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Amidst all the disruption to ferry services hitting Barra and South Uist recently, the departure of CalMac’s Sound of Harris ferry for her annual overhaul has been accomplished smoothly.

MV Loch Portain has been replaced on the Leverburgh to Berneray crossing by MV Loch Bhrusda, which launched the route in 1996 and now serves as a relief vessel.

Loch Bhrusda was pressed into service immediately, held back on her only Saturday crossing so that Covid test samples could catch the boat, for collection by HM Coastguard at Leverburgh and delivery to Western Isles Hospital.

Meanwhile Loch Portain and her crew spent last night (Sunday 31 January) in Campbeltown, after passing through the Sound of Jura yesterday afternoon, and is this afternoon approaching the Firth of Clyde en route to dry dock.

She’ll be in dock from Wednesday (3 February) until Tuesday 23 February, with her annual overhaul to include an upgraded pitch control and steering system. 

This week on the Sound of Harris, tidal conditions mean there will be only two return sailings on the route both today (Monday 1 February) and tomorrow, Tuesday.

And disruption is continuing for Barra passengers, as MV Lord of the Isles provides a stopgap service on the trans-Minch route between Oban and Castlebay.

There is no sailing from Castlebay to Oban today, and the 6am departure on Tuesday will not return from Oban, according to current schedules.

A review is due later today to establish what vessel is available to cover the route while MV Isle of Lewis is in dry dock and MV Isle of Arran awaits the completion of engineering work.

CalMac also faces possible weather disruption between today and Wednesday on the Castlebay Oban service and the Stornoway Ullapool route.