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.