There is yet more news of enterprising Argyll businesses ramping up their services on the water.
This time, it’s Campbeltown’s Kintyre Express – a pioneer of small fast passenger ferries running between Campbeltown, Ballycastle on the Irish Antrim coast and Port Ellen in Islay – is on the brink of getting a new boat into service in its fleet.
The Kintyre Express team took KE4, their most recent boat, over to Redbay today, 13th April 2016, to see their new boat – KE5 – enter the water for the first time and to put it through its paces.
KE5 is the first of its kind, a 13 metre Stormforce Rib – from the renowned Redbay Boats in Cushendall on Northern Ireland’s Antrim coast, the company that has built all of the Kintyre Express fleet.
As the photographs show – taken by Neil Brown, with Conor McLaughlin from Redbay Boats on drone control – KE5‘s proportion has produced a boat that seems much bigger again than her comparative length advantage alone would have seemed possible. Her cabin is much higher than KE4‘s, giving more headroom to add to the sense of space which is more generous all round.
She is a substantial and impressive craft with something of a luxury feel in her weather shelter above the door from the cabin on to her broad stern deck.
Reports today from the Kintyre Express team suggest that her running is quieter and her sea keeping rewarding.
Colin Craig, owner and Managing Director of Kintyre Express and her parent company West Coast Motors, couldn’t make it to Cushendall today – but after speaking to Hadyn Chambers, senior skipper at Kintyre Exress and Dougie Martin, the plant manager, says: ‘I’m so relieved to hear performance was good and she appears to be right in terms of drive train and overall design.’
Redbay Boats said: ‘The new Redbay Stormforce was dipped into the water today for the first time, fitted with twin 400hp marine diesels linked to Konrad drives. We are extremely pleased with the handling, sea keeping and performance of our new model.’
KE5’s maiden voyage may be an especially exciting one [be patient]. She will then go into service on the Campbeltown-Ballycastle and Ballycastle-Port Ellen routes, as well as doing charters.
Haydn Chambers was over at Redbay before the Kintyre Express team arrived – and was sending them a running commentary of the boat being lifted onto the trailer for launching.
As you can see, Haydn certainly put KE5 to the test in her first run out. She’s well heeled over in that shot of the long curving turn she’s making.
KE5 is clearly going to be a major addition to the Kintyre Express fleet in the coming season. Like her smaller sisters, she carries 12 passengers – but her roominess and relatively greater comfort promise a different feel to the passage – and she will have a lot of attractions for the charter market. [Are men genetically programmed to be obsessed with what’s under the bonnet?]
It has been a cracking week for serious new investment by Argyll’s maritime tourism businesses. This direction of travel in support for activity tourism is very good to see. It is a perfect fit for Argyll – whose life originally centred on the water and which was the headquarters of the legendary Lords of the Isles, dominating the seas from the Isle of Man to the Outer Hebrides.
Last week, the Majestic Line named its new boat, the commissioned steel-hulled newbuild, Glen Etive, joining the converted trawlers, Glen Massan and Glen Tarsan in a three vessel fleet for the company that pioneered small ship luxury cruising in Scottish waters. Glen Etive is now offering ten day cruises which include St Kilda.
The Glen Etive was named with Argyll Cruising’s Splendour watching from her own berth at the Holy Loch Marina in Dunoon. This is another great vessel operated by a former employee of Majestic Line – Iain Duncan, offering four en suite cabins for intimate small vessel cruises – and, as with Majestic, with great food a signal part of the proposition.
Today there was news that Denice Punler and her husband are establishing the Royal Scottish Shipping Line, with a 33 metre luxury superyacht, Spirit of Fortitude, filling the gap in the market provision between the smaller vessels of the Majestic Line and Argyll Cruising and the 73 metre Hebridean Princess at the larger end.
Spirit of Fortitude is to be a based in Oban and will focus on the charter market.