Friday, 3 April 2015

Ships in the Sound

'Ships in the Sound' was meant to be a monthly feature of this blog but the last episode appeared at the beginning of February.  However, those of you who particularly enjoy this feature will have had a surfeit with the tale of the Lysblink Seaways, which gave us weeks of interest.

The last months have been dominated by the passage of freighters through the Sound.  One of the pleasures of watching them pass is to note their destinations - so easily done these days with the AIS websites.  The first picture shows the Dutch registered Atlantic, at just under 3000 grt quite a small general cargo ship.  She was on her way to Seville in Spain, but a check on one of the marine sites shows that she's currently off Kalamata, Greece.

I spent a few weeks as a teenager working my passage on a cargo ship from London to South Africa, spending much of my time with the officer cadets on board.  One of their jobs was to turn out in the middle of the night when, in mid-Atlantic, we passed another ship.  'Whither bound?' we would signal on the Aldis lamp, and be thrilled if the ship passing in the dark was something unusual, like a Russian freighter.

The Alizee is another Dutch ship of about the same size as the Atlantic.  When she passed through the Sound on 15th February she was en route to Koge, Denmark, but today she's in Amsterdam.

The Bahamian-registered Romi was heading for Belfast when she passed us.  She struck us as particularly deep in the water, something that was always considered a 'good thing' as indicating the ship was fully loaded and, therefore, hopefully, earning her keep.  Just at the moment she's in the Skagerrak between Denmark, Norway and Sweden, proceeding at a gentle 9 knots.

This is yet another Dutch ship, the Fiorano, seen on her way to Hargshamn, a port to the north of Stockholm in Sweden.  She's slightly larger than the others, at nearly 4000 grt. She's currently passing through the Kattegat, another part of the strait between Denmark and Sweden - so she's not far from the Romi.

The Barbados-registered Sea Harmony was heading for Belfast when she passed us on 29th March.  Another small general cargo ship, she's currently in the English Channel on her way to Erith, a port in the Thames estuary.

It has been suggested that, following the Lysblink Seaways, the Fri Ocean and the Lysfoss incidents, that cargo ships in passage should be banned from the Sound.  Personally, I would miss them deeply.  They're a connection from this small place to the wide world.  What we would all like is to think that, when they pass us in the early hours of a morning, someone - or, better, two people - is wide awake and paying attention on the bridge.

The Clansman is back on duty for CalMac on the Oban - Castlebay & Lochboisdale and Oban - Coll & Tiree services, taking over from the Hebrides which was covering for her for quite some time while she had her annual refit.
We've had all sorts of weather in the last few weeks, everything from flat calm through gales to fog.  This is one of Northern Lighthouse Board's two service vessels, the Pole Star, feeling her way south into the Sound on 29th March.

By way of a change, and to remind ourselves that some ships are still registered in the UK - sadly including the Lysblink Seaways - this is the Admiral Day, a dredger, on her way to Uig on Skye, passing the local creel boat Ceol na Mara.

What's been conspicuously absent from the Sound recently is the Royal Navy.  That should change in the next few days as the biannual exercise Joint Warrior starts to the north of us on April 11th.

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