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Evening All! Well yesterday saw the launch of the newest Caledonian MacBrayne ferry, the Glen Sannox (FMEL Hull 801) from Fergusons Shipyard on the River Clyde. This is a LNG ferry which when finished, will operate the Ardrossan-Brodick route. Sadly, the weather was somewhat... grey and wet. She is still not entirely finished, with a lot of superstructure to be added (for anyone interested, here is what she will look like: http://www.cmassets.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/16001_PHOTO_ARRIVING.jpg). She should be in service sometime late 2018/2019. Pre-launch on the slipway: Waiting to go: The big splash: Moving onto the fit-out berth
Something of a set of mini-voyage reports - a bit different, but I hope you will like it. Last year I got an Email from a cycle shop, which advertised the Five Ferries Cycle Route in Scotland. Described as quite a challenge, it involves a cycle around Arran and Bute, as well as some of the mainland peninsulas. Lots of BIG hills to climb (Isle of Wight looks positively flat) and of course... the five ferries! Obviously I had to give it a go. So last weekend, I had a trip up to the other side of the country with my bike, staying in a nice hotel in Rothesay. Caledonian MacBrayne actually has a specific five ferries ticket (or rather a set of five tickets) for people wanting to do this, which allows for you to do the route without needing to worry about getting tickets at each terminal/ferry. So I started off from Rothesay, a lovely little town on the Isle of Bute. From here, I caught the first of the five ferries, the Argyle. This is one of the more medium sized vessels of the CalMac fleet, who, along with sister ship Bute, operate from Wemyss Bay to Rothesay, taking approximately 35 minutes, so similar to the Portsmouth-Fishbourne service down here in the South. The difference in expected loadings though is obvious - she has 3 full height (5.1m) lanes, and one low deck either side. Slightly more cycle orientated then the Wightlink ferries, with dedicated racks for cycles at both bow and stern. A main deck is situated below, featuring a small coffee area and shop, as well as lounges. There is a vast amount of outside deck, with the top deck featuring area forward. After a lovely crossing, arrived at Wemyss Bay. From here, was a taxi ride to Largs to get the train to Ardrossan (Not cheating - honest! But since it was a Sunday I wouldn't have made the second ferry). Arriving at Ardrossan, I waited to board the second of the five ferries, the Caledonian Isles. One of the larger ferries of the CalMac fleet, she was to take me from Ardrossan to Brodick on the Isle of Arran, with a crossing time of 55 minutes. After the vehicles were loaded, all the cyclists were allowed to board, which was a lot - there were even more racks onboard for bikes without stands to go on. The passenger area is mainly on one deck, featuring a restaurant, shop and coffee lounge, as well as an observation lounge on the deck above. Again, there is ample outside deck space, including forward views. Soon after departing Ardrossan we passed the Isle of Arran, one of two ships in the CalMac fleet with open bridge wings! Despite the 25-30mph winds, she had a smooth, comfortable crossing, with the Ailsa Crag visible to the south. Arriving at Brodick, a new ferry berth is being constructed. So after departing, came the first of the cycle runs, a 14.5 mile trek along the NE coast, before heading up and over the 650 ft hills of the northern section of the Island, before reaching Lochranza. With a 25-30mph headwind... fun! On the way along the coast, saw a couple of seals playing in the bay! So I arrived at the village of Lochranza just as the third ferry, the Catriona, was arriving at Claonaig, visible to the north. This meant I had a wait before she returned. The crossing time between Lochranza and Claonaig is 30 minutes. Luckily the sun didn't quite disappear, meaning a nice wait, with the views of the hills of Arran behind me. Finally the Catriona rounded into the harbour and berthed on the slipway. The Catriona is one of CalMac's more modern vessels, a more energy efficient Diesel-Electric Battery Hybrid. Accommodation is located on the portside, with an interior lounge, and outside spaces above. She is quite different from the Bute/Argyle, considering the similar crossing time, but unlike the WB - Rothesay route, this one is a summer only, and probably doesn't get the same amount of traffic. A smooth crossing was had, abit slightly breezy on the outside deck. Amazingly, the passenger lounge features USB equipped electric sockets! After arriving at Claonaig, (essentially just the slipway!), The second of the cycles was a more sedate 11 mile to the village of Tarbert. On the way I passed Kennacraig terminal, where the Hebridean Isles arrived. On the final straight to Tarbert, my weather luck took a slight bump, as it started to rain, but luckily this was a small shower and quickly passed. After having a lunch in Tarbert, a lovely looking village, I made way to the terminal to await the forth ferry. From Tarbert (Loch Fyne) the Isle of Cumbrae was to take me across to Portavadie, another 25 minute crossing. The Isle of Cumbrae was probably the smallest of the ferries travelled on, but still managed to feature an inside lounge and outside seating! Arriving at Portavadie, the real challenge came - a 20 mile long cycle, with another challenging 600 ft hill in the middle, round to Colintraive, to catch the final ferry back to the Isle of Bute - With the last ferry at 8:30; arriving at Portavadie at quarter to six - I had less than three hours to get there! After a reasonable cycle to Tighnabruche, the final hill arrived, which gave very impressive views, despite the weather turning slightly. From the hill I could see my ferry, the Loch Dunvegan, so close, yet I had to cycle further from it - another 6 miles. I finally arrived at Colintraive just before 8 - I had made it! Anyway the Loch Dunvegan, for a five minute crossing, is an impressive vessel; - she has two decks of passenger lounges on one side! I don't know how busy the route can get, but it was only one car, a caravanette and me for the penultimate sailing on a Sunday. Few other interesting pics from the weekend: Bute arriving at Rothesay: Heading down the Clyde on Waverley CalMacs two new ferries under construction: Waverley at Glasgow... ...and Queen Mary in Glasgow: Argyll Flyer Loch Riddon arriving at Cumbrae Slipway Loch Bhrusda departing Largs The Sleat, formerly the Western Ferries Sound of Sleat, now a Diving Training vessel; Finally... the OTHER Ali Cat! I hope that this was of interest!