Friday, 29 August 2014

Hebrides 14: Ferry from Eriskay to Barra

We attempted to go out on a boat from Lochboisdale, but were told that the owner was going to a wedding so wouldn't be taking the boat out.  Bummer.  Instead we decided to drive to the Southern end of Eriskay and catch the ferry across to Barra.  Being adventurous (and intrepid) types, we decided to leave the car behind and travel as foot passengers.  It was also cheaper that way!

The friendliness and efficiency of the Cadedonian Mac Brayne ferries was a constant pleasure during our visit to the islands.  Nothing seems to worry or stress the crew, no matter what happens.  The Eriskay/Barra ferry is small with a very steep loading ramp.  This gives a problem to certain types of vehicle, including large coaches which get grounded while getting on and off.  No problem: the CalMac answer is to carry a set of large wooden wedges which can be inserted in strategic places in order to lift the offending vehicles clear of the ground.  Simples!

The Eriskay Postie is allowed on first so that he can unload the mailbags.  He doesn't stay on the ferry, though, as his opposite number in Barra is waiting for the post on the other side of the Sound.

There weren't many passengers on the ferry: just us, a family of Runrig fans (all wearing T-shirts from the recent 40th anniversary concert) and a retired French couple sporting iPhones.

We were escorted on the short crossing by several gannets which flew alongside the ferry as we sailed.  They really are very beautiful, and have to be one of my all-time favourite birds.

Gannets have a habit of flying low, very close to the water's surface.  I hadn't realised quite how close until I examined the pictures I'd taken in more detail.  The second image below shows just how close the wing-tip gets to clipping the water.

We also met a flock of eider ducks, as well as the usual gulls and cormorants.

Just to prove what I said earlier, the Barra Postie was poised and waiting - like a coiled spring - to collect the mailbags from the ferry as soon as it docked.  Such is the pace of life on the Hebrides.

Being on foot, we then sought out the local bus service: a couple of 12-seaters which drive around the island while the driver chats to the passengers.  Next stop: Castlebay, the main settlement on Barra.