I was very interested in the story in the Ferry World section of the February 2018 issue of Sea Breezes referring to the ex-Western Ferries vessel, Sound of Islay – still operating in the Newfoundland and Labrador area at the ripe old age of 50.
I was one of the Masters on this vessel in the early seventies when she operated a ferry service from Campbeltown to Red Bay in Northern Ireland during the summer months and was on the charter market during the winter. She was originally built to operate between the Isle of Islay to Kennacraig in Argyll transporting trailer loads of whisky, but soon proved too small for the run and was superseded by the larger Norwegian built Sound of Jura.
At just under 150 feet in length, she was a very small vessel to operate across the sometimes very wild North Channel between Scotland and Northern Ireland, but we very rarely missed a sailing. Her capacity was only four 40ft trailers or about 22 cars and the passenger capacity was 93 if I recall correctly. The crew consisted of Master, Mate, Engineer and two Abs, supplemented by a young lady to operate the snack bar while on the Red Bay run.
During the winter months, we carried all kinds of Ro/Ro and Lo/Lo cargoes to a wide variety of ports up and down the Scottish West Coast and up to Orkney and Shetland. We were basically a Ro/Ro “puffer” and I am sure that Para Handy would have approved of what we did and how we did it. Our longest trip, during my time on the ship, was from Preston to Lerwick with a cargo of earth moving equipment to be used in constructing the oil field supply base just to the North of Lerwick harbour.
She was a fine little vessel with a very happy and dedicated crew and I am delighted that she is still proving of value to our Canadian cousins. The photo shows the ship lying in Scrabster harbour waiting for a crew change.
Thank you for an interesting magazine and special thanks to Robert Straughton for Ferry World which is the first section I turn to every month.
35 Strathspey Drive
Grantown on Spey, PH26 3EY