Wednesday, 8 February 2006

Maritime visitors

<![CDATA[ Over the past summer season, about 16 cruiseliners came into port. I have put pictures of some of them in the below gallery. One gained notoriety in 2003 when she was quarantained at Greenwich for hygiene problems. Nonetheless, the captain weighed anchor at 3 am and hightailed it for his homeport of Bremen, Germany. On board another cruiseliner, passengers encountered bad weather when rounding Cape Wrath. An Italian lady was not having the time of her life in a force 8 gale, so she rang her sister in Italy. She in turn got so concerned that she rang the Coastguard in Rome, who in turn contacted Aberdeen Coastguard as they assumed the ship was in danger of sinking. Aberdeen CG spoke to the ship's Master, who assured them that although conditions were unpleasant, the ship was quite safe and in no danger of sinking.
Another cruiseliner was detained in Stornoway by bad weather at the end of August 2005. A severe gale blew up overnight, and the master decided to postpone sailing for a day.

Alexander von Humboldt
Black Prince
Anchored off Arnish
Black Prince at no 1 Pier
Prinsendam off Holm Point
Bremen at number 3 pier
Astoria off Arnish
Arion stormbound in August '05

It depends on the size of the ship whether she can moor alongside one of the town's piers. Larger ships anchor in the Glumag, and the largest off Sandwick and Holm. Tenders (read: the ship's lifeboats) take the passengers ashore. A fleet of coaches usually await them, to take them all over the island. Having spoken to some passengers, it would appear that they can choose from a variety of destinations, including the Callanish Stones, Gearrannan Black House Village, the Arnol Blackhouse etc. Arrival time is commonly early in the morning, departure time early evening. In the meantime, everybody goes off on their own whirlwind tours. Cruiseline passengers are easily recognised, as they stand about, looking lost, perusing plans of the town and generally dressed for the weather they have been led to expect. Not necessarily the weather it actually is.

Other maritime visitors include the Coastguard tug Anglian Prince, the BP tanker Border Heather, SFPA [Scottish Fishery Protection Agency] vessels and navy boats. An Icelandic boat has come in twice to deliver road salt. One of the first posts on this blog concerned the Celtic Spirit, which had developed a list as a result of shifting cargo. But let's not forgot the ferry Isle of Lewis (currently the Clansman as the Isle of Lewis is away for refit) and its much maligned freight counterpart Muirneag.

Participants in Sail Hebrides 2005
Coastguard tug Anglian Prince
MY Air in the Glumag
Lazy Corner on the first decent day after a week of gales
Lazy Corner during a storm
Arctic Jotun
Isle of Lewis ferry in the Minch
View of Stornoway; MV Muirneag to the right
MV Clansman

The resident fishing fleet can be seen coming and going most times of the day or night. A few weeks ago, after a week of gales, three Irish vessels from Sligo left port, with a severe gale still on the go. One of them had a lot of trouble rounding Arnish Point, and had seas washing over its decks. On good days, Lazy Corner (the fishing boats' moorings) in the Inner Harbour is empty. On bad days, it's full of boats.

Recently, the Arctic Jotun, a small yacht, called into port for repairs. It had started from Alaska in 2003, intending to sail the North West Passage round Northern Canada. It had become stranded in ice over two winters, before finally managing to break free last summer. On crossing the Atlantic from Cap Farvel [southern Greenland] to Norway, it encountered a storm, and quite a few of its windows got smashed. The two huskies on board were not allowed ashore, but they managed to escape and ran round the quayside by Amity House. After a bit of a chase, they were caught, put back on the boat and its owner served with an official notice that he could face prosecution on repeat. Dogs (and certain other mammals) are not allowed in the UK from overseas, unless they are certified rabies free. Otherwise, they require to be quarantained for 6 months.

Back in June 2005, a large yacht, measuring about 3,300 tonnes, was anchored in the Glumag, off Arnish, for seatrials. A long distance shot is included in the second gallery, above. It arrived on a Friday evening, and nothing much happened over the weekend. On Monday, its on-board helicopter (yep, you read that correctly) whirred off to Stornoway Airport to pick up its crew of 26. They were all decked out in ship's uniforms, and there is a specific medical kit on board as well. Its propulsion system is unique (information courtesy Internet). On arrival, the boat had been launched only a week before. It subsequently turned up at Tobermory, and is rumoured to belong to the wealthy owner of chocolate brand Ferrero Rocher.

All in all, although it's not a busy port, there is always something happening in Stornoway. ]]>

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