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December 2021

News from Mallaig Harbour: December 2021

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Although we were hopeful at the end of last month that the Sprat pump was in place, to date it has not been needed – no Sprats have been landed, and the Caralisa has taken off their Sprat gear and gone back to the prawns for now. This is disappointing as a good Sprat fishery always gives a wee boost at the end of the year, and a bit of obvious activity on the Harbour, which we are missing.

We had ‘battened down the hatches’ in advance of the storm forecast for Friday 26th November – the school children had all been sent home early (ironically on the Western Isles boat ‘Arwen’, given that was the name of the storm), and the vessels had all been moved around the Harbour and pontoons to provide as much shelter as possible. In the end, although it was pretty stormy for a time, we didn’t have it nearly as bad as the East Coast, and we are pleased to report no damage was sustained anywhere within the Harbour.

The works to convert the old Denholms office in the Harbour Buildings are ongoing, but they are really starting to take shape now. There has been a bit of disruption as we are taking the chance to upgrade some of the other facilities, so we have been without a ladies’ room for the last week or so – thankfully the gents have been very gracious about sharing with us!! We’re all telling ourselves that the long term benefits will be worth the short term upheaval!

I attended a virtual meeting of the Northern Lighthouse Board Users Group at the beginning of the month, and one of the topics for discussion was the replacement of one of their vessels, and how this might be powered in the future. This was timely as there was lots of discussion around COP-26 about the development of Hydrogen as a fuel of the future, and Hydrogen is certainly one of the options for vessels. The International Maritime Organisation aims to make shipping ‘net-zero’ for carbon emissions by 2050. Although this seems like a long way off, any vessels built by 2030 are likely to still be sailing in 2050, so the transition has to start soon! It’s interesting how quickly the world can change – in 2016 when we published our Masterplan, there was very limited discussion about alternative ways of fuelling vessels, and what infrastructure this might require. However, this has to be very much at the forefront of any development plans now. COP-26, although it might have felt quite remote to Mallaig, has encouraged us to put some thought into future options for reducing the carbon footprint of the Harbour and our wider users.  We have started this process in a small way with the installation of the LED lights, and the shore power points, and I’m glad to say that the upgrade to our power supply mentioned last month is complete and we now have sufficient capacity for all the shore power points to be operational. We’re really grateful to HF Group who have been very helpful throughout the process, and who worked alongside SSE to ensure everything went smoothly.  

I mentioned last month the plans for the Coruisk to return to Mallaig next season. At the moment, there is still no clarity on this, and the proposed timetables are not due to be published until mid-January. This is causing concern for Tourism businesses locally and on Skye, who are fearful that the uncertainty will lead to reduces business, especially from coach parties who like to book well in advance. At the moment, it looks like the season will start with the Loch Bhrusda and Loch Fyne covering the Mallaig/Armadale run, and the Lord of The Isles only sailing between Mallaig and Lochboisdale, but with two sailings a day on three days of the week, allowing those travelling from Lochboisdale to the mainland to make a ‘day trip’. There will be some challenges for us as a Harbour in accommodating all these vessels, so we are looking at options for some minor works that can be done to improve berthing and marshalling space in the short term.

We had another visit from the Screen Machine on the 3rd and 4th December. One of the films shown was ‘Launch! – On the Seas with Scotland’s Lifeboats’. Directed by award-winning curator Shona Thomson, the film has been two years in the making with unprecedented access to the RNLI’s own archives. 1920s film is woven with 1960s colour promos and breath-taking digital video captured by RNLI crews’ 21st century helmet cameras whilst out on the wild sea. Launch! celebrates the dedication of Scotland’s volunteer crews and the communities that support them. If you didn’t get the chance to watch it in Mallaig, you can find out more information on the website,

Finally, I’d like to thank the Harbour staff who have once again supported the Community Council to put up the Christmas decorations, and wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year when it comes!

Jacqueline McDonell

News from Mallaig Harbour: November 2021

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The year has flown in and it’s already November. The ferries are back on their Winter timetable, and although it’s welcome news that we should have the Coruisk back in Mallaig next year, there is still some uncertainty about when the Utne will enter service on the Oban-Craignure run, enabling this to happen. As a result, it is unlikely that the Summer timetables for services from Mallaig will be published at the same time as other routes. This is frustrating for our tourism businesses, as it has knock-on effects for tour companies etc. At the moment, the intention is that the Lord of the Isles will provide a dedicated service between Mallaig and Lochboisdale, sailing twice a day on some days, and that the Mallaig-Armadale route will be served by the Coruisk, supported by the Loch Fyne. I don’t envy whoever has the task of making up the timetables – our wee linkspan in Mallaig will be in constant use with sailings to the Small Isles, Armadale and Lochboisdale all having to be timetabled in!

It’s the end of the season at the Marina as well, and our seasonal staff have stopped for the winter. We’re grateful to have had Gena looking after the shore facilities again, and Ruairidh stepping in to cover days off through the height of the summer. Although we still had social distancing restrictions in force for the start of the season this year, it has been a busy season, almost on a par with 2019. Overall, there were 1,405 nights occupied at the marina and 987 vessels used the facility in total this year, compared to 1,429 nights occupied and 1,125 vessels in 2019. We’ve seen a change in the usage this year, with very few foreign boats (understandably!) and more visiting yachts from the South of England who might not normally venture this far!

The Sprat pump arrived on Thursday 28th October, and was set up on Friday 29th, which is a sure sign Winter is on its way. The weather still feels quite mild for sprats, but there has been lots of birds visibly feeding in the waters round about so hopefully this is a good sign, and there will be a good fishing of Sprats!

It’s almost a year since our public meeting about the development proposals for the Outer Breakwater, and by the time you read this, our Marine Licence for the works will have been submitted. The next stage is to agree a final design and get the project out to tender. Although we had an idea of costs in January, construction prices have gone up so much since then that it’s difficult to know what the total cost might be. Putting the project out to tender will give us an accurate cost to seek funding early next year.

I had a week off in October to correspond with school holidays, and wasn’t in work when the Dunan Star foundered on rocks in Loch Nevis. Thankfully the crew were all safe, but unfortunately, when the vessel was being recovered, it sank. We have liaised with the UK Hydrographic Office to mark the position of the wreck.  We’re also pleased to report that our Lighthouse is back up and running – the replacement bulb was fitted on 15th October.

In more positive news, we are delighted that the works to convert the old Denholms office in the Harbour Buildings has started. Some of you will have seen the skip at the rear of the building, and lots of the initial work has been to strip out existing windows, walls and other fittings – including three safes – two of which were concreted in! Our plan is to make three smaller offices and a communal kitchen, with the intention that two of the offices will be leased long term, and the third will be used as a ‘co-working’ space where people can come and work for an hour, a day or however long they want, and there will also be scope for hosting small meetings.  

We weren’t organised enough this year to make our own Scarecrow for the Scarecrow trail, but we did host two jellyfish on the dinghy at the roundabout – so hopefully you spotted these. Thanks to Anna Fothergill for making them and sharing them with us. 

Some of you will also have seen SSE working around the pier over the last few weeks. Those of you in Mallaig will know that the power was out on 8th October, due to a number of faults, and as a result of this, the sub-station opposite the CalMac office is having to be completely replaced. We’re hopeful that the upgrade to our power supply to enable all the shore power points to be operational will happen on the back of this by mid-November.

Finally, just after I started at the Harbour, my news for September 2019 included a welcome to the soon to be renamed ‘Lucifer’ which was bought by Damian MacDonald. Damian renamed the boat the ‘Boy Harris’, and this week we watched her leave the harbour with her new owners, bound for a new home in Girvan, having been sold.    

Jacqueline McDonell