Local News for Monday 2nd April 2018

CalMac summer of trouble brewing
CalMac’s hopes that disruption to services on the Uig triangle would end at the weekend have been dashed, with the MV Clansman still in dry dock in Scandinavia and the MV Hebridean Isles moved to operate the Uig-Tarbert-Lochmaddy triangle, just as new summer timetables began and visitor numbers started to surge for the holiday season. The resulting capacity and journey time issues have led to customer dissatisfaction. Passengers moved into the Stornoway route at the weekend faced confusion as re-booking services seemed ready to charge them for the change. Wild weather today hasn’t helped the situation, and several services between Uig, Tarbert and Lochmaddy have been cancelled. Foot passengers wanting to travel to Uig from Tarbert today were asked to take the bus to Stornoway and cross to Ullapool, before a three and a half hour minibus journey to Uig – the total journey time around nine hours.

The situation this week is just the start of a probable summer of discontent, with CalMac admitting that ageing vessels and the increasing popularity of the Hebrides as a holiday destination are a recipe for trouble. The average age of the ferries serving the islands is just under 22 years old, eight of them around 30. Nearly half of the ferries working island routes are already beyond their 25-year life expectancy and the risk of mechanical failures and breakdown is growing. It also takes longer to get older boats back into service when things do go wrong. Robbie Drummond, interim managing director of CalMac, said: "We ask a lot of our fleet, and indeed our people, at the busiest time of year on our network. I am very conscious of the workload our boats will be undertaking and the strain that puts them under, particularly the older vessels in the fleet. We're already dealing with the consequences of that reality and I'd like to apologise to everyone as the MV Clansman is currently in dry dock awaiting the return of the propulsion unit sent to Denmark for repairs. CMAL is investing in new ferries, with the Glen Sannox due to be launched in November. Until then, we will of course proactively manage as best we can with the current fleet, but I fear that it will, at times, cause issues on some of our routes."

Meanwhile a medical emergency this morning delayed MV Loch Seaforth by half an hour, so that she left Stornoway at 7.30am. Weather disruption was also expected on the Stornoway Ullapool route throughout today and tomorrow.

Rescue call-outs
It’s been a busy Bank Holiday weekend for emergency rescue services, with Hebridean Mountain Rescue Team called on Saturday to the rescue of two pregnant sheep who had become stuck at the bottom of cliffs in Point. In the middle of the sheep rescue the team got a call out for a walker who had fallen down a 250ft cliff at Mealasta, Uig. Also en route to that rescue were Stornoway Coastguard team who were re-tasked to man the landing site at Western Isles Hospital. Coastguard helicopter 948 picked up the casualty and the Mountain Rescue team then met up with the rest of the walkers and walked them back to the road end. Both Stornoway and Leverburgh RNLI Lifeboats had already been out on Thursday evening, the Leverburgh crew to assist a vessel with engine trouble north of Skye and Stornoway volunteers to take a fishing boat in tow after she had lost engine power off Lochs.

Weekend sport
There was a massive win for Lewis Camanachd on Saturday, the first away win in three years and their first win ever at Cannich against Strathglass. The boys played well to go in 2-0 in at halftime thanks to goals from Paul Duke and Peter Gomez. Strathglass might have felt aggrieved to go in two down on the balance of play, but the island team came flying out of the traps in the second half, Donald Lamont getting his just rewards for a hard-working performance with a goal just after the hour mark and Paul Duke scoring a beauty with a little over fifteen minutes to go. A great 4-0 result and a clean sheet that the defence has deserved for their incredible performances in the first three games of the season. It’s cup week next as Lewis travel to take on Beauly in the Sutherland Cup.
Stornoway Rugby Club had an excellent game against the Highland 2nd 15 on Saturday, and came away with a respectable 8 points to Highland’s 22 – a game that was thoroughly enjoyed by both sides. Next week sees the island club at home at Bayhead again, this time to Aberdeen University Medics with a 3pm kick-off. Home support is always welcome.