View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Tuesday 25 February

The morning started so innocent and calm, not a cloud in the sky and all the rest of it. However, here we are, six hours later, and it is overcast and looking like serious rain in the next five minutes.

I was speaking to a passenger who had travelled on the ferry from Ullapool yesterday. Apparently, the MV Isle of Arran does not have enough space for all the vehicles that need to come across, so they are loaded on the MV Clipper Ranger whilst their drivers and passengers go on the Arran. Once at Stornoway, the passengers disembark at the ferry terminal and are then bussed to pier number 1 to be reunited with their vehicles. I was also told that the MV Isle of Lewis got a battering on the Friday morning crossing from Stornoway to Ullapool, with all the plates and crockery broken - my experience on the ferry is that whenever it gets rough the crockery gets smashed.

Monday 24 February

A very sunny day here in Stornoway, haven't had one of those for ages. The barometer is rising, as is the thermometer. We may even see double-digits this afternoon. Better enjoy it, as rain is due in during the evening.

Energy Minister Fergus Ewing is pushing for the interconnector (subsea high voltage cable) to get installed. It could cost £800m ($1.3bn, €1bn) to be laid across 50 miles of sea, and 50 miles of land from Dundonnell to Beauly. Mr Ewing says it will help to alleviate fuel poverty in the Western Isles. What a load of tosh. If this infernal thing gets installed, we won't get a penny off our electricity bills. The only ones to financially gain from it will be the energy companies - our islands will not benefit, they will only lose. Did I say I was against?

Typical Hebridean day. Started off sunny, cloud bubbled up after lunchtime and now we're having showers.

Saturday 22 February

Right, a new permutation in the dance of the ferry boats. The MV Isle of Lewis is hovering just off Achiltibuie in Loch Broom, but the good ole MV Isle of Arran is ploughing its way across the Minch - providing they dare venture beyond Rudha Reidh.

Well, that has turned into a nasty wet and windy afternoon. The MV Isle of Arran made it into port half an hour late (she is slower than the Isle of Lewis) and is currently on its way back to the mainland. Pleased about events in Ukraine, but situation still in a state of flux and potentially hazardous. Do have a reasonable sense of optimism about it - but we shall see what we shall see.

Galeforce southerly winds this evening, with persistent heavy rain. The poor ole MV Isle of Arran is gallantly ploughing her way across the Minch this evening, trailing green smoke from its long suffering passengers. Am not expecting her back until 10pm.

Sunday 23 February

Wet and windy this morning, but that's pretty much par for the course here. And you know me, I'll never complain about a good blow. All sailings between Stornoway and Ullapool were cancelled. A large Norwegian fishing boat came in, the Rav.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Friday 21 February

The MV Isle of Lewis is back on its run to Ullapool, but sailings promptly get cancelled for the rest of the day. This afternoon, the weather is poor, but this evening's crossing is called off due to technical reasons. Isn't that great? The boat is only just out of drydock, and it sounds as if it needs to go straight back in! It later transpires that the boat had trouble with its rudder.

I was horrified to learn that copies of Anne Frank's Diary had been vandalised in libraries in Japan. Japan may not have Jewish settlements, or a historical Jewish community. However, Japan has never apologised for the atrocities committed in Eastern Asia during WW2 (unlike Germany). Its emperor was allowed go evade prosecution, although he could be said to be responsible - as all the atrocities committed by the Empire of Japan were committed in his name. Deeply concerned.

Well, that was a day of mixed fortunes. After a decent start, we had a spell of heavy rain or showers, followed by a clearance towards sunset. I am pleased they reached a deal in Ukraine, under duress by the sound of it, and no guarantees for it holding.

Thursday 20 February

A wet morning here in Stornoway, but not excessively windy. Nothing new in the news either, fighting in Kiev, water leaks at Fukushima - at least there is progress in the refurbishment of Lews Castle. Afternoon improved quite a bit, after a handful of beefy showers. No complaints this end.

Read in the local paper that the island of Barra is thinking of defecting to Argyll & Bute Council (I think it's about 100 miles to the southeast of the island) as Barraich do not feel that the local authority Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council) serves it properly. This follows the rejection of an application to reinstate the airlink between Barra and Benbecula, which was severed in earlier budget cuts. I somehow do not think it is such a good idea to revert to the old Inverness-shire type set-up that existed until 1975. The southern isles were very poorly served by Inverness-shire, which was only interested in the town of Inverness. Barra has strong connections to the mainland port of Oban (in Argyll & Bute).

Wednesday 19 February

The pier bashing in Stornoway continues, with the live fish carrier Ronja Viking and the gastanker Sigas Laura joining the ranks of our illustrious ferries to collide with pier no 1.

More importantly, the travel review site Tripadvisor has rated the Outer Hebrides as one of the top 10 island holiday destinations in the world. That is a nice boost for tourism, which is the mainstay of the local economy.

Monday 17 February

Councillor Donald Crichton has expressed his concern about the ordnance that was washed up on Gress Beach last week. It turned out to be a French flare grenade from Operation Joint Warrior, which is held twice a year around the northwest of Scotland. Can I just say, in connection with this letter from Cllr Crichton, that in my view the MoD takes the issues of unexploded ordnance extremely seriously? In the firing range off Faraid Head, near Durness in Sutherland, divers go down on a regular basis to check for unexploded ordnance. Any batch of explosives is bound to contain a number of items that fail to go off. Operation Joint Warrior has been held for quite a few years off these islands, and (to my recollection) has not led to a regular appearance of dud ordnance on our shores. In other words, don't get your knickers in a twist.

Cloud has moved up from the south this morning, following a clear and very cold night. The overnight low was -2C, one of the few nights with frost we have had this winter so far.

Tuesday 18 February

Fairly bright day, with some sunny spells. Been watching the dismantling of an old fishing boat, the SY882 Flowing Stream over on Goat Island. Today, a large crane was deployed to remove the engine from the wreck.

I was profoundly irritated by the phenomenon of Google Plus, Google's answer to Facebook. After putting one of my Gmail contacts onto Google Plus, this promptly displayed my entire address book to the person concerned, who is not involved in any of my on-line activities, and does not want to know about it. The result will be that I am closing my Google Plus account on 1st March. At least on Facebook I have some measure of control over who sees my contacts.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Images of Point

And after a backlog of posts and a lot of political ramblings, I thought I'd restore some calm to Atlantic Lines with some images of the Point district (An Rubha), located between 4 and 11 miles east of Stornoway. I took these in May 2010.




New Garrabost

Break away - and you become foreign

Another thought on the issue of the independence referendum. If Scotland decides to break away from the United Kingdom, it becomes an independent, autonomous country. In other words, England, Wales and Northern Ireland, will become a foreign nation to Scotland. Wouldn't you think? So why are the supporters of independence so determined to hold on to the pound sterling, which is being regulated from the capital of a foreign country? OK, there are plenty of countries around the world who have Queen Elizabeth II as head of state (such as Australia and New Zealand). Why are the supporters of independence so worried for the business prospects of a foreign country, so worried that they want to hold on to the pound sterling, to spare them the inconvenience of exchange rates?

It was put by a political commentator on the BBC this afternoon that the exchange of views between Mr Osborne (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) and Mr Salmond (the leader of the Scottish National Party, who seek to gain independence) has moved into the uncomfortable territory of questioning the trustworthiness of the SNP leader.

Sunday 16 February

Quite a nice morning out here, but now cloud is starting to bubble up. A shower would appear to be possible, but certainly not as frequent as yesterday. What did I say? Here is one of those sneaky showers that can get you thoroughly soaked in the islands, and the sun just keeps shining. The Met Office advises that a frost is possible tonight. Our freight ferry, the MS Clipper Ranger, passed the Mull of Kintyre just before midday today, and will be at Ullapool after midnight tonight. Our regular passenger ferry, the MV Isle of Lewis, remains in drydock at Birkenhead. It is rumoured to be back here on Wednesday.

I tend to get ratty when I hear all that pompous talk about climate change causing the extreme weather we've seen this winter, and the last couple of winters. Climate is measured over a period of 30 years, and as the saying goes, one swallow does not make a summer. Agreed, there is evidence of global warming, the polar ice cap is getting smaller every year, and this will have an impact on our climate in the long run. Last November, there was this extremely strong tropical cyclone at the Philippines, which could have had an impact on the jetstreams across the Pacific and the Atlantic, certainly. Let's take the long view here - and please, spare us the cr*p from certain quarters that suggest that divine (lowercase intentional) retribution for legalising same-sex marriage brought us these conditions. The Big Guy above doesn't give a hoot who loves who and how - as long as they do.

Very nice afternoon out here, but with a chilly wind. Went for an amble round Sandwick Cemetery, finding a number of interesting gravestones.

Saturday 15 February

It is most unusual, to have cars parked bumper to bumper for several hundred yards along this street. It turns out there was a very well attended funeral in a church down the road. I don't know who the deceased was, but custom dictates that the coffin is carried from the church by all male mourners in turn. A dignified way of paying respects, and I disappeared from my vantage point for the duration.

It's actually not too bad in between the showers, which are not heavy but make you thoroughly wet. Much better than the ravages wreaked on the south of England, which has taken a battering through the night. My sympathies go out to the family of the cruiseline passenger who died on board MV Marco Polo, when that ship was struck by a big wave in the England Channel; and to the family of the hapless motorist whose vehicle was crushed by falling masonry in London. The Hebrides has the reputation for bad weather; it's the south of England that's had its unfair share of it these last few weeks. A reprieve looks set to be on its way.

Continuing my trawl of Stornoway-related WW1 casualties courtesy CWGC. A steady trickle of new additions, which were somehow missed in the Roll of Honour, War Memorials and other sources - and who definitely turned out to be island lads. So far, there are about a dozen.

Went for an amble in the Lews Castle Grounds this afternoon, but was plagued by showers - and not just of rain. Hail clattered down as I crossed the Bayhead Bridge. Went up the Stornoway Golf Course, then down the new path to Strawberry Hill, skirting the quarry. Returned by Lews Castle.

I'm pleased to report that the MS Clipper Ranger has left dry-dock on the Wirral and is headed north. She is due into Ullapool at 2 am on Monday morning. The MV Hebridean Isles, meanwhile, has left Stornoway and is currently docked in Oban.

Friday 14 February

Fairly calm here, with a few showers about, but only a few degrees above freezing. Looking at the weather charts, it won't be getting warmer in a hurry, we're just above the frontal systems that continue to bring wind and rain to southern England. Valentine's Day? Why wait until February 14th before declaring your feelings to that special person in your life? There are 364 other days in the year to do that, and you won't be feeding the greed of the retailers!

Thursday 13 February

After a very wet night, the sun is starting to peek through the clouds. No, we did not have any strong winds to speak of, being at the centre of the low pressure system that wreaked devastation across northern England and Wales. Things did brighten up in the afternoon, but we never lost the showers. Could have been so much worse, though. The freight ferry, MV Hebridean Isles, is back on duty, and went out with a load of trucks at around 1pm.