Thursday, 25 April 2019

Further Fascination For Ferries (2)

Having time to sit at the bay window and observe, it is clear that there is more to running even a simple "over and back" ferry service than meets the untrained eye. Calmac's "summer" timetables are not quite as straightforward as the title might suggest.
Between the "official" dates of 28th March and 20th October there is a whole range of "shoulder" timetables and "peak" journeys.

In essence the service to Cumbrae has two manifestations. There is a "one boat" schedule (actually similar in frequency to the winter timetable) ...
... and a two boat service.
For the record, the winter version of the one boat service is slightly different ...
As well as the usual  break between 0815 and 0915 there is no sailing at 1445. fbb thinks that the crew work a full day shift in the winter, hence the extra lunch break. Thanks to the web site, up to date as ever,  we can obtain the schedules for 2009/2010!

The basic schedule probably hasn't changed - much, BUT ...

Memory is not all that reliable, but the summer service seems to have been cut back recently (the fbbs were in Largs two years ago) and operates on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays ONLY in May, June and September and every day during the school summer holidays which (in Scotland) run from 1st July to 18th August.

This reflects the changes in holiday patterns with more weekend breaks and less "bucket and spade" whole weeks.

The year-round boat is Loch Shira ...
... built in 2006 for the Cumbrae run. She can take 32 cars. 
The second boat (summer) and spare in winter is Loch Riddon.
She dates back to 1986 when she was built for service on the Kyles of Bute ...
... i.e. Colintraive to Rhubodach; she moved to Largs in 1997 and has a modest capacity of just 12 cars.

Both vessels are powered by the Voith-Schneider system with a cylinder of vertical blades ...
... which can be angled to drive the vessel in any direction - even to make the whole boat spin "on the spot". Very clever!

If  you choose to holiday on the West Coast of Scotland, you must be prepared for some weather. Easter weekend was, exceptionally, warm and sunny and Largs was very busy indeed. There was heavy demand for car crossings to Cumbrae such that the queue for the boats stretched way back along the approach roads.
The back of the queue was at the bridge over the Gogo Burn, aerial view bottom right. The queue was still of a reasonable length at 1530 on Bank Holiday Monday!

An unadvertised two boat service was operated all weekend with crowds flocking to the delights of the Island of Great Cumbrae. (There is, by the way, an uninhabited  Little Cumbrae)
What delights, you may ask?
There's Crocodile Rock!

Back in the day, Millport was a popular  week's holiday destination with a sandy beach and a row of shops providing all that a visitor might require.
There are now fewer shops and the town is best described as "tired". The Island's web suite offers a range of outdoor pursuits ...
... some of which are not universally available (e.g. Pipe Bands and Waverley). Surely the main reason for going is that it is, indeed, "Scotland's most accessible island" - with the "sail" of just 8 minutes taking you into something far removed from the urban or suburban environment. Even at peak holiday time the "main" road round the edge does not suffer from too many traffic jams.
The far distant hills are on the Isle of Arran.

In fact, the two boats were so busy that the small vessel caught up with her big companion and for while they ran nose to tail.
And how much might your "wee sail" (very wee!) cost you?
A car and four would cost you £26.55. Remember, too, that if you cross without your car, you have a return fare on the bus to add to your expenses.

But the busy extended weekend is soon over and Tuesday brings a return to a one boat service and the business of daily life on Cumbrae returns to normal. Commercial vehicles begin to proliferate in the queue outside the fbb's window.
fbb was impressed with the van from Willie the Milk! But that queue does show that the vehicular ferry link is now an essential part of Island life.

Then on Wednesday morning c.0900 Loch Riddon sprang again into life ...
... and off she set northbound.
As Shira arrived, Riddon disappeared round the headland for essential maintenance at the Calmac depot at Gourock.
She'll be back!

And she was - at 1720. Slick work at the yard!

 Next Largs bus and train blog : Friday 26th April 

1 comment:

  1. Andrew Kleissner25 April 2019 at 08:02

    I do remember that, in the early 70s at least, Red Funnel put on extra unadvertised sailings between Southampton and Cowes at peak periods to cope with the traffic. The boats were of course much smaller than today's.