Islay disappointed with Tall Ships response

The group of volunteers who run the pontoons at Port Ellen had, with no help from Argyll and Bute Council, done all they could to bring world attention and fun for all to their home island.

They has made Port Ellen a guest port for the Tall Ships 2011 cruise-in-company from Greenock to Lerwick. This is a relaxing sail for the ships in between the first race from Waterford in  Ireland’s sunny south east to Greenock on the Clyde and the second and Viking race from Lerwick in Shetland to in Norway.

Ships have the choice of a range of ports en route to go into for a day or three’s rest and relaxation. THree Argyll ports are acting in this capacity – Campbeltown, Oban and Port Ellen.

Islay had been expecting between 13 and 17 of the tall ships fleet that had booked to come in to Port Ellen.

Then yesterday (12th July 2011), when the fleet left Greenock in the Parade of Sail and strugggled to make headway in light winds towards their respective destinations, ships had to rip up their plans and make new arrangements.

Campbeltown’s ships, expected last night, arrived this morning. Oban woke to find two unexpected additions to their list coming in to the bay.

Islay found out that its familiar visitor, the sail training ship, Lord Nelson, which pays special attention to hosting disabled crew members, was left without time to come in to Port Ellen and was having to head straight on north to Lerwick.

That was fine. They’d have loved to have seen her again but she had let them know what was happening to her.

Others didn’t bother. The folk at Port Ellen waited. They saw ships passing on their way north into the Sound of Jura.

They had six ships:

  • Poland’s 50 metre three masted barquentine, Pogoria, for the morning and afternoon but she left tonight (13th July) at 18.00.
  • Belgium’s 28 metre ketch, Zenobe Gramme
  • Belgium’s 20 metre two masted gaff schooner, Rupel
  • Netherlands’ 18 metre sloop, Sirma
  • Belgium’s 12 metre sloop, Miles To Go
  • Latvia’s 17 metre sloop, Spaniel

The John Laing and the Alba Explorer phoned in to let them know they wouldn’t be coming in – and that was it. The rest were no shows.

Port Ellen had arranged a football match between a Tall Ships crew team and a local team – and had bought a trophy – The Tall Ships Cup – and medals to present to the winning team.

They had a ceilidh arranged for tonight.

They had a first class water taxi on hand to ferry crews ashore and back to their boats – the 12 metre Red Bay RIB operated by Nicol Mackinnon for the Jura passenger ferry.

This evening (13th July) they find themselves virtually all dressed up with nowhere to go.

They’ll have to scramble together a second local football team so that they can have a game and award the cup. The heart has gone out of the ceilidh and indeed of their participation in the entire event.

They are asking themelves why they bothered.

As volunteers, their only revenue comes from the modest fees paid by visiting yachts to the pontoons. They will certainly be out of pocket at the end of this event.

But the biggest upset is experiencing the rudeness with boats not even bothering to let them know they had changed their plans.

Islanders are courteous folk. This is not their way and they don’t expect it of others. They’d have been disappointed anyway but this way they’re left flat and empty where they’d worked to create the sort of warm welcome for visitors Islay is famed for delivering.

This leaves a bit of a sour taste and the event seems hollower than it did this morning.

Update 15th July 2011

The Islay Boys team won a lively and enjoyable football team against a team from the crew of the Alba Explorer – so the Tall Ships Cup is staying on the island.

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