crossings&cruises...
Main Crossings Small Isles Tender
Small Isles Tender @ Eigg
Eigg - Supply Vessel
Crossing Time:
Few Minutes
Last Ship:
Laig Bay

SHIP TIMELINE:
Pre 1980: Various Small Vessels
1980 - 2000: Ulva
2000 - 2004: Laig Bay
Additional Ships:
1984 - 1988:
Iona (relief)
 
 Terminal Facilities:
Eigg: Newly completed purpose-built terminal to allow transfer of passengers and goods from ship to shore without the aid of a flitboat. The slipway is located at the end of a long causeway set out into a bay on the south of the island. A local tractor is used to offload the crates of supplies brought in by the ferry.

Supply Vessel: Facilities for loading / unloading ranged from doors cut into the side of larger vessels where goods could be 'passed' onto waiting vessels, to Hydraulic cranes on vessels such as PIONEER.
 

 Route History:
Although Eigg is one of the largest of the Small Isles, its approach to the only main pier is not one for a large cumbersome vessel to attempt! The necessity for a Tender in the days before Voith Units was well apparent to get goods to the Island as this operation was highly dependent on the weather amongst other things. Passengers, livestock and cargo all had to be transferred from small flitboats onto an awaiting vessel and vice versa while canting off the islands in open seas. As can be imagined this could be a bit heart stopping at some points! Never the less the experienced Crews handled this set up for many years. Even before the flotilla of MacBraynes vessels there was always a flitboat in operation – sometimes its self sailing to the mainland for the goods in fair weather.

One of the earliest MacBrayne's vessels was the ULVA who became the very last of the rather cute MacBrayne “red boats” and would, remarkably, set the post-war record for company service, surviving almost into the twenty-first century. She was originally ordered by David MacBrayne Ltd to replace the little SOAY at Iona and Staffa but in September 1980 was transferred to Eigg to serve as flitboat in succession to the rather old KILDONAN, acquired by CalMac in 1975 but built as long ago as 1923. ULVA was a little workhorse for the fleet but by early 2000 her deteriorating hull finally forced the Company into building her replacement, and ULVA made her last tendering run at Eigg on Wednesday 20th December.

The following day her brash replacement LAIG BAY arrived from her builders and, under tow by LOCH LINNHE, ULVA left Eigg on Friday 22nd and was later berthed at Tobermory awaiting sail. The LAIG BAY was to only last a few years until a revolution in the islands took place. With the help of a European Union grant the Small Isles were to get a service like they had never seen before. This transformation came in 2004 with the arrival of the LOCHNEVIS (built in and operating since 2000), and the finished slipway which allowed her to berth at the island and unload her cargo via her huge stern ramp. She offered a new level of passenger accommodation and comfort that wasn't even seen on her predecessor the 'wee' LOCHMOR. Greatly improving the service also sadly marked the end of a long list of loyal, faithful and often forgotten about flitboats and closed another chapter in Scottish island shipping.
 


PICTURE: Neil King
LOCHMOR unloading onto ULVA 1988.

FB Laig Bay
PIONEER unloading to LAIG BAY via side door.

FB Laig Bay
PIONEER's side door from LAIG BAY.


There is however one last time where you can occasionally see a small boat out there. During a brief time in the winter it is usually up to one of the Island Class / Loch Class and a small chartered passenger only vessel to keep the link open while the LOCHNEVIS is off for annual overhaul - possibly not many of the islanders themselves will miss the flitboats but one or two will look back on there heyday...

Photos by Ian Robertson (bottom), Graeme Phanco (middle) and Neil King (top).


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