BBC Scotland’s evening news report on the strike of RMT members which brought 16 of CalMac’s 26 west coast ferry services to a halt today [26th June], saw a clip of Oban’s Coastal Connections, Cameron Smith at the wheel, on passage from Mull to Oban, carrying urgent travellers stranded by the strike.
Coastal Connections has been running a fast 12-seater ferry service between Oban and Mull today – matching the normal CalMac timetable – enabling people with an urgent need to travel between these two destinations to do just that.
Operated by the experienced and well qualified twin brothers, Cameron and Struan Smith, Coastal Connections offers a range of maritime services from private and commercial charters, to wildlife and castles tours to crew transfers.
Their services have ranged from Northern Ireland to St Kilda, so there’s not much of the Scottish coast they don’t know.
Working out of Oban and hearing at first hand the individual stories of the impact of being unable to travel between Oban and Mull today, the first day of the weekend and the day the schools break-up, the Smiths decided to run an emergency service themselves. By matching the CalMac timeable in their 30 minute passage, they aimed to make it as easy as possible for needy folk to know just when they could make the trip.
On Islay, another independent maritime services specialist, Islay Sea Safari’s Nicol Mackinnon, was doing emergency runs between the islands and to the mainland, including ferrying over to Islay the police officers on duty there for the visit earlier today of Prince Charles to Ardbeg Distillery, marking its 200th anniversary this year.
Nicol is seen above [a few years ago], second from left, having delivered managers from Whyte and Mackay to the Isle of Jura Distillery and into the hands of Distillery Manager, Willie Cochrane, left.
As well as his own Islay Sea safari, offering seaborne distillery visits, inter island passages, wildlife tours and custom charters, Nicol also operates the Jura Passenger Ferry – a fantastically convenient and scenic service from Tayvallich on Loch Sween to Craighouse on Jura – a seriously must-do trip.
Great to see these enterprising spirits at work in – and between – Argyll and the Isles. Interestingly, both of these companies use RedBay Stormforce RIBs, as does the Kintyre Express service between Campeltown and Ballycastle on the coast of Northern Ireland and between Ballycastle and Islay.