Lochalsh, who had “taken the best possible action which he could.” General improvements were being carried out to Lochalsh during her Stornoway overhaul – with modification so that neither ramp could fall below a fixed point – and the Skye ferries were now to be equipped with lifejackets, though this was not in fact a legal requirement under their certification for the short crossing.

Nevertheless the damage to the reputation of the ferry service was considerable and no doubt figured large in Highland Regional Council's reluctant decision, in November 1989, to support the Government's controversial plans for a privately funded toll-bridge to Skye. Rather too late, CalMac were in February 1990 authorised to order new Kyleakin ferries and from 28th April 1991 the Company at last provided a 24-service at Kyle.

Lochalsh was duly laid off from lunchtime on Monday 13th May 1991, with the arrival of the 36-car Loch Dunvegan, but the new ship had some early difficulties and Lochalsh was again in service from Thursday 16th to Monday 27th May. She was then laid up at the Kyleakin dolphins and, with Loch Dunvegan quite settled in service, Lochalsh was handed over to her new owners, United Marine Transport of County Cork in Ireland, on Monday 17th June 1991. She left Kyleakin at 11:30 am on the 19th and received a farewell blast on the horn from the outeard-bound Lord of the Isles as she passed Oban. Lochalsh finally reached her new owners at Cobh on Tuesday 25th June. She was subsequently renamed Glenbrook.

Since March 1993, in consort with the former Kyleakin– now Carrigaloe – the Glenbrook has sustained the 4-minute ferry crossing from Carrigaloe to Glenbrook, Her elaborate masts were removed and, these days, she is practically identical to her sister.

Lochlash at Kyle of Lochalsh

Lochalsh crossing to Skye

Postcard of Kyleakin and Lochalsh

Lochalsh handing over to Loch Dunvegan in 1991

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