1 EAGLETON NOTES: Death of an Old Lady

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Thursday, 26 November 2015

Death of an Old Lady

No. Not a famous person. A ship. A ship that started its life as a completely new approach to transport to the Isle of Lewis from the Scottish mainland: a roll-on roll-off (ro-ro) ferry. I arrived on the Island not long after she did. I never experienced the need to crane the car onto and off the ferry and travel from Mallaig up the Minch for hours on the original Loch Seaforth. That ship was MV Suilvan.

Photo from Flickr by Mark Nicolson of the Silvan crossing The Minch
I have many many memories of this wonderful boat. I say 'wonderfull' because she was an innovation, a great sea-boat (according to those who sailed her) but a dreadful corkscrewing tub to her critics. She operated on the route until she was replaced by MV Isle of Lewis in 1995.

I have many many stories of journeys on her: largely because she sailed in almost any weather and one had to be pretty hardy to endure the worst of journeys which occasionally doubled the usual 3h 45 m journey time.

The time when a colleague (who hides behind the nom de plume of Marcel) and I were standing on the top deck abaft the bridge (hidden by the wave above) and I went inside to use the toilet and came out to find him gone. After an hour he appeared in the 'lounge' still soaked to the skin from a wave that had gone over the top of the bridge just as I went inside.  On another occasion a colleague and I were almost alone as passengers returning from Ullapool when a massive wave came down the Minch hitting the vessel side on and scaring the very living daylights (it's a family blog!) out of us. They are the mild memories - the others would take too long to recount.

After leaving service in Scotland she went to New Zealand and saw service across the Cook Strait between North Island and South Island as a cattle boat. In 2004 she went to Fiji.

Two days ago she went to the bottom of the sea in Suva Harbour, Fiji. There was no loss of life.

R. I. P.

24 comments:

  1. Great post Graham. Yes indeed she was a hardy old boat and many a dreadful crossing I endured in order to get to the mainland. The great thing was being able to sleep on board the night before when the boys were wee. RIP indeed.

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    1. Yes Carol she would cross in any conditions.

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  2. A sad end. I wonder what caused her to sink.

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    1. Old age and ignominy I should imagine Adrian.

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    1. Even more impressive, Meike, if you were on board at the time.

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  4. I can imagine you have some great stories to tell... and I imagine if she could tell her own, there would be so many more! RIP!

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    1. Absolutely correct on both things Liz.

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  5. Some of these vessels have a long and interesting history. Tell us the other stories!

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    1. Red if I told you some of the other stories I'd be depleting my stock of after dinner stories however I may well get around to some more Suilvan photos from my archive eventually.

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  6. She did have a full and adventurous life...well-travelled.

    Reading your post reminded me of an event, of a time amongst a time, that'd I'd forgotten about. Thanks for bringing the memory back to the surface. It's amazing what is hidden away in the corners and depth of our mind...all just needing a tug or nudge to resurface. It's too late for the MV Suilven, but maybe not for some of our long-hidden memories...gone, not forgotten, just submerged.

    It is sad...the sinking of a ship accidental or otherwise is sad. I guess now she will, in time, become a wonderful artificial reef giving pleasure to divers.

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    1. Yes, Lee, submerged and just waiting for a very low tide to bring them back into our consciousness.

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  7. I enjoyed this. Proper "old sailor's tale"... ;-) ... (Not that I think of you as old, mind!) (Every time the topic of seafaring comes up in blogging I seriously question my own choice of avatar, though, as I'm really a landlubber through and through myself...)

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    1. Monica I could (and often do) tell many more 'old sailor's tales' and not just of the Suilvan. Given my gently advancing years it's kind of you not to think of me as old.

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  8. What fond memories for you and a well written obit...made me sad too.
    May your sea worthy friend rest in peace.

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    1. Thanks Virginia. I hope she does. She deserves it.

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  9. Sad to see a gutsy old lady finally submitting to those salty waves.

    Perhaps you should also have a nom-de-plume Graham. I have had some ideas. Perhaps Peregrine Falcon...or Ice Daddy?

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    1. Okay YP I've though and thought but the significance of your suggestions eludes me.

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    2. No significance I am afraid Graham - just silliness!

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    3. Well, well, well, YP. The one thing I didn't think of was you being silly!

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  10. I do wonder, what made the ship sink?
    Sunken ships sometimes become dive destinations, perhaps you are also into scuba diving?

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    1. I don't know what caused the sinking Kay. I can't imagine that Suva has the finances to remove it so you may well be correct about her being a haven for sea life. Scuba diving? Me? No.

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  11. It's rather sad to think of her surviving so many years of rough Scottish seas, and then copping it in the South Seas, when really one feels she ought to have had a more leisurely retirement!

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    1. Jenny one way and another she had a very rough time after she left Scotland. Some of the seas she encountered in Cook Straight and Fiji were astonishing.

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