Life at the end of the road

April 9, 2013

On the night shift

Filed under: boats, daily doings — Tags: — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 7:10 pm

Well that’s me on the MV Hebrides at last, after a couple of ‘false starts’, and I’m straight ‘in at the deep end’ so to speak.

Leaving an empty house at Arnish just past 7:00am and saying goodbye to the herd


on a day that felt more like winter than winter did.


After the calm, sharp, cold mornings and easterly breezes of late, this zephyr from the north with it’s dusting of snow on the Pipers Rock above Torran seemed strangely incongruous. Probably not to many readers right enough, having seen recent TV footage, but it certainly felt odd here.




Hardly anything to get concerned about, having seen what others have gone through, but certainly unseasonal when one is optimistically awaiting the arrival of the cuckoo.



No sooner had I arrived at Sconser and the Irish mountain of ‘stone from Donegal’ that I was informed that the Hebrides would be late Sad smile I seemed destined not to join this ship Smile



Passing the Sligachan hotel the search for the 33 year old hiker missing for a couple of days was just resuming, with the Coastguards Sikorsky S-92 just taking off.



I checked last night on the internet around midnight and there was as yet no news.


013  014

It was certainly a major operation with teams from Mull and beyond.



Eventually however I managed to catch up with CalMac’s second largest vessel


018  019

the MV Hebrides, the third I think to bare that name.




Anyway, after ‘signing on’ and having an introduction to the vessel her fire fighting and safety equipment I was sent to bed!!! Not for being a ‘naughty boy’ but to assist with the ‘night watch’ on account of the extra sailings to clear traffic. So at 23:30 I was aroused from my slumber, given instruction on what to do and left in the safe hands of the regular night watchman and pier master. Normally one night watchman would suffice but tonight, due to an ‘issue’ with the gangplank, the ramp would have to stay down.



So, in the interests of stopping any rats scampering aboard or would be terrorists I was put on ‘guard duty’ Smile




A not unpleasant task as it gave me chance to wander around the vessel further familiarising myself with the 109 portable fire extinguishers and 38 ‘call points’. Somewhat more than Loch Striven carries Smile I also had the pleasure of watching the sunrise, something that escapes me at Arnish thanks to the rocky backbone of  Meall Dearg, Am Feadan and the Sithean Mor.

However, once the ship was awake I bade the morning farewell and went to bed once more. My windowless cabin, weary eyes and the rhythmic gentle roll of the Minch making sleep come easy and with great pleasure.





I arose to a beautiful afternoon somewhere east of Harris,




ate my lunch then prepared to assist with an FRC launch once in Uig.



The Hebrides carries two Delta’s, which, when I was a lad were the ‘dogs danglies’ of the RIB world and any diver worth his salt would have given his right arm for one.



I think one is 6m and the other 8.5m,


it was this, the larger one that got deployed.

Anyway, I’m going to post this now whilst I’ve got a signal.



  1. Wow, guard duty! I can just envision you singing the “Flying Monkey March” from Wizard of OZ. Luckily you had all that anti-terrorist training in South Shields. Was there a reason, besides eternal readiness, for deploying the orange Delta?

    Comment by drgeo — April 9, 2013 @ 7:30 pm

  2. Whats this about the missing hiker?
    Is it national news..
    The mv hebrides looks very posh…

    Comment by The Peoples Republic of Northumbria — April 9, 2013 @ 9:19 pm

  3. I asked a few friends on Harris last week and, just as you said, they all much prefer the Hebrides to Finlaggan! More capacity and something about Finlaggan not able to reverse to the linkspan???? Is this true? Several mentioned about the decor as well – “…like a Calmac version of a cruise ship” was how one friend described the Finlaggan – complete with it’s very own fountain! Amazing!

    Good Luck!


    Comment by fingalextravaganza — April 9, 2013 @ 9:44 pm

    • Aye Fingal,

      there’s no doubt that the Finlaggan is slightly smaller and slightly slower, but not by much. As for the decor, well that’s a matter of taste but whether you like it or not it’s to a high standard. The other criticisms however I feel are unjust and have been exaggerated by rosy tinted spectacles. You have to bare in mind that she takes over the route in winter so disruptions are more likely. Also the two winds that cause the most problems, that is easterly for Tarbert/Lochmaddy and northerly for Uig have been far more prevalent this season (not hearsay but Met office fact) nine days of easterly gales in the period the Finlaggan was on station (more than the last four winters put together) and more northerlies than normal but I don’t have that data to hand.

      I cannot remember just how many sailings she missed but it was far less than many people would have you believe.

      Cheers, Paul

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — April 11, 2013 @ 10:32 am

  4. Paul,

    Todays blog shows the beauty of the NW Scotland & Islands, the difference 24hrs makes. You are right, something about being sent to sleep with the rocking of a ship.
    T – 29 days until I can get up for my fix :-).


    Comment by Arthur T Bomber Harris — April 10, 2013 @ 5:33 am

  5. i have said it before but what a great way to make a living, i have just joined a dsv in Brindisi and the weather is roasting! Enjoy!

    Comment by v8mbo — April 10, 2013 @ 3:42 pm

  6. Thanks for the reply about the Finlaggan Paul – I know well how rumours get around! People have their own view and often don’t take all the facts into account, as they’re not to hand. I’d still like to take a trip on her! Off to Islay then I guess!!

    Not a bad spell of weather right now, but looks like being rough on Sunday!

    Take Care!


    Comment by fingalextravaganza — April 11, 2013 @ 4:10 pm

    • Morning Fingal,

      as an acquaintance once said ‘islanders have it in their DNA to complain about CalMac’ 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — April 14, 2013 @ 9:11 am

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