Main The Fleet Fleet Features Life After CalMac

Ever wondered where vessels go once they end their careers with CalMac? Greece used to be the destination of choice, with classic vessels like the 1955 Claymore ending their days in the warmer waters of the Mediterranean and the Aegean. More recently though, many of the smaller ferries to have been displaced have found themselves in waters much closer to home, across the Irish Sea.

This feature takes a look at the current whereabouts of eight former CalMac workhorses; Kyleakin, Lochalsh, Kilbrannan, Morvern, Bruernish, Rhum, Coll and Canna.
 Carrigaloe - formerly Kyleakin (1970) and Glenbrook - formerly Lochalsh (1971)
These two sister vessels were built specifically to cater for the coming of, and the increase in the use of the motor car. The short crossing from Kyle of Lochalsh to Kyleakin was the source of many lengthy queues, as the three side-loading vessels Portree, Broadford, and Coruisk struggled to cope with the level of demand. Kyleakin was the first step towards beating the queues, arriving in 1970 and her sister Lochalsh joined her a year later. For twenty years these two ferries, little more than floating platforms with parking space for 28 cars and a narrow lounge along the starboard side, plied between the mainland and Skye and kept things moving.

In 1991, not long after the commencement of 24hr running, the two ferries were replaced by the much larger Loch Fyne and Loch Dunvegan. Prior to this the sale of Kyleakin and Lochalsh had been arranged with new owners in the Republic of Ireland and once the new ships were in service, the two smaller sisters sailed south. Today they run on a crossing very similar to that they were built for - a sailing time of four minutes across a narrow stretch of water in County Cork. For much of the time only one of the sisters is in service at any one time, however busy periods do see both ferries working together.
Picture: Andy Ashton
Glenbrook lying off duty

Picture: Andy Ashton
Carrigaloe with a full load
Picture: Andy Ashton
Carrigaloe in service

Picture: Andy Ashton
Glenbrook seen from Carrigaloe

 Clew Bay Queen - formerly Kilbrannan and Arainn Mhor (1972)

Built in 1972 as part of an order of eight vessels, Kilbrannan had a career with CalMac lasting twenty years, in which time she saw service on most of the company's shorter routes (in a relief capacity in some cases). She was built to open a new route between Lochranza on Arran and Claonaig on the Kintyre peninsula, crossing the stretch of water she was named after. Replaced by the larger Rhum (seen later in this feature) the following year, Kilbrannan became a spare unit and saw service up the Clyde at Largs before finding more permanent employment in the Outer Hebrides at Scalpay.

In 1990 Kilbrannan was replaced by a larger sister and resumed a relief role, however her days were numbered because of DTI restrictions on her deadweight capacity imposed the year prior. After giving a last spell in service backing up her sister Morvern at Iona and then relieving at Lochaline, Kilbrannan left Scottish waters for Ireland and the second part of her career, between Burtonport and Arranmore, sailing as the Arainn Mhor on a fifteen minute crossing. Such was her success in her new role, thus demonstrating once again the strengths of her design, that in 1995 when Morvern became available, she too was snapped up and sailed for Arranmore (as did Rhum and Coll three years later).

Picture: Fladda (SoC Forum)
Picture: Andy Ashton
and now...
Some years later and there was another change in store for the former Kilbrannan when she moved south once again to adopt another new role. Her new (and current) owners placed her on the vehicle and passenger service from Roonagh Bay to Westport as Clare Island ferry and she was given a new livery of dark green and white, to accompany her new identity of Clew Bay Queen.

Picture: Andy Ashton
In her current guise as Clew Bay Queen

 Morvern (1973)

Although built with the new Lochaline - Fishnish route in mind, like her older sister Kilbrannan, the Morvern spent only a short while on the route for which she was intended. She was replaced by the larger Bruernish after only a few weeks in service and then spent the next few years serving a number of routes including Oban - Lismore, Largs - Cumbrae Slip and Harris - Scalpay before finally being given a route of her own.
It was 1979 before Morvern was assigned a specific route; that between Fionnphort on Mull and the quiet isle of Iona, where new slipways were built for her. She stayed there for 13 years before demand swelled beyond her capability (even with the assistance of one of her sisters at peak periods) and with Loch Buie's apperance in 1992, Morvern went back to a spare role, which she remained in until 1995. It was at this point that she sailed for Irish waters on a six-week charter to Arranmore Island Ferries, then owners of her older sister Kilbrannan. Following this charter, Morvern was then purchased and left Scotland for good.
Unlike her older sister, Morvern was not renamed and still carries the name to this day. She doesn't, however, still work on the Arranmore Island route, for in 2001 she was sold on to Bere Island Ferries, where she was joined in 2003 by one of the former Western Isles Council ferries Eilean na h'Oige. Sadly though, while Morvern is still under Bere Island Ferries ownership, her current condition leaves a hell of a lot to be desired, as these pictures show, comparing her in CalMac colours to her current sorry state. In her current condition it is unlikely she will see passenger service again, with the route being looked after by a fleetmate.

Picture: J Aikman-Smith
Late in her CalMac career

Picture: Andy Ashton
Alongside Eilean na h'Oige
Picture: Andy Ashton
Lying out of service

Picture: Andy Ashton
Will she see service again?
 Bruernish (1973)

Bruernish was the third of the so-called Island Class to be built but she was part of the second batch and her construction was in an early enough stage at the time of Kilbrannan's arrival for lessons to be learned and her design adapted. Consequently she was extended by five feet, as were all subsequent sisters. She entered service on the Lochaline - Fishnish run, replacing the smaller Morvern but she didn't remain there for long. In time she was replaced by the Coll and adopted a relief role. It wasn't until 1979 that she became tied to a new route, intially between Kennacraig and Gigha but with the mainland terminal soon being moved to Tayinloan.
She remained on the year-round route for 13 years before being replaced by the larger Loch Ranza. She then reverted to being a spare vessel, based in Tobermory, and then she then became associated with the Tarbert - Portavadie and Ballycastle - Rathlin runs. Towards the end of her CalMac career she spent much of her time at Oban tied up as spare boat.
She was eventually sold out of the fleet in September 2006 and she sailed for Clare Island in the Republic of Ireland where she was slipped, re-engined and given a new livery (the bottom right photo from the internet showing this). She was then bought by Mr Seamus Boyle of Arranmore and moved to the vicinity of her former fleetmates Rhum and Coll, only this time to work in competition with them!

PICTURE: John Newth
At Lochaline early in her career

Picture: Andy Ashton
Undergoing maintenance work after the sale
PICTURE: Iain McPherson
At Tobermory late in her CalMac career

Picture: DPMC - trawlerphotos.co.uk
In her new livery in Galway Docks
 Rhum and Coll (1973 and 1974)
These two sisters led equally varied careers with CalMac, cropping up just about everywhere in the network during their 24 and 25 years with the company. Rhum spent the first 14 years on the seasonal Lochranza - Claonaig run while Coll was a Mull ferry for a couple of years before becoming a relief vessel, stepping in wherever she was required. Things changed in the 1980s when Coll took over as Tobermory - Kilchoan ferry, running for passengers only at first, whereas Rhum was replaced by the Loch Ranza and then found herself spare with frequent visits to Iona to back up Morvern.
With larger tonnage appearing in the form of more members of the Loch Class in 1992, 1996 and 1997, vessel cascades were made possible and two more of the Island Class were surplus to requirements. This time it was Rhum and Coll that faced the chop and their sale to new Irish owners was finalised in 1998. The two sisters were bought by the same company that had previously bought Kilbrannan and Morvern and the two soon settled into the new roles running between Burtonport and Arranmore.
They are still the dedicated Arranmore ferries to this day, having their own roles; Rhum being the main vessel and Coll providing cargo and additional passenger sailings when required. Rhum has actually seen further service even than this, having been sent up to perform additional sailings between Ballycastle and Rathlin for construction vehicles (while Canna undertook the normal rostered sailings).
Picture: SoC Crew
Late in her CalMac days at Tarbert

Picture: Andy Ashton
Coll arriving at Aranmore

Picture: Andy Ashton
Rhum backing away from Aranmore
Picture: Andy Ashton
A full load aboard Rhum

Picture: Andy Ashton
Rhum leaving Burtonport

Picture: Andy Ashton
Coll and Rhum together in service
 Canna (1975)
Although still owned by CMAL, Canna appears on this page due to the fact she is no longer operated by CalMac. She started life on the short-lived Portree - Raasay run and then saw its continuation once the Skye terminal had moved to Sconser. She then became the main Lochaline - Fishnish ferry and remained as such until 1986 when alternative employment had to be found for her. She was sent to the Outer Hebrides in 1990 and she became the Scalpay ferry for the next 7 years before stepping into the role she has today, Ballycastle - Rathlin ferry. Initally this was an experimental vehicle ferry service contract that was repeatedly extended until 2008 when it was revealed a rival operator had put in a cheaper bid. Structural changes within CalMac meant that Canna then left the CalMac fleet, being chartered to Rathlin Island Ferry Ltd.
Picture: Bill Main
Canna in her Scalpay days

Picture: Andy Ashton
Canna in her current operators' livery
Picture: Rob Beale
The last stint in CalMac service

Picture: Andy Ashton
Canna leaving Rathlin


Text: SoC. Pictures: Andy Ashton (except Canna at Scaplay; Bill Main & Canna last stint; Rob Beal)

All material on this site Ships of CalMac 2001 - 2017, unless otherwise stated.
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