Things are slowly getting back to normal around the Harbour, with a bit more activity than in previous months.
We’ve re-opened the Marina, from 26th April, with additional COVID-19 protocols in place. We’ve welcomed back Gena MacLean for the season, and although it has been a quiet start, with only one or two yachts each day, we’re delighted to be able to accommodate yachts again, and it’s nice to hear the extra ‘chatter’ on the VHF. We’re aware that the Government is encouraging anyone travelling to the islands to take a COVID-19 test prior to going, so we are encouraging those travelling by yacht to do the same.
The CalMac Summer timetable began on 26th April, although the issues with the Loch Seaforth mean that the Lord of the Isles is operating from Oban until at least 17th May, which means that there is no Mallaig/Lochboisdale service at the moment, and only the Loch Fyne is operating from Mallaig, restricting capacity on the Mallaig/Armadale route. This year’s timetable was scheduled to have less sailings than previous years, with the Lord of the Isles departing earlier in the afternoon for Lochboisdale, so it will be interesting to see the impact of this on tourism locally as the season progresses. Western Isles Cruises begin running their full timetable on 3rd May, but with changes to the one-hour cruises to reflect the change in the Steam Train times, so check the website to book!
The passenger shelter has been installed, and we have purchased transit wheelchairs and two trollies to help with transporting shopping and luggage up and down the ramp. The storage shed for these is en-route, but won’t arrive until June, so bear with us until then! Niki Robertson worked with Falco to come up with the design for the shelter – which we are delighted with – so hopefully the users will agree!
The shore power ‘boxes’ are another new addition to the pier and will take a wee bit of getting used to in terms of vehicle movements around them. We’re very grateful to Paul and Owen Harrold, and to HF Electrical, who have pulled out all the stops to deliver the system within the tight timescale imposed for us to access the funding. Ian Coates kindly gave us a copy of the booklet produced for the inauguration of the New Harbour Facilities for Fishing Vessels on 20th September 1972. Under ‘Lighting and Electrical Work’, the booklet states that, “The whole harbour electrical system has been renewed…. A new switchroom adjacent to the ice factory on the Steamer Pier distributes the incoming supply to the lighting system and new buildings. The switchroom also houses two D.C. rectifier units for shore to ship supply. Ducts in the new pier carry relayed TV to ship connection points at 5O ft. Centres. It must have been very modern at the time – almost 50 years on and we have just installed new shore power. No need for the relayed TV though – who would have imagined 50 years ago that TV would be beamed wirelessly from satellites, and that you could watch programmes on your phone!
This month we have been awarded funding from Highlands and Islands Enterprise towards the pre-construction costs associated with the proposed development in the Outer Harbour. This will allow us to undertake some more preparatory work, including more investigation to see how deeply the Harbour could be dredged, with a view to tenders being ready to be issued in November. The Marine Licencing process is ongoing in the background, and we are hopeful that this will be resolved by the time tenders are issued. We will then be in a position to assemble a funding package for the project. In the meantime, we are continuing to progress smaller developments such as those mentioned above, as and when we can.
The timetable for easing of restrictions in Scotland highlighted 17th May as a potential date for cinemas to re-open, and we are keeping everything crossed that this is the case, as Mallaig is scheduled for a visit from the Screen Machine at the end of that week. Our previous two scheduled visits have had to be cancelled – in November because of the weather, and in January because of the lockdown so let’s hope that it’s third time lucky!
Our AGM is due to be held on Friday 18th June. This meeting is open to the public, and if at all possible, we would like to host it in person. We’ll provide more details next month, and on our Facebook page nearer the time, but if you are interested in what is going on, then please make a note of the date now.