Sunny evening, 6 June 2018

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Broken down

Loch Seaforth adrift in the Minch
Since 2015, the MV Loch Seaforth, has been on the Stornoway - Ullapool ferry route, and proven to be a reliable vessel that can handle the sometimes rough conditions in the Minch admirably. However, last Wednesday, 8 August, things went very badly pearshaped. Upon leaving Loch Broom, heading northwest towards Stornoway, the vessel started to slow down and one engine was shut down. This was due to a failure in the cooling system. The second engine also shut down, closely followed by a complete power failure. Toilets were out of action, no steering, no propulsion - for more than an hour. The master requested assistance, and the lifeboats from Lochinver and Stornoway both raced to the scene to stand by. The Coastguard tug Ievoli Black was also contacted, but her services were not needed in the end, as the ship's engineers managed to get her underway again at 12 knots (as opposed to her customary 19). The lifeboats shadowed the ferry into Stornoway, where Loch Seaforth arrived three hours late, at 3.45pm.

What followed were repairs, seatrials in the early evening and a resumption of services at 10.15pm. Although the Loch Seaforth is quite capable of making up for lost time, making up six hours is a tall order. As I type this, on Saturday afternoon, she is still three hours behind. It is only the absence of a scheduled freight service tonight that will allow a resumption of normal service tomorrow. This has had a substantial impact on tourist traffic, freight traffic (which Loch Seaforth carries at night) and everybody's travel plans. Bus company Citylink has had to put on special coaches to carry people at the abnormal times. However, all will be back to usual on Sunday. Phew!

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Open letter to Donald

Hey, Donald!

Yes, Mr President, it's you I'm addressing, from only a few miles outside your mother's ancestral home near Stornoway, Scotland. You're older than I, wiser and more experienced. But we can all learn from each other, and I hope you are prepared to at least listen. When someone gives you advice, don't just politely acknowledge that people make sounds. Act on it.

When the Queen of England expects you to keep a step behind her, follow that expectation. Don't just barge in ahead of her.

When the FBI says something, it is not a partizan statement. They KNOW.

Vladimir Putin is not America's friend. He is, at best, her competitor. At worst, her enemy. He was laughing all the way, last Monday.

When you make a statement, stick to it. Don't just gauge the reaction and then backpedal. You will be regarded as unpredictable and weak.

Don't shoot the messenger - the press. Don't brand something as "fake news", when it displeases you in the media. They are there to hold you, and other politicians, to account. Because in politics, it's not all about making a deal. It's about people's lives. The lives of all 7 billion of us. Including your own.

I'll wave at 5 Tong, the next time I come through the village. Take care.

Friday, 6 July 2018

Piper Alpha - 30 years on

When this post is published, it will be exactly thirty years since the first explosion ripped through Piper Alpha, which stood about 120 miles east of Aberdeen in the North Sea. A number of subsequent explosions destroyed the platform, leading to the death of 167 men. I refer to the Wikipedia article for a more detailed account.

This post is in memory and tribute to those lost on Piper Alpha.

Image courtesy

The above image shows a buoy, marking the site of the wreckage of the Piper Alpha platform. The platform in the background is Piper Bravo.


So the UK is all away with the fairies at the soccer World Cup. Where is that being held again? Russia. Hold that thought for a moment. By the way, the acronym for World Cup is - precisely.

So the UK government is all away with the fairies at Chequers, tearing each other's hair and eyes out over that inexecrable piece of dog's breakfast otherwise known as Brexit. Referendum held 742 days (that's a little over two years) ago on whether the UK should stay in or leave the European Union. No thought was given to what leaving the EU would actually mean, that would all come out in the wash. Well, it is, it's worse than a poorly dyed t-shirt in amongst your white undies. Prime Minister Theresa May in charge of a government which relies on the nation's prize bigots, a political party from Ulster, to achieve its parliamentary majorities. In charge of a government whose members are actively undermining her, and thereby the nation's, authority. Don't worry, Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition are equally divided, led by a man who will ever only be effective as leader of the opposition.

Move 80 miles from Westminster, and you'll find yourself in the quaint Wiltshire town of Salisbury. Move 9 miles from Salisbury, and you'll find yourself in the sleepy village of Amesbury. Walk a mile or two from Amesbury, and (after paying a king's ransom) you'll stand amidst the ancient standing stones of Stonehenge. Stonehenge is innocent. The 21st century neo-druids come there twice a year to celebrate a solstice, winter or summer, and the tourists are fleeced there on a daily basis, but nothing untoward has happened there. Salisbury and Amesbury have been sites of a state-sponsored terrorist attack.

It is bad enough that, by all appearances, the Russian state has attempted to kill its former spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury using the nerve agent novichok in March 2018. Nasty stuff by all accounts. Look at the on-going clean-up in the town, one I know and used to love. Its dreaming spire - now in the shadow of novichok. However, it gets a whole degree of magnitude worse when novichok turns up on the hands of two innocent residents of Amesbury, who are now in hospital, likely to stay there for weeks or months, with no certainty of a cure or any residual effects. Where the novichok came from is, at time of writing, anyone's guess. Left behind, accidentally or deliberately?

Who says that this is not the insidious start of a campaign, sponsored by the Russian state, to destabilise the United Kingdom? The UK made a creditable start on it, all by itself, by voting to leave the EU and not having a clue about what that would entail. But I would not be surprised to find more novichok turning up in the months and years ahead, slowly and gradually instilling an eventually paralysing fear into the population, slowly increasing frequency and severity of attacks, eventually overwhelming the health services, fomenting public unrest and panic? Do not forget that Mr Putin, now basking in the limelight of the soccer WC, is a former KGB agent. Do not forget that he has a proven track record of fomenting unrest and instability in whichever country, former USSR or not, that he sees fit to target.

Siting the aforementioned two attacks near Porton Down is also a clever ploy. Novichok is being held at Porton Down, so it is easy to suggest that it was released from there in order to cast blame on the Russian state.

Maybe I am wrong, I sincerely hope I am. But if anything, I agree with those that say that the eye is hopelessly off the ball, and too much on the balls being kicked around for the soccer WC. Too much, even on the dog's brexit.

Sunday, 1 July 2018

An t-Iuchar

July has come, and we have temporarily lost the sun that saw out June. Yesterday, temperatures reached 19C / 66F, and it did not start to cool down properly until nearly midnight. A coldfront has now moved across, bringing us rain and declining temperatures. Being able to sit out until nearly 8pm (which was when the sun sank behind the trees) made it an extra special end to June.

July is the prime month for tourism in the islands, although it has been busy since my return here, early in May. Motorhomes, campervans (whatever you want to call them) throng the island's roads, and particularly the hotspots like Harris are full of them. Stornoway is also full of them, some parked across three or four parking bays in the supermarket carparks overnight. Anybody is welcome to visit, in whichever mode of transport they see fit. It is up to the local authorities, in conjunction with tourism bodies and local groups, to supply the amenities needed for things like motorhomes. It is an old discussion; I remember that a VisitScotland discussion board was closed down in 2007 after Berneray residents filled it with abuse against campervans.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Water, water everywhere

Scottish Water have requested that the residents of Stornoway and surrounding villages use water wisely. We have had three weeks with no measurable amounts of precipitation, and the reservoir that supplies the area is running low. They are topping it up from another loch, a few miles to the north, but still: short showers, no baths, clean your car with a bucket not a hose etcetera.

Image courtesy Hebrides News

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Tuesday 29 May

It's been many months since I last posted in Atlantic Lines. For most of that time I was in Holland, but I have now returned to Stornoway. As I type this, the full moon is rising, as another sunsplashed day draws to a close. It's been warm the last few days, 18C / 64F. Last Sunday, I was able to tag along on a drive to Harris, to show a visitor the beaches on the West Side of that island. Luskentyre was admired from Seilebost; it was impossible to park near the beach. On Sunday, everything is closed in Tarbert, the main village in Harris, except for hotels and restaurants. It's been nearly a year since I last crossed the Clisham, and it was nice to be back.

P5272302 P5272301 P5272296 P5272286 P5272282 P5272259 P5272253 P5272245

Wednesday, 31 January 2018


Although away from the island, I do keep an eye on what goes on there. Two things jumped out at me in recent weeks.

First, a visitor centre related to the Iolaire Disaster is to be built in Stornoway. I have frequently highlighted this tragedy over the years I've been in the island. Next New Year, 2019, it will be exactly a century ago the sinking of the HMY Iolaire off Holm Point. The 205 souls lost are currently commemorated in graveyards across Lewis, as well as in the memorial on Holm Point. It is good that more prominence is being give to this key event in the island's history. I completely understand why people were previously reluctant to discuss this; grief is a private matter. However, with the passage of time, it is perhaps appropriate to share it with the world, thereby lessening its poignancy. I hope so.

Secondly, the arts centre An Lanntair opened last Sunday, 28th January, to screen a film. This gave rise to vocal protests by Sabbaterians, who feel that this is a violation of the Sabbath. I can never help but note that pubs are also open on a Sunday in Stornoway.

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

January 2018

I left Stornoway on November 16th, 2017 for family reasons. There are also personal reasons for this protracted absence from the island, and from this blog. Currently in Holland, I would normally refer to the Shell Gallery blog as per previous years, but I am not blogging there either. Facebook is my primary medium at present. My heart remains in the Hebrides, even if I'm not there.