23rd March 1976
28th February 2018
Current / Last Route
30th April 1976
A small island to the east of Skye
James Lamont & Co Ltd., Port Glasgow
Re-engined with Scanias
Hoist & Lifts:
<img src="images/icons/lng.gif"> <img src="images/icons/wc.gif">
1976 - 1997: Sconser - Raasay
1997 - 2003: Spare vessel
2003 - 2018: Spare vessel (summer) / Tobermory - Kilchoan (winter)
Largs - Cumbrae Slip / Claonaig - Lochranza / Tayinloan - Gigha / Oban - Lismore / Lochaline - Fishnish /
Mallaig - Small Isles / Tarbert - Portavadie / Ballycastle - Rathlin
The last of the Island Class to be built was the Raasay. She entered the Clyde from Lamont’s slipway on 23rd March 1976 and was in public service a little over a month later.
Her introduction saw the completion of the Island Class – eight ferries in all, dating from the Kilbrannan of 1972 right up to this latest ship. The name of the new ferry rather gave away her intended route; that between Sconser on the Isle of Skye, and the little island after which she was named. Consequently she replaced the Canna and became the third Raasay ferry in two years. This time though the island gained a ferry for the next two decades.
Raasay was based at the inner berth of the pier on the island as opposed to on Skye. This measure ensured that in an emergency there was always a vessel on hand to transport people off the island, for example when there was a medical problem. Raasay was also the terminal that boasted a proper berth, whereas Sconser merely provided a structure for the ferry to lie against whilst loading from the slipway.
For the next 20 years the little Raasay remained loyal to ‘her’ island. She was only ever off duty for her annual overhauls, when she would be relieved by Rhum or Coll or one of the other small ferries in the winter months. When she was based at Raasay she did not miss a full day’s sailings in all the time she was on station, be it through weather-borne disruptions or mechanical problems – something of a unique claim to fame! In addition to her regular sailings between Sconser and Raasay, the island's faithful servant was also available for charter at certain times and as a result Raasay occasionally saw variety in the form of charters to the neighbouring island of Rona to the north.
As the years went on the island became more popular with visitors and in the late 1990s it was announced that Raasay would be getting a larger ferry – one of the 1986 ‘Loch Class’ vessels relocated as part of a fleet reshuffle. Raasay was duly replaced by the 12-car Loch Striven in summer 1997 and then assumed the role of spare ferry for the first time in her career with Calmac. She spent much of her time lying at Oban or Tobermory, ready to relieve the Eigg or Coll respectively and regularly carried out sailings on the Lismore and Kilchoan routes when required. She was also called in to serve on the busy Lochaline - Fishnish route following the untimely breakdown of the brand new Loch Alainn in August 1997.
Thanks in no small part to the care and maintenance given to her during her years at Raasay, she was always one of the Island Class ships in the best condition; a feature that was obviously recognised when it came to selecting two vessels to be put up for sale in 1998 (Rhum and Coll were to leave the fleet for further service).
Into the new millennium and the Raasay saw a fairly established routine develop. She would often be found at Gourock or Oban through the summer months, before relocating to Tobermory in the autumn ready to take over the winter service to Kilchoan from Loch Linnhe in October. The winter Kilchoan service became Raasay's regular employment from 2003 onwards with her carrying out three return sailings a day during the week, with two on Saturdays and then a day off on Sundays. Generally her 6 car capacity proved to be more than adequate for the Tobermory - Kilchoan run at this time of year, although from the winter of 2006/7 Raasay was only used when Loch Linnhe was employed elsewhere. It was during her role as Kilchoan ferry that Raasay had her fifteen minutes of fame on the small screen, first in a Peugot advert and then in the BBC's Balamory show for children.
In 2004, following the previous withdrawal of the veteran Pioneer, Raasay was assigned to relief duties on the Small Isles service, made possible by the newly completed slipways at Rum, Eigg and Muck (Canna already had a small slip behind the pier, suitable at certain states of the tide). When Lochnievis went off for overhaul in mid-October Raasay was one of two relief ferries, running in tandem with the chartered passenger vessel Ullin of Staffa on a special timetable for three weeks.
From 2007 onwards, following Bruernish's departure to Clare Island, Raasay became the Oban-based spare vessel during the summer months. She was also the dedicated relief vessel on the Ballycastle - Rathlin run and would head south at the end of each summer to relieve the Canna. She also relieved the Eigg on the Lismore run in February or March and would undergo her own overhaul in August. 2007 saw Raasay return to the world of charters when, in November, she was chartered by Argyll & Bute Council to cover for their own vessel Eilean Dhuira between Port Askaig and Feolin on Jura. She sailed south from Tobermory but was back within 48 hours, the regular vessel being repaired sooner than anticipated.
2008 saw a reduction in Raasay's duties with CalMac losing the contract to operate the Rathlin service, so she was no longer required to relieve the Canna. Likewise she was no longer called upon to relieve the Lochnevis in October - Loch Bhrusda now took this role on and Raasay saw her sphere of operations restricted to relief duties at Lismore and her stint on the Kilchoan run while Loch Linnhe was away covering other routes. This was the new norm for Raasay but there were two notable exceptions - the first in January 2009 when she was called upon to take over the Tayinloan - Gigha crossing for a few days. Storms and swell had led to a build up of seaweed, sand and other debris on and around the slipway at Tayinloan. Regular vessel Loch Ranza was unable to get in to the slip without risking damage to her Voith units. Raasay's regular propulsion meant she had no such difficulties and for a few days the people of Gigha were taken back to the days of the Bruernish - reversing onboard became the order of the day once more.
The other break from routine came in late September 2017 following a breakdown affecting Isle of Cumbrae. Raasay was the only available vessel to keep the service from Tarbert to Portavadie running and she took over for 2 days while repairs were carried out to the regular vessel. That winter, 2017/18 turned out to be Raasay's last - she was advertised as being for sale in the December and took her last passenger sailing on the Tobermory - Kilchoan route on 23rd January 2018. The following day she returned to a state of layup in Oban, awaiting a buyer.
A couple of weeks later, in early February Raasay left Oban for the final time after being de-branded up at Corpach. She arrived at Colintraive on 10th February to offload crew cars for the last time and made for Sandbank Marina. Raasay was formally handed back to owners CMAL on 28th February and was immediately sold to new Irish owners, thus ending a varied and eventful 42 year career.
She now sails as a freight carrier and general workboat on the west coast of Ireland, around Inishbofin Island and is looking resplendent in a bright red and white colour scheme. She is into her 5th decade and long may she continue. We here at SoC have fond memories of her.