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!