Well, that is a mad 36 hours we've just had here in Lewis. Yesterday, Friday, the MV Isle of Lewis, limped into port two hours late after developing a fault in her engine. She had only managed to complete one of her scheduled three return crossings to Ullapool. Whilst the engineers went to work to fix her exhaust system, passengers piled up at the ferry terminal only to be told there would be no ferry services at all on Friday. This was nothing short of a disaster. We're currently hosting the Hebridean Celtic Festival (with about 8,000 visitors in Stornoway & environs), and many of them will have been on their way here, or on their way back to the mainland. Some people managed to divert to Tarbert, Harris, to cross to Skye. Compounding the situation was the fact that the Isle of Lewis had carried 200 passengers on a daytrip to Stornoway, who had intended to return to the mainland on the scheduled 7pm crossing. They now had to be put up in Stornoway, whilst there was not a spare bed left due to the Hebridean Celtic Festival. Some unfortunates were reduced to sleeping in the ferry terminal, or in sleeping bags outside. Just as well it's summer, and not desperately cold at night.
Whilst this mayhem was going on, Calmac organised a relief vessel (in the shape of the Isle of Arran) to take over on the Stornoway to Ullapool run. On Friday evening, it was still doing the Kennacraig to Islay run; by 11 o'clock on Saturday morning, she was up here. Also on Friday evening, the Hebrides (which normally plies from Uig in Skye to Tarbert or Lochmaddy) sailed to Ullapool to help clear a backlog of vehicles which had built up on the mainland.
Loaded to the gunwhales, the Isle of Arran bravely sailed to Ullapool shortly before midday. Passengers were reported sitting on the ground, as there was no seating left for some. Checking shipais.com a minute ago, I was pleasantly surprised to see the Isle of Lewis steaming into the Minch, headed for Ullapool. It is due back at 4.30 this morning, preceded at 3.00 am by the Isle of Arran.
The Sunday sailings are certainly getting off with a bang, with no fewer than two ferries coming in first thing on a Sunday - the first scheduled Sunday service will depart as billed at 2.30pm tomorrow afternoon.