Life at the end of the road

March 31, 2013

From spring to winter

Filed under: boats, daily doings, Trucks and plant — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 10:33 pm

Not quite Islay but I did sail past it and we’re now firmly fastened to Scotland right next to our older sister the MV Hebridean Isles who spent fifteen years herself on the ‘Uig triangle’ before moving to the Islay route.

Having put plenty of hours in all week, and not being ‘in service’ I decided to make the most of Easter Sunday by having a ‘lie in’. Not that I wasn’t awake early as usual but I wanted to have a nice doze whilst being rocked by the gentle motion of the ship as we headed south. I really do love sleeping on a moving boat it was only an hour or so but was pure bliss, my cabin having now windows in meaning that it may as well have been the middle of the night




Eventually however I got up, and after cleaning out the heavy fuel oil transfer filter managed to find some jobs to do ‘topside’ to admire the view. For we were now rounding Britain’s most westerly mainland extremity, Ardnamurchan point, or at least I was always told it was by many books, though now I’m not so sure.

Ardnamurchan Point lies at the western end of the Ardnamurchan peninsula in Lochaber, Highland, Scotland. It is 1.1 kilometres (0.68 mi) north of Corrachadh Mòr, the most westerly point on the island of Great Britain, which is a few metres further west than the Point.[1] The nearest settlement is the small village, Achosnich.

The point lies seven miles south of the island of Muck, with Eigg and Rùm a few miles further to the north. Coll is situated nine miles to the west, and Mull is five miles south.

According to Wikipedia it’s anyway whatever it is I was now venturing into territory that I new well.



The Sound of Mull is where I spent many a holiday in the late seventies, early eighties ‘bashing’ many of the shipwrecks up and down this busy stretch of water between Mull and the mainland. So busy in fact that many ships have come to grief over the centuries, from the 17th century man of war HMS Dartmouth to the 1975 coaster MV Balista, those shown below are just a few of them.

 Map of the Sound of Mull for a key to the main locations.

008  009 


Even on Easter Sunday there were many more than just the usual yachts and diving boats of the holidaymakers, above are the Forth Guardsman and Forth Fighter belonging to Briggs Marine.



Leaving the Briggs boats and Ardnamurchan point behind we entered the sound proper and after a few miles past the buoy marking the most spectacular wreck in this area


the SS Hispania.

File:SS Hispania 1912.jpg

When I used to dive on her she was virtually upright on the sea bed but years of the tide scouring the seabed from under her means that now she’s almost rolled over onto her starboard side. Access inside the superstructure was easy and revealed many little treasures  like coins, beer bottle tops from Sweden and some lovely brass buttons from the Svenka Lloyd line, which I always said belonged to the captain . She carried a spare prop in a small hold between the aft accommodation and number four hold and was a really scenic and spectacular dive, her counter stern still having her name on it when I last visited in 1985.



The next site we passed was that of the SS Rondo who ran into Sgeir Dearg  in 1935.

In January 1935 the RONDO, under Norwegian ownership, was in Glasgow and left Dunston in ballast intending to sail north round the top of Scotland and down the East coast to her Northumberland port destination were she was due to pick up a cargo for Oslo. As she sailed north into the Sound of Mull on the 25th the weather was atrocious and she was forced to anchor in Aros Bay near Tobermory for Shelter in a blinding snow storm.

As the crew settled down for an uncomfortable night, the anchor chain parted and she started to drift east down the Sound driven by the strong winds and tide. The crew were powerless to guide the helpless ship in the darkness and could only hope that they would be lucky but this was not the case. The RONDO was swept onto Dearg Sgeir near Eileanan Glas almost demolishing the small lighthouse as she crashed ashore and stuck fast, high and dry on the rock.

The twenty one crew were in no danger but fired distress flares to attract the attention of nearby ships. As the new day dawned the RONDO was sitting securely astride the small rock and preparations began for a salvage attempt. The crew remained aboard for two weeks hoping that something could be done to save her but eventually she was abandoned to be broken up were she lay. The activity was well underway when she finally slipped of the rock and sank, bow first, in the deep water close to the island.

Copied from

Picked clean whilst she was still high and dry only her hull remains but she’s unusual and spectacular insomuch as the stern almost touches the surface and the bow is in almost 60m of water.


A little further south the MV Loch Fyne headed for Lochaline on the short crossing from Mull to the mainland.



Here, almost at the entrance to the sound and difficult to discern from the mainland behind it is the island of Eilean Rubha an Ridire,


the final resting place of the MV Ballista, HMS Dartmouth and a fishing boat who’s name I forget. When I dived her in the late seventies her painted funnel was still visible and I’ve still got part of the engine room telegraph in my garden along with a brass speaking tube.

Once clear of the sound and heading south west past Mulls remotest shore we passed many more wreck sites.


A steam drifter named the ‘Young Fisherman’ was wrecked here on this lonely spot in WWII her crew were fed and clothed by the occupants of a remote cottage nearby. The rescuers had to put the rescued up for a few days and were virtually starving their selves by the time the grateful crew departed. This small wreck gave up tons of brass and I still have the steam whistle off her.


Further down this ten mile stretch lie the Athenia, another steam drifter whose triple expansion engine lies on the beach but not much else.

HMS Barfoss

HMS Barcombe, a ‘boom defence’ vessel that ran aground here in 1958

The 750 ton boom defence vessel BARCOME [Barcombe] was found on the west side of Loch Buie shortly after 6.opm on Tuesday by an Oban-bound seine net fishing vessel.
This ended a 21 hour search by naval vessels, aircraft, and the Islay lifeboat. BARCOME had been badly holed and flooded. One casualty was later brought to Oban. The air and sea rescue operations were hampered by thick mist and also by a series of conflicting reports as to the area in which the vessel had been grounded. For over 21 hours, the Islay lifeboat CHARLOTTE ELIZABETH and the submarine rescue vessel Kingfisher, the Admiralty tug SAUCY, and other ships and RAF Shackleton aircraft from Northern Ireland searched the area. Shortly after 9.00pm on Monday the BARCOME signalled that she was aground near Oronsay Island. The Islay lifeboat searched the Oronsay area all through the night and early morning of Tuesday. Later on Tuesday she was ordered north to search in the area of the Torran Rocks, off the south west of Mull, more than 15 miles from Oronsay. The remains of the BARCOME are lying broadside at the foot of a 300ft cliff. The lifeboat and the Kingfisher took off the BARCOME’s crew.
At the court martial of the boom defence vessel BARCOME’s commander, Lt.Cdr. Derek Charles Godfrey, the court recorded that there was a local magnetic anomaly in the Loch Buie area, and extra care should have been taken by the accused.
Source: Oban Times, 18 January 1958.


Smashed to bits by winter storms the vessel often revealed nice lumps of non ferrous metal.

A little further down, a mile or so before the entrance to Loch Buie, just inside of Frank Lockwood’s Isle lies the wreck of the first hospital ship, the SS Maine.



040410 001

From which really just about sums it all up, including more pictures and maps, so I’ll just shut up now before I bore you to death.



A couple of hours and one excellent lunch later we entered the Sound of Jura with its namesake on our port side and Islay’s Rubha Mhail lighthouse to starboard.


A little further down the turbulent waters we passed the famous Bunnahabhain distillery  on Islay, the home to yet another shipwreck, this time a Fleetwood trawler called the Wyre Majestic. 


Though I had to lift that image from as she seems to have vanished.




Perhaps I was looking in the wrong place, it is after all almost thirty years since I was there.

Back to winter

Less than two hours later we entered the narrow mouth of West Loch Tarbert and I have to say I was stunned,



winter had not left the Kintyre peninsula, look at that, snow right down to the shore !!!!!!

 037 036

What was really bizarre though was this, it was spring on one side of the loch and winter on the other !!!!



As we headed towards the port of Kennacraig the MV Isle of Arran  was just departing for Islay



giving us a blast on her horn as she passed close by.

We joined the MV Hebridean Isles  alongside the pier to be welcomed by her skipper, another Raasay man.



Once tied up the crew removed their cars onto ground that still had large lumps of snow on it Sad smile



A nice Daf belonging to Simpson’s of Berwick with a cargo of malt for malt whisky I guess.



Anyway, it’s now almost 22:00 and I’m off to bed.


  1. You were looking in the right place for the Wyre Majestic at Bunnahabhain. Over the last I’d say 5 years the wreck has deteriorated a lot and is really starting to fall apart now. Especially at high tide it is now fairly difficult to see from a passing ship on the sound. In particular the bow has suffered a lot.

    Not sure who the malt was for, most of it comes by boat to the Port Ellen Maltings. Bruichladdich normally use one near Inverness, so probably not for them.

    Comment by Armin — March 31, 2013 @ 11:05 pm

    • Thanks for the info Armin, just a shame I never managed to set foot on Islay, I have even more fond memories and stories about your beautiful isle than Mull 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — April 2, 2013 @ 7:52 am

  2. I think that was the sound of ISLAY (not Jura – unless you came through Corryvreckan!!!)

    Comment by David & Margaret Gartside — April 1, 2013 @ 6:28 am

    • I think that was the sound of ISLAY (not Jura – unless you came through Corryvreckan!!!)

      Whoops 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — April 1, 2013 @ 5:11 pm

  3. Morning Paul

    Ships, history and Scottish islands – what more could anyone want! Thanks for this good read. I don’t think HMS Dartmouth is a lucky name for a ship. There were at least 5 after the first 17th century one and a couple started but not finished! Others were sunk or wrecked. Stick to CalMac!



    Comment by Sue — April 1, 2013 @ 7:12 am

    • Well well Sue, thanks for that info about Dartmouth, I’ll have to do a little research for the next time I go down memory lane, or should I say ‘memory sound’ 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — April 2, 2013 @ 7:50 am

  4. Very informative and some great pictures of the ships afloat and tales of some that have not been so fortunate. Amazing the different weather in a relatively short distance.

    Comment by Arthur T Bomber Harris — April 1, 2013 @ 8:02 am

    • Hi ATB,

      quite a surprise in the weather hey, it really was ‘pure Baltic’ down Kintyre.

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — April 2, 2013 @ 7:49 am

  5. The malt might be for Bunnahabhain, since they usually don’t use peated malt. The Port Ellen maltings don’t get malt shipped in but barley since they malt it themselves. And yes Bruichladdich usually uses Bairds at Inverness for the extra heavily peated malt, so the malt from Simpsons could be for their unpeated production I guess.

    Comment by Karl Ejnar Christensen — April 1, 2013 @ 8:51 am

    • Cheers for the info Karl, well at least I’m not losing my memory 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — April 2, 2013 @ 7:47 am

  6. Great description of the wrecks in the Sound of Mull as I have dived quite a few of them over the years. Hope you are being restored to full health.

    Comment by Nigel Macleod — April 1, 2013 @ 11:42 am

    • Hi Nigel, feeling much better now thanks, no doubt because I’m on my way home. It’s nice getting paid to sail on CalMac’s finest but there’s no place like home and the Raasay Sconser route 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — April 2, 2013 @ 7:47 am

  7. like the info on the wreck sites, very interesting,,

    Comment by The Peoples Republic of Northumbria — April 1, 2013 @ 11:55 am

    • Hi Steve, glad you liked it, wrecks were my passion for many years.

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — April 2, 2013 @ 7:45 am

  8. …still looking for my lost diving log books…. thanks for the memories of those days!

    Comment by may cruickshank — April 1, 2013 @ 11:59 am

    • Glad you liked it May, brought back many happy memories for me too. Had I had my log books to hand it would have been even more boring 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — April 2, 2013 @ 7:44 am

  9. Lovely post Paul, thank you for your efforts 🙂

    Comment by Janice Macpherson — April 1, 2013 @ 12:07 pm

    • Hi Janice and thanks, that post was a pure epic and perhaps a little disjointed as I kept trying to edit some of the pictures and text to enable me to post it. Consequently the grammar is worse than usual and I left out some pictures.

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — April 2, 2013 @ 7:43 am

  10. Nice pics paul

    Comment by Kevin — April 1, 2013 @ 4:14 pm

  11. three flies dancing and singing in the kitchen:

    Comment by jeannettesmyth — April 3, 2013 @ 5:55 am

  12. Old ferries were you aware of their use as a government escape route/ When the panic started the government in Scotland were to jump on a ferry and cruise in the quiet parts while running the ruins.

    Comment by Ron — April 3, 2013 @ 7:56 am

    • Morning Ron and welcome, I did know that the three boats had been made with some kind of NBC protection but never knew the extent or purpose.

      Cheers, Paul

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — April 4, 2013 @ 6:17 am

  13. re the state of the roads discussed by many in previous posts: I have just received a reply to my email to Alex Salmond after several weeks. Not quite sure what to make of it.

    “Trunk Road and Bus Operations
    Buchanan House, 58 Port Dundas Road, Glasgow G4 0HF
    Direct Line: 0141 272 7345, Fax: 0141 272 bc

    2 April 2013
    Ms Cruickshank
    Thank you for your email of 4 March to the First Minister regarding the condition of roads in
    Raasay. I have been asked to reply.
    Firstly, I completely sympathise with you as poorly maintained roads are frustrating, disruptive
    and, on occasion, can result in costs to road users.
    It may be helpful to set out that under the terms of the Roads (Scotland) Act, local authorities are
    responsible for the management and maintenance of local roads. In the instance of Raasay,
    responsibility for maintaining roads in the area falls to The Highland Council. As such, Scottish
    Ministers have no locus for involvement.
    However, this Government is fully committed to improving how Scotland’s roads are managed
    and maintained. A National Road Maintenance Review, which involved all those responsible for
    the management and maintenance of roads in Scotland, concluded in July 2012. The review
    explored how the Scottish Government can work better with Local Authorities, and what can be
    learned from international road management practices. Further information on the review, and
    its outcomes, is available at –

    the link above is:

    Afraid it is too hard for me but maybe someone else could pick out anything of interest to the Raasay situation.

    Comment by may cruickshank — April 4, 2013 @ 11:56 am

    • Thanks for all you effort May, its a bit over my head but ‘fingers crossed’ 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — April 5, 2013 @ 9:24 pm

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