Monthly Archives

May 2020

News from Mallaig Harbour: May 2020

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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 info@mallaigharbourauthority.com 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

News from Mallaig Harbour: April 2020

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Who would have thought that when it came to writing this month’s news for WestWord that the world would have turned so upside down in a month!

March started for the Harbour Authority with a Board Meeting on Friday 6th, with an Agenda full of all the things that were going on, both in terms of maintenance and development. Some of you will have noted the works going on at the Loch Nevis berth. The metal facings have all been taken off and re-galvanised before being replaced. Unfortunately, the work is not quite finished, as local accommodation providers were forced to close, and the workmen had to leave before the work was completed. They have left the berth safe to lie alongside so that it doesn’t matter when they get back, but if any of you are wondering why the crane seems to have been down there for weeks, there is your answer!

I mentioned last month the additional sailings to Skye, and these were relatively busy for the first two weeks, until the travel restrictions were put in place. Sailings to Skye are now all cancelled until 14th April at the earliest, the Loch Nevis is on an amended timetable for essential travel only, and the Lord of The Isles is sailing to Oban, so the ferry pier is much quieter than normal, as is the whole harbour. You might also be wondering why the Loch Nevis is going back to its berth each night when there is no other ferry traffic, and the answer to that is in case the linkspan is needed to transport the ambulance to one of our remoter communities to deal with a case of Coronavirus.

The weather finally improved at the beginning of the month, and the boats managed a few days at sea. Unfortunately, with Italy, France and Spain in the grip of Coronavirus, there is no export market for their catch, and the cold stores in this country are full, so they are now all tied up. This has meant that we have emptied the ice plant, and switched it off for the time being. Now would be an ideal time for the planned maintenance that it is required, but the engineer can’t get here, so this will have to wait. All the parts have finally arrived, so we are hopeful the work will be done quickly when restrictions are lifted.

When the restrictions were initially implemented, we were asked how it would impact the Harbour. At that stage, things were running pretty much as normal – salmon still being harvested and fed, ferries still in operation, the Marina gearing up for the season ahead, and the fishing boats finally at sea for the first time this year. However, in a fortnight, much of this activity is now reduced, and although the Harbour is still open for essential services, we are running on a skeleton staff. Pimmy, Audrey and I are working from home wherever possible, and those pier staff who are still working are only onsite when required to be, not their normal 8am-5pm. We are trying to share as much relevant information as possible on our Facebook Page, and if you email us, we’ll respond as soon as we can.

Following the guidance from the Government, the Marina is closed to all but essential traffic. In line with the Road to the Isles Marketing Group, and the Small Isles and Knoydart, we are asking people not to travel to the area. We’ve added a statement to the website, https://mallaig-yachting-marina.com/news/, which includes links to guidance from Sail Scotland and the RYA, and our local communities only accessible by sea. For local residents, with a vessel moored on the pontoon year- round, then we recognise that it’s less straightforward. The guidance recognises that it’s important for people’s mental and physical well-being that they should be able to go out and exercise if they possibly can, the Government has made it clear that this exercise should only be taken locally to home and within the guidelines for social distancing.  

Please take this into consideration before deciding whether to use your boat, and please be mindful that the Small Isles and Knoydart are asking non-residents NOT TO VISIT at this time.

I’m not going to bother with my monthly plug for the Year of Coasts and Waters 2020, as events have overtaken us. In partnership with the Road to the Isles Marketing Group, we had submitted a funding application for a programme of events leading up to a Maritime Day in June, but this involved the local schools and other community groups, so is not really feasible in the current climate. The funding was due to be announced by the end of March, so we are hopeful that the whole process can be postponed rather than cancelled altogether.

On a more positive note, the Strategic Transport Appraisal (STAG) for Mallaig and Armadale is now complete, and we had a positive meeting with Transport Scotland about the way forward for Mallaig Harbour. CMAL, as the pier owner at Armadale, will take forward the infrastructure works for Armadale, and Mallaig Harbour Authority will have to take forward any works for Mallaig. There are a few differences between the preferred option in the STAG, and the preferred option from MHA’s Masterplan, and we were keen to impress on Transport Scotland the need for commercial opportunities to be included in any development, a message that seemed to be understood. I’ve included artist’s impressions of the two schemes so that you can compare them.

I hope this month’s news is not too depressing! We realise that we are more fortunate in the Harbour Authority than many of the local businesses who rely entirely on Tourism, and we are definitely all lucky to live in such resilient communities, and in communities where everyone takes care to look out for one another. We’ve been receiving a range of information and updates about support for business through the Coronavirus crisis, whether financial or in terms of policies etc. so if anyone locally would like us to share any of these with them, then please just get in touch.

Jacqueline McDonell , CEO