23rd May 2013
RIB and inflatable liferafts
Current / Last Route
27th May 2014
Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd
Mrs Patricia Platten, wife of CMAL CEO Guy Platten
A poem by Sir Walter scott and a former mailboat on the sound of Mull mail run
Ferguson Shipbuilders Ltd, Port Glasgow
3 x Volvo Penta Marine D13 MG (Diesel Electric Hybrid)
2 x Permanent Magnet Motor 375kW coupled to 2 x Voith 16 R5 EC/90-1 Units producing 750kW
Hoist & Lifts:
2014 - 2015: Tarbert - Portavadie / Tarbert - Lochranza (winter only)
2016: Mallaig - Armadale (Summer only)
2017 - present: Lochaline - Fishnish
Additional: Largs - Cumbrae Slip / Sconser - Raasay
Yard number 726 was the second of the new hybrid class of small ferries to be built by Ferguson's at Port Glasgow, fulfilling the order placed by CMAL and costing in excess of £20m. The name was put out to public vote again and the options were somewhat uninspiring to say the least: Greenvoe / Lochinvar / Sunset Song / Catriona. Lochinvar was the least worst option in the public eyes, securing 55% of the vote. Her launch took place some five months behind sister Hallaig, with Lochinvar sliding down the slipway on 23rd May 2013 - sent on her way by the wife of CMAL's CEO.
There was initial speculation that the new ferry was to be heading for the Gigha route. For the first few months however she was going nowhere other than the fitting out quay. She lay adjacent to the Hallaig and at one point anyone passing by would have been forgiven for assuming the Lochinvar was due in service first. Despite being launched five months later, she was in a more complete state than the older vessel. There was no hurry in getting her into service however. Trials didn't commence until the spring of 2014 and it was 27th May, a whole year and 4 days after launch, before she finally entered service. Trials had taken place on the Upper Clyde and she made numerous calls at Largs for ramp adjustments prior to moving west to her new home. In the end Gigha was not chosen to host the new arrival and Lochinvar was instead deployed on the Tarbert - Portavadie crossing, replacing the ageing Isle of Cumbrae and the necessary shoreside infrastructure was installed to allow overnight charging.
Lochinvar settled in on Loch Fyne and brought with her the usual increase in capacity on the route after 15 years in the care of the Cumbrae. Isle of Cumbrae was kept on standby at first, berthing in the inner harbour. Once the new ferry had settled in the older vessel was laid up at Rosneath, however there were a few technical issues as the season went on. At the end of August Lochinvar was out of service with more technical problems, necessitating the return of Isle of Cumbrae for nearly a month.
Her first winter saw Lochinvar retained at Tarbert on the combined Portavadie/Lochranza service, although there were various weather-related disruptions which saw the Lochranza service dropped on a fair few dates. January 2015 saw the Lochinvar branching out and she was replaced at Tarbert by the Loch Riddon. This allowed her to take up the Largs - Cumbrae Sip service in lieu of the Loch Shira while she went off for her annual overhaul. 2015 saw Lochinvar mostly on the Portavadie run again, although the early May bank holiday weekend saw her swapping places with the Loch Tarbert in order to provide greater capacity on the busy Claonaig - Lochranza route.
The 2016 season saw a new set of timetables throughout the network and this involved various vessels being moved about. Lochinvar had a part to play in this and she left the Clyde on in late March, bound for Mallaig, which she reached on the evening of the 23rd. With Isle of Cumbrae back in charge at Portavadie, Lochinvar found herself partnering Lord of the Isles and Loch Bhrusda on a somewhat messy timetable on the Mallaig - Armadale crossing. The service attracted a lot of negative press right from the word go, with criticism being fired off on both sides of the Sound of Sleat. Being designed to operate from slipways rather than linkspans, it was discovered that at certain states of the tide it was not possible to load the many coaches that use the Armadale route. There was an outcry on Skye as it transpired there were only three timetabled sailings a day that could be guaranteed to take the coach traffic - the sailings operated by Lord of the Isles. Tidal disruptions were a new phenomenon on the route and for the first time a separate special timetable had to be drawn up listing all the sailings that could actually run on any given date.
Despite the problems that summer, Lochinvar coped admirably. Granted, passenger facilities were inferior compared to the Coruisk which she had displaced, but with a wealth of catering options available in both Mallaig and on Skye it was rightly argued that passengers didn't need the coffee cabin onboard. Her crossing time was timetabled for 45 minutes, though in good weather she could easily shave at least 5 minutes off that.
Serving Skye was not destined to be Lochinvar's permanent employment. CaMac caved in to pressure to take her off the Skye run and the announcement came in January 2017 that she would not be returning to Mallaig. Instead, following a spell on relief at Cumbrae, and also unsuccessful berthing trials at Rothesay during the course of the winter, the Lochinvar was again sent into the Western Isles. She relieved Loch Fyne on the Lochaline - Fishnish crossing and remained there, becoming the main vessel on the route while the larger Loch Fyne took up the Skye run. Initially there was concern that Lochinvar's smaller size would cause problems at Lochaline, however with the rollout of RET pricing, fares on the Oban - Craignure and Tobermory - Kilchoan routes saw them stealing traffic from the Lochaline - Fishnish crossing. This was in part due to the popularity of the hopscotch tickets which combined Craignure, Kilchoan and Armadale routes, and in part due to the ever-increasing prices on the Corran Ferry. As events unfolded it became obvious that Lochinvar was perfectly adequate.
In addition to her duties in the Sound of Mull, Lochinvar also undertook relief duties on the Sconser - Raasay route while the Hallaig went south for drydocking. In her own overhaul in 2019 she was delayed in re-entering service awaiting a new lifeboat davit and she spent nearly two months in Troon out of service. October 2019 saw her undertaking very unusual duties as part of her role. The slipway and pier at Lochaline were closed to all traffic for six weeks and the Lochinvar became the first ferry in many years to run a scheduled passenger service from the old steamer pier. A minimal timetable was put in place and she loaded foot passengers via a gangway at Lochaline steamer pier. There were only six daily return sailings to Fishnish slipway spaced throughout the day (only two on Sundays and by request only). It was designated as a lifeline service and as could be expected with the lack of vehicle access at Lochaline, loadings were very light.
She has remained as the main Fishnish ferry since 2017, being relieved for her overhauls by her elder sister Hallaig. The long term plan remains, as far as we know, for Lochinvar to one day return to Loch Fyne, however that is dependent on the cascade of ships once the Glen Sannox and 'Hull 802' eventually enter service - whenever that may be. For the immediate future though, Lochinvar remains based at Lochaline.