We’re all adjusting a bit to the new ‘normal’ around the Harbour, and although it feels very strange to not have the usual ‘hustle and bustle’ that would have been associated with Easter, we are fortunate in lots of ways that there is still some activity around the Harbour.
As I mentioned last month, the pier staff are not on-site all the time, and Audrey, Pimmy and I are working from home as much as possible. We are trying to keep the office staffed on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9am until 1pm.
Our fishing fleet are mostly tied up, as the market hasn’t really picked up again yet. There has been lots of lobbying for financial support for fishermen, and this is starting to filter through now. It’s been unfortunate in many ways that April was such a good month of weather this year, and it must be really frustrating for those who make their living from fishing to have calm weather and not be able to take advantage of it.
CalMac are still operating their essential lifeline timetable, which means no sailings to Skye, no calls from the Lord of the Isles, and sailings to the Small Isles only on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. This timetable is extended to 14th May at the moment, but CalMac are offering refunds to anyone who had booked sailings with them up until 15th July, so it is likely that it will be extended further.
Western Isles Cruises are also operating a lifeline timetable, with one sailing to Inverie on a Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Both CalMac and Western Isles Cruises have made great use of their Social Media – possibly in a slightly different way to normal – over the last month, keeping interested parties engaged and offering a wee ‘virtual glimpse’ of how things are operating. The Road to The Isles Marketing Group have also been very active on social media, providing ‘virtual postcards’ from the area, for those who can’t be with us at the moment. West Coast Waters are still running their sunset competition, with some great prizes. There have been some cracking sunsets this month – so get your entries in! They are also asking people to ‘immerse their senses’ in the sights, sounds, tastes, textures and aromas of Scotland’s West Coast Waters, focussing on a different sense each week and starting with sight.
We are lucky to have a range of great businesses operating from the Harbour, not just in fishing and marine tourism, who are all trying to make the best of the situation. This includes those businesses servicing the Aquaculture industry, and Scottish Sea Farms and MOWI who are trying to maintain operations as far as possible, with appropriate modifications.
The Marina remains closed to all visiting yachts. Part of the responsibility of the Harbour is to provide a safe berth if required, and, after discussion, we allowed a yacht from outwith the Harbour to come alongside the pontoon to take aboard a new battery on 15th April. We didn’t do this lightly, and we were aware that the yacht had been anchored off Isleornsay for three weeks before coming into Mallaig so any risk of infection would have been minimal. Unfortunately, the battery did not arrive when promised, which resulted in the yacht having to stay an extra night. We know that this caused some consternation locally, but please be reassured that we had thought carefully about the implications before allowing the boat access.
We haven’t gone as far as other Marinas in completely closing the gates and not allowing people access to their vessels, as we recognise that no-one locally using the pontoon has to travel a distance to do so, and that it is important for people to be able to access their boats to do essential maintenance and safety checks. We are aware that the RYA is lobbying for access to Marinas and is developing a ‘Return to Boating’ strategy, so Mallaig Harbour Authority will continue to monitor the situation and react to guidance as it is updated. In the meantime, we are relying on our users to act responsibly and follow existing guidance.
We had some big tides at the start of the month, and on the 9th April, low tide was 0.0 – right back to chart datum. It’s not often you will see the pontoon grounded!
CMAL have now published the Mallaig / Armdale STAG on their website, so if you have some time to spare, you can download the whole report from https://www.cmassets.co.uk/project/armadale-and-mallaig/. I would warn that it is 253 pages long! If you just want to look at the drawings for Mallaig, they start on Page 143, (which is actually page 152 of the download). On the website you will also see a request for those who would like to be considered as stakeholders for the project as it progresses in Mallaig to email firstname.lastname@example.org to register as a stakeholder. This is important as, because CMAL led on the process to this stage, Mallaig Harbour Authority does not have contact details for those who were involved to date, and we are aware that there may be wider interest in how the project progresses.
Finally, we had a request from the British Ports Association for boats to get involved with #clapforcarers on a Thursday evening. I shared the request on our Facebook page, and Audrey contacted some of the regular users of the Harbour, and we have been consistently amazed at the response each Thursday. It really is quite humbling to hear, and on one week, it was such a still night and there was such a great response that we had a message from Skye from someone in Sleat who was delighted to hear the boats sounding their horns. There are so many people who are responsible for keeping the country going as well as possible through all this, not least those working in and around the Harbour to keep the Small Isles and Knoydart in supplies and to ensure that the food chain keeps moving, some of them on the boats that are making time in their routine to join the tooting – and we are grateful to all of them!
Jacqueline McDonell, CEO