I thought why not start with Islay blogging about the ferry, the vessel that takes me to and from Islay. Most of the times the ferry takes me to Port Askaig but this time only to and from Port Ellen, which was by choice, but if I'd booked a ferry to Port Askaig I would have ended up in Port Ellen anyway. Why? A couple of weeks ago the MV Isle of Arran ferry was hit by a very strong gust of wind and was blown against the linkspan at Port while manouvering. This collission resulted in a damaged linkspan, the hinges are dislocated, and repairs are necessary to get it back in operation again. These repairs started last week and will last at least eight weeks according to the Argyll and Bute Council and resulted in the diversion of all ferry traffic to Port Ellen. The picture below is taken last week when the works started.
The damage is clearly visible. The three blue metal hinges have to be replaced.
The fact that all ferries are sailing to and from Port Ellen is not a major inconvenience for most people. From what I understand it is mostly affecting the people who live/visit the Isle of Jura and it can also affect foot passengers who come off the ferry at Port Ellen and find the Islay bus at Port Askaig doing its usual route. Another more serious side effect can occur during severe weather. When the wind is too strong for the ferry to enter Port Ellen she can not divert to Port Askaig which means that disruptions are more likely. Let's hope the weather will be kind to the travellers and businesses in the weeks to come until the repairs are finished. You can read the latest updates from the revamped Calmac Website.
Another way to stay up to date on the ferry status is a new application for the iPhone which you can find in the iTunes Store under Calmac. A version for other operating systems such as Android, my personal favourite, is on its way and will be released shortly into the Android Market. I think this is a very welcome initiative, especially for people outside the UK who travel in Scotland and can't receive the Calmac text alerts on their mobile phone.