Three year old Blair Houston from Ardrishaig threw Santa Claus a curve ball in his Christmas wish list.
Bang at the top of the list was ‘the Portavadie ferry’ – not a picture, not a model, but the actual boat itself. We did say ‘ambitious’.
Even Santa and all his little helpers couldn’t quite round up a gift so huge – but, as we all know, Santa has an impressive Contacts Book and he knew just who to go to. He sent Dasher on a quick flight to Caledonian MacBrayne, which was only too happy to help and came up with a plan.
Then Storm Frank decided to throw a cosmic spanner in the works which meant that Blair’s Santa treat had to wait until after even New Year had come and gone.
Lawrence Allibone, skipper of MV Lochinvar, [‘the Portavadie ferry’ in question], says: ‘It’s not often we get a call from Santa.
‘In fact, I have to say we were pretty taken aback.
‘We did explain that we couldn’t just hand over the ferry as it would make lots of other people very sad – but we absolutely couldn’t disappoint our young fan either.
‘We decided that we’d love to have Blair on board with us on the bridge, helping us to sail his favourite ferry.’
S0 – when the time was right – the departure of Frank – Blair, with his mother, Ann Marie, father Craig [John Swinney lookalike and who, as co-owner, with brother Iain, of Houston Electrical, was keeping people’s lights on over the festive period] and sister Lexie, was invited on board the boat at Tarbert for a special round trip to Portavadie.
An additional surprise was that the staff at the brand new spa complex at the Portavadie resort also helped to make the day extra special by giving the family use of its lovely pool, with pizza and ice-cream [not thrown in but ‘thrown in’], before everyone got back on board, excited and tired by a great day.
‘As an honorary captain of MV Lochinvar for the day, young Blair absolutely found his sea legs – he even brought his own captain’s cap with him’, says full time Captain Lawrence. ‘He has sailed the route so often he was able to give us plenty of tips and keep us on course. He was absolutely fantastic and really helped me out.
‘He’ll make a fine captain one day. Maybe Santa will have a spare ferry for him by then?’
The family was thrilled with the adventure. Ann Marie said: ‘This has been such a total surprise for Blair – he is absolutely mad about CalMac and all the ferries and he’s chuffed to bits’ We honestly didn’t know what Santa was going to do when Blair announced he wanted the Portavadie ferry for Christmas – we thought maybe he might find a model.
‘I’m from Tarbert and we often watch the ferries coming and going when we’re visiting family – the Portavadie ferry is Blair’s favourite and he’s become quite an expert.
‘This has been much better than anything we could have hoped for. I’m sure he will be talking about it for a very long time. We just have to thank CalMac, Lawrence and all the crew on MV Lochinvar for making this dream come true – and Portavadie for such a fantastic fun and tasty treat.’