I'm sure a lot of people on Islay remember the Sound of Islay ferry very well. The Sound of Islay ferry, operated by Western Ferries and was the company's first ferry, serviced the island in the late 1960s. The Sound of Islay was ordered from Ferguson Brothers of Port Glasgow. She was designed to carry 20 cars or a combination of cars and commercial vehicles and was one of the first Ro-Ro (roll-on Roll-off ) ferries. Later, when the Sound of Jura serived the Kennacraig to Islay route the Sound of Islay serviced the Campbeltown (Scotland) to Red Bay (Northern Ireland) route. The ship continued to operate a summer service until 1973 and spent the winter on charter work all up and down the West Coast carrying every conceivable kind of cargo provided it was legal. She acted as relief vessel to Islay when the Sound of Jura was going to drydock. When the Sound of Jura was sold in 1976, she returned to the Islay service until September 1981 when she was sold to Canadian owners.
Arra Fletcher sent me a link a couple of weeks ago with information about the Sound of Islay and where she sails at this moment. Arra has fond memories of the ferry and he remembers his trips on the ship quite well when he was a young boy. The ferry now sails in Newfoundland in Canada and Arra sent me a link to a news item from October 2006 which contains the following information: Continue reading.....
A replacement ferry brought in last week to serve an island off Newfoundland's northeast coast has broken down. The Sound of Islay, which was put on the run to the island of St. Brendan's in Bonavista Bay, was pulled out of service Saturday when it developed troubles with its gearbox. The Sound of Islay is a member of Newfoundland and Labrador's aging ferry fleet, which has been flagged as dangerously outmoded.
Despite the fact that the ferry had been flagged dangerously outmoded in 2006 she is still sailing the islands in Canada, given a report I read today on a Canadian website. Another quote about the Sound of Islay's whereabouts and the problem she has with lots of ice:
Ice is a boat's natural enemy, but the new ferry to St. Brendan's is especially vulnerable to it. The Sound of Islay has zero tolerance for ice, and St. Brendan's mayor Kevin O'Reilly said that may cause problems when ice comes into Burnside harbour, where the ferry docks on the mainland. "If you get a half a dozen pans of ice, and the wind from the north east, they tend to collect in little places like the harbour of Burnside, and that's all you need," he said. The Sound of Islay was previously servicing the Little Bay Islands route in Notre Dame Bay, but with pack ice moving into Notre Dame Bay, the Sound of Islay was sent to St. Brendan's on Feb. 5 and the St. Brendan's ferry, the Hamilton Sound, was sent to Little Bay Islands. While the Hamilton Sound is resistant to ice, the 41-year-old Sound of Islay is not. Mayor O'Reilly said pack ice doesn't reach Burnside until April, but it's not the only kind of ice that fills the bay. About 70 people in the 150-person community staged a protest on Jan. 31 against the change in ferries. They held up the Hamilton Sound, which was scheduled to move to Little Bay Islands that day.
If you read the entire article you can see that the problems Islay had, or still have, are not unique to this part of the world. Canada faces the same problems when it comes to operating a decent ferry service to communities on remote islands. On Islay the wind plays an important roll and Canada struggles with huge amounts of ice. It's good to hear though that the Sound of Islay ferry is still serving island communities after 41 year of service!