Islands business and commercial links are shattered again today (Tuesday February 7) as the Sound of Harris vehicle ferry service remains suspended.
The regular ferry Loch Portain is undergoing maintenance while the replacement ferry, Loch Bhrusda, which pioneered the vital route back in 1996, remains moored on the pier on the Isle of Raasay where local people confirm it arrived yesterday.
Some island businesses feel that CalMac Ferries sees this as a local community route, only needing replacement with a passenger ferry, rather than a vital commercial link for vehicles, with land-based officials not understanding that the relatively small numbers of vehicles involved are nonetheless crucial to all sorts of aspects of island life.
Businesspeople are also amazed there's been no public comment about the situation from MPs, MSPs or CnES officials - and indeed the original announcement of the service's suspension was communicated only to community councils and the like on either side of the Sound of Harris as if there was no wider concern or interest.
Only foot-passengers can cross the Sound of Harris in batches of up to 12 with Uist Sea Tours, landing not at the vehicle ferry slipways but at Berneray’s fishery pier and the pontoon in Leverburgh.
Meanwhile Lochmaddy ferry terminal has been closed for several days while Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s contractors continue work on the pier and terminal redevelopment. A ferry is expected there tonight (Tuesday February 7)
CalMac Ferries say: "Due to the vessel berthing in Lochboisdale on Monday 6 February, an amended timetable will operate as follows:
- Depart Lochboisdale - 06:00 Arrive Ullapool - 12:00
- Depart Ullapool - 13:00 Arrive Lochmaddy - 17:30
Tomorrow (Wednesday 8 February) as a result of the adverse weather forecast, sailings to Lochmaddy are at risk of disruption or cancellation at short notice. A review will be made at approximately 17:00 today.
The UK Met Office is warning of very bad weather conditions from 6am tomorrow - "Strong south to southwesterly winds bringing some travel disruption and dangerous coastal conditions."
Uig Ferry terminal remains closed for port development work. And Tarbert is also closed - even though work there on new terminal facilities has just been completed.
And it's soon going pear-shaped again in Lochboisdale.
CalMac say: "Due to the vessel berthing overnight in Castlebay on Monday 6 February, the 05:00 sailing from Lochboisdale has been delayed to 07:00 and will now sail directly to Oban."
And "customers are advised to travel on Tuesday 7 February if travel is necessary" as on Wednesday 8 February, due to adverse weather forecasts, this service is cancelled.
Indeed, come Wednesday there's a warning that the MV Loch Seaforth will be storm-bound as well, cutting the Stornoway-Ullapool link.
And to add to CalMac's woes, due to technical issues, the Eriskay slipway's electronic message board is currently out of order. Repairs are required to rectify the issue. Mobile reception in the terminal area is very poor, so it will be a question of your-guess-is-as-good-as-mine for anyone who manages to get to that slipway.
For full details of service changes see https://www.calmac.co.uk/service-status
(This article is being updated with news of further cancellations as the day progresses.)