Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Remember how I always say you can’t satisfy ferry campaigners?

Although I no longer get to use Clyde ferries, I still watch the news about ferry campaigners and activists, and have done so for well over twenty years, over which time I have come to conclusion that NOTHING can be done which satisfies them.

They just love to spend their time whining and complaining.

Years ago it used be RET (road equivalent tariff), with endless calls for its adoption to reduce ferry fares and increase visitor numbers to increase tourist visits and bring more money to the islands.


Ticket prices on some ferry services could be increased to help mitigate high demand at peak times, the Transport Secretary has said.

Speaking at Holyrood’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee on Wednesday, Michael Matheson said peak-time pricing could be introduced to better manage capacity.

Increased tourist numbers during the summer period have been highlighted as a key concern for island residents, who have previously indicated difficulties in acquiring a ticket to travel during busy spells.

Higher fares could be introduced on Scottish ferries to manage tourists

Oh joy.

Now we can all sort of whining and claims that fares have been increased on the wrong routes, that some community or another is being disadvantaged, or even deliberately targeted to ruining it in preference to another.

The possibilities are endless.

We need…

A user survey.

Free Sheep Ferry

Free Sheep Ferry

I’ve told the sheep ferry story somewhere else in the blog, where you can find it.


Jan 17, 2019 Posted by | Civilian, council, Maritime, Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Maid of the Lock slip seems to have generated another spurious headline (or clickbait?)

Over the past few weeks I’ve noticed an apparent trend for media articles to state one thing in their headline, then report a lesser story in their text.

I’m almost tempted to start posting these as I spot them, to see if I am imagining it, or if news editors (or their army of hacks, desperate to get earn a wee bonus) have issued an instruction that articles must be given a headline that will attract readers/clicks.

Most recent was a follow-up to yesterday’s incident involving the Maid of the Loch, when something broke/failed as she was being winched up the old slip at Balloch, and she slid back into the water.

While this could have been dramatic, the video I saw showed a fairly leisurely incident, and no real haste by those nearby to run for their lives.

That said, I acknowledge my observation could be entirely in error, and a different viewpoint may have shown many people were lucky not to be killed or injured.

I don’t know.

However, today we have this headline…

HSE probe after Maid of the Loch breaks free

I don’t know about anyone else, but for me, that wording implies that the HSE initiated a probe into the incident.


When I looked at the small print in the article, I learned that…

“The Board of the Loch Lomond Steamship Company met this morning and have agreed to commission an independent inquiry into the cause of the incident.

“Appropriate consultants are being contacted and the incident has been reported to the HSE.”

So there is not actually any HSE probe into the incident at this stage, and it may ultimately choose not even to look into it.

Source: HSE probe after Maid of the Loch breaks free

Maid of the Loch 2017

Maid of the Loch 2017

Jan 11, 2019 Posted by | Civilian, Maritime, Transport | , | Leave a comment

Oops – Maid of the Loch slips on slip

A perfect opportunity for the Armchair Experts and the We Told You So society to have a joint meeting and celebration, as the Maid of the Loch suffered a very public mishap during her trip up the old slipway at Balloch.

As usual, there were plenty of people on hand who knew better than those who were actually carrying out the work.

One always wonder why they never come forward BEFORE such events, take over, and prevent their occurrence.

Bystanders suggested the problem was with the cradle at the front and they questioned whether the ship had been put up correctly.

Whoops! Maid of Loch falls back in water in winching fail

Maybe they’re not as smart as they often make out, and just smug people equipped with perfect 20/20 hindsight!

Sadly, although the BBC offers and embeddable video of the incident (which seems to be a lot slower and uneventful than some reports seem to suggest), WordPress kills it when I include it, so you’ll have to click on the links below to see it.

Maid of the Loch slips back into water

Workers flee as Maid of the Loch paddle steamer slides back into water

Some more…

Watch as attempt to haul Maid of the Loch out of the water fails

In pictures: An attempt to bring the Maid of the Loch out of the water fails

Hopefully it was something as simple as the failure of an old or little used part on the old slipway (itself a historic relic) which will be nothing more than an inconvenience to repair or replace, and nothing valuable was damaged.

Maid of the Loch - undergoing slipping

Maid of the Loch – undergoing slipping back in 2006

Jan 10, 2019 Posted by | Civilian, Maritime, Transport | , , | Leave a comment

No slacking in Maid of the Loch restoration

After I hinted that suggestions of Gloom and Doom for the project to restore the Maid of the Loch to steam were unduly negative following a Heritage Lottery Funding rejection, the project has not only carried on, but is apparently picking up speed without the massive cash injection which had some feeling so glum.

The last paddle steamer built in Britain will undergo a historic slipping this week.

The Maid of the Loch will be subject to a massive refurbishment from Thursday – only the second time the ship has been slipped in almost 40 years.

Mackay Boatbuilders Ltd will haul the 191-foot-long, 555-ton vessel out of the water by the original winchhouse and onto the Balloch Steam Slipway, a Category A listed building on the banks of Loch Lomond.

Once on the slipway, a full ultrasound survey, overseen by classification society Bureau Veritas, will be carried out on the ship’s hull to provide a definitive report on its current condition, before the major refurbishment takes place.

Work set to take place includes the restoration of the aft deck saloon to 1950’s style, the creation of an education suite and total rebuild of the main saloon aft to 1950’s style with replica wood panelling and central heating.

A complete overhaul of the original engines and machinery will also be carried out to restore them to working condition, with steam set to be supplied by a package boiler on the pier.

The campaign to restore the Maid and return her to a fully operational steamship was last month boosted after the £950,000 capital grant awarded by the Scottish Government was confirmed along with £50,000 from the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society, taking the work package to £1 million.

The Maid currently operates as a static tourist attraction and hopes to gain industrial museum status for the ship and steam slipway as a growing number of artefacts are collected and restored to working condition.

Massive Maid of the Loch refurbishment set to begin this week

Pity I’m so far away, it would have been nice to see.

The shared pic below has the following text…

dThe paddle steamer Maid of the Loch is seen here undergoing a historic slipping on the 27th of June, 2006; in other words, it was slowly winched out of the water, and pulled onto a rebuilt slipway. This was the first time it had been out of the water, or indeed moved, since being withdrawn from active service in 1981. With the exception of this slipping, the steamer has been moored at nearby Balloch pier continuously since 1981 (at the time of writing, it is still there).

The slipping was performed as a test of the rebuilt slipway, with the longer-term goal of returning the Maid of the Loch to service (I am one of many who travelled the Loch on this steamer in the old days).

The Maid was drawn up onto the slipway by means of a steam-powered winch. This was a fairly slow process, although most of the day was taken up with carefully manoeuvring it into position using ropes; see: NS3882 : Maid of the Loch – preparations for slipping.

Maid of the Loch - undergoing slipping

Maid of the Loch – undergoing slipping

Jan 8, 2019 Posted by | Appeal, Civilian, Maritime, Transport | , , | Leave a comment

City of Adelaide clipper move may risk its future

Sad to see the Australian government does not appear to be supporting those who are committed to saving the hull of the former HMS Carrick, once moored on the River Clyde in Glasgow (when it wasn’t sunk), the clipper ship ‘City of Adelaide’, if the latest new item is correct…

Shifting clipper a threat to its survival, fans fear

A government proposal to shunt the City of Adelaide clipper from the heart of the Port to an industrial wasteland inaccessible to tourists has sparked fears the project to save the historic 124-year-old icon will die.

I can’t access any more details behind this news snippet, which is only available if the media source’s blackmail charge is paid to reveal it.

And that’s not happening.

A previous report had suggested there was hope of a better location for the clipper being discussed with officials…

THE City of Adelaide Preservation Trust is “hopeful” the historic clipper ship will have a new home within a year. The move comes after trust director Peter Christopher met with Premier Steven Marshall and Transport Minister David Ridgway. THE City of Adelaide Preservation Trust is “hopeful” the historic clipper ship will have a new home within a year.

Read full article

Sunk Carrick

Sunk Carrick

Ironically, a short video guide for visitors to the ship appeared a few weeks ago.

Jan 5, 2019 Posted by | Appeal, Civilian, Maritime, Transport | , | 1 Comment

Will Glasgow get a new mural for this college course?

We’ve already had this mural on show for a few years, inspired by a 1913 photograph, and telling the story of the Land-Ship, a mock navigation bridge built on the roof of the School of Navigation in the Royal College…

George Street Navigation Mural

George Street Navigation Mural

There’s an intriguing new course now on offer at the City of Glasgow College.

A new course is being launched to train merchant navy officers to navigate previously icebound polar waters.

The City of Glasgow College will use advanced simulators to offer some of the first courses of their kind in the UK.

The sea routes are opening up as climate change causes polar ice to melt.

On the bridge of this massive cargo ship, it is comfortably warm. Outside, the weather is foul.

Snow flies, visibility is poor. We must use the radar to follow the channel cut through the sea ice by an icebreaker.

We are making seven knots somewhere north of Scandinavia. Virtually.

The bridge, accurate in all its instrumentation, is at the heart of a sophisticated simulator, one of five at the college. A 360 degree video screen provides the rotten weather.

Simulators at Glasgow college open Northwest Passage

They really should find a wall somewhere, and give us a modern take on the ‘Land-Ship’.

Bridge Simulator

Bridge Simulator

With the Northwest Passage now melted open to the extent that this simulator and training course has become viable, does anybody REALLY want to be classified as a loony climate change denier?

Jan 2, 2019 Posted by | Civilian, Maritime, Transport | , | Leave a comment

Ferry storm is brewing

While it was obvious, and I claim no cleverness over predicting that Ferguson Marine and Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL) would end up having a slight dispute over the dual-fuel ferry contract, is something sad to see.

Instead of potentially having a product that might have been an asset as a sales offering, and maybe even being able to suggest Scotland had something to point at and say ‘Come to our shipyard and buy a ship’, all we have is the usual sad tale of Clyde shipyards, delays, and disputes.

All it needs is for the workers to come out on strike for more money, and the set is probably complete!

The shipbuilder with the contract to build two delayed CalMac new ferries has said it will lose £39.5m on the deal.

The latest accounts for Ferguson Marine show the Inverclyde yard made a loss of £60.1m in 2016.

Ferguson Marine claims “interference and disruption” from the Scottish government’s ferry company is to blame for the losses.

The firm also wants to renegotiate the terms of its £45m government loan.

Owner Jim McColl – who rescued the yard from administration in 2014 – put £8.5m into Ferguson Marine from one of his other companies, according to the accounts.

The two dual-fuel ships – which can be powered by liquefied natural gas as well as diesel – will operate on CalMac’s Clyde and Hebridean routes.

They have been ordered by Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL), which buys and leases the CalMac ships on behalf of the Scottish government.

‘Interference and disruption’

In its accounts, which were filed over a year late, Ferguson Marine stated: “The directors believe that post contract award, variations, interference, and disruption caused by the customer have resulted in additional unforeseen costs.”

But CMAL rejects this and has previously insisted Ferguson Marine has to stick to the terms of its £97m fixed-price contract.

The row is set to go to the courts.

Ferguson Marine says it will lose £40m on new CalMac ferries

I can’t watch.

But, I started following this years ago, so I suppose I’m stuck.

I found this video of MV Saturn from 2011, when it was still sailing (although I’d used it regularly, I was out of the loop by then).

I think the last sentence in the description of the video is just about sums things up today…

Calmac car ferry sailing into Gourock. Video shot in November 2010. This was a familiar scene for many years. All we have now are memories and video clips.

Still, we can enjoy the clip, and seeing one of the streakers in action.

Dec 20, 2018 Posted by | Civilian, Maritime, Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Maid of the Loch gains £950 k after missing out on £3.7 million

I told you so (and hoped I would be right, of course) – not to worry about the gloom and doom spread after the HLF (Heritage Lottery Fund) rejection.

This project has simply gone on for far too long to let something like that derail, it might slow it down, but I could not believe those behind it would ever give up.

Paddle steamer Maid of the Loch could be set to sail again after the group behind the ship’s restoration said it is to receive a Scottish Government grant of almost £1 million.

The Loch Lomond Steamship Company said the £950,000 capital grant award has been confirmed after a £3.7 million bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) was rejected earlier this year.

The charity, which has been working to restore the static tourist attraction on the banks of the loch since 1996, said the cash means work to repair the ship’s hull and overhaul its engines can go ahead.

“Our next step will see the ship brought out of the water in January on to the Balloch Steam Slipway to allow us to carry out an essential ultrasound test of the entire hull to check its condition. Any repairs will then be carried out.

“It will be the first time any work has been done on the hull since 1981, so there is great excitement among our volunteers, who can’t wait to help.”

He added: “Everyone who has visited the Maid over the years has said we must get this beautiful ship sailing again.

“Getting her in steam and with her paddles turning again is the next best thing, and we anticipate great interest next year as people come to watch her majestic engines moving for the first time in 37 years.”

The Paddle Steamer Preservation Society has also confirmed a grant of £50,000 towards restoring the ship.

Full steam ahead for Maid of the Loch after £950,000 award

Lifeline for ailing Loch Lomond paddle steamer

Maid of the Loch 2017

Maid of the Loch 2017

I really do have to find out how to get there, since I’ve been priced off the road, which ended my jaunts there whenever I felt like it.

I saw someone write a ‘funny’ about cycling there (from Glasgow), and how everybody thinks they can, tries it, then finds themselves stuck in Balloch, too sore to cycle back home 🙂

So far, I’ve done half the trip (turned at Clydebank) and didn’t feel a single twinge.

Maybe that’s some sort of cunning trap, designed to lure you in, so you collapse somewhere on the way back!

Dec 7, 2018 Posted by | council, Maritime, Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Skylark IX – The Little Ship that survived will become a floating museum on the Clyde

It’s a pity the place I had some long discussion over various wartime relics found in Scotland isn’t really available now, since the original find and recovery of this ‘Little Ship’ was quite extended.

The good news is that it is to be restored and turned into a floating museum.

It had been used for cruises on Loch Lomond, for something like 30 years, but eventually fell into disrepair, and sank.

A few years ago, it was raised by the Royal Navy after a campaign to rescue/recover it, by veterans supporting the Skylark IX Recovery Trust, and was moved to the Scottish Maritime Museum, Irvine.

A Dunkirk Little Ship, which rescued 600 Allied troops during World War Two, is to be restored and turned into a floating museum on the River Clyde.

Skylark IX will be saved thanks to £404,000 of funding from The National Lottery.

The work will be carried out by a specialist boatbuilding team working with recovering drug addicts.

The boat, built as a passenger cruiser in 1927, become part of the Dunkirk Little Ships fleet of 850 boats.

Dunkirk Little Ship to be floating museum on River Clyde

See also:

The Association of Dunkirk Little Ships

As seen back in 2012. Not long after being raised

Skylark IX

Skylark IX

Dec 6, 2018 Posted by | Maritime, Transport, World War II | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inchgreen Dry Dock in the news (with Updates)

Funny how there is nothing about historic goodies in the news, then they’re like buses – a little line of them appears all at once.

I think the massive Inchgreen Dry Dock has been in the news a few times in recent years, usually the same sort of story, with someone trying to win points by whining about it not being in use, how that’s ‘Terrible’, that the owners should be lined up against a wall and shot for mismanaging it, and that something called ‘The Government’ has betrayed everyone by not keeping it filled with work.

Last mention was as recent as September Yet another ‘derelict’ initiative

I never know how to take these stories and claims, since ‘They’ whine about filthy, money-grabbing owners who will do anything to turn a profit, yet ‘They’ also complain about filthy, money grabbing owners who just sit on assets in order to make money from them as they appreciate and rise in value.

But I think ‘They’ selectively forget the cost of ownership of such assets if lying idle and unused, or that they may never appreciate and grow in value – something that only happens if a buyer can be found who will pay a fortune for it.

Shipbuilding in this country costs an absolute fortune with our high wages compared to the Far East (plus our various minimum wage demands), so nobody will be running here for builds any day soon.

Even our working yard on the Clyde doesn’t really work, as I recall seeing news of the yard holding its hand out for more money to pay for escalating costs on its most recent ferry project. But that’s not entirely the yard’s fault, as I also recall it is not only building those ferries, but also developing new technology around the power sources used, so it’s not just a build, but active R&D as well, and that really needs a ‘blank cheque’, or access to funding.


In short, if there was any (profitable) work for the old  Inchgreen Dry Dock, I tend to think the owners would not really need to be ‘forced’ to take it.

Inverclyde Council is set to increase the pressure on the owners of a huge dry dock in Greenock.

Councillors want the owners to either bring the Inchgreen Dry Dock back into use or make it available as an asset for the nation.

Peel Ports insist they want to secure an industrial future for the dock and work was being tendered for.

The owners said they were bidding to win refit work on the Royal Navy’s new QE2-class aircraft carriers.

If successful, the tender could create hundreds of shipyard jobs locally but campaigners and councillors are running out of patience.

The Inchgreen dock, one of the largest in the UK, is where the QE2 was fitted out in the 1960s after its launch from the John Brown shipyard.

But it has been largely unused for 16 years and its cranes were demolished last year.

Call for huge Inchgreen dry dock to be ‘saved for the nation’

It’s interesting to see the place be compared to Prestwick Airport.

And even more interesting to note that when we see that in the news, it’s because it’s not making a profit, or paying for itself.

Inverclyde’s deputy leader Councillor Jim Clocherty said the dock area was of importance to the whole of Scotland.

“We should not leave it up to one firm to decide what can and can’t go into it,” the Labour councillor said.

“What we are actually looking for is the Scottish government to say ‘it is of such importance we will take it into public ownership’.”

He admitted that he was calling for a form of nationalisation, citing the example of Prestwick Airport, which was bought for £1 by the Scottish government five years ago amid fears it could close.

“We are seeing an asset for Scotland really going to waste,” Mr Clocherty said of the dry dock.

I wonder if he’s ever been told assets MAKE money, as opposed to eating it?

I’m always intrigued when I see people who have absolutely no possibility of ever actually being responsible for something come forward and say something along the lines of ‘THIS is how to deal with this issue’. They never have to put their money where their mouth is (they don’t have the money anyway), and will never have to take the risk of standing behind their advice, and falling with it, but expect others to do so.

The article on the dock concludes with.

Responding to the council motion, Peel Ports insisted they shared Inverclyde’s ambitions of restoring Inchgreen as a major, viable centre for ship repair, creating jobs and economic prosperity.

They said they had kept the council updated on the current MoD carrier repair procurement process and, once complete, they would have a far greater degree of clarity how to bring Inchgreen back into productive use.

I wish I could include a conclusion to this but, one way or another, whatever that may be would still seem to be some years away, so just need to keep watching for articles and updates to appear.

It’s a shame those involved with such things seems to be adversaries, rather than members of the same team.

Captured one night back in 2008.

Construction of a floating jetty for the MOD continues night and day in Inchgreen dry dock

Construction of a floating jetty for the MOD continues night and day in Inchgreen dry dock


I referred to problems with escalating costs on a build in our working Clyde shipyard and, as if by magic, a story referring to the very issue was published.

A contract to build two ferries has become an albatross around a shipbuilder’s neck, owner Jim McColl said.

Construction of the CalMac vessels at Shipbuilder Ferguson Marine’s base in Port Glasgow has been hit with spiralling costs and lengthy delays.

Mr McColl estimates the final bill could now be as much as £50m over the agreed budget.

The Glen Sannox is expected to be delivered in the middle of next year, more than 12 months behind schedule.

It is the first of two vessels being built as part of a £97m contract from Caledonian Marine Asset Limited (CMAL), a company owned by the Scottish Government that buys and leases ships to CalMac.

Speaking to STV News, Mr McColl said: “This is a real albatross around our neck.

“If we could just wave a magic wand and get rid of those two vessels that would be a godsend to us because they’ve just been a headache from day one.

There’s a lengthy article following the above opening quote, and as the matter is clearly in dispute between both parties, I suggest reading their statements, as I certainly don’t consider myself privy to enough factual data to make any sort of comment, other than to note there is clearly something wrong somewhere.

Read more here.

Ferry contract ‘albatross round shipbuilder’s neck’

We’ll clearly have to wait some time to see any resolution or independent review.

Similar disputes with power stations have taken years to resolve, before courts or legal processes have concluded.

Update 2

Somebody must  be watching me!

The day after I added the update about the unfortunate direction the ferry contract was taking at our surviving yard on the Clyde, the media carried the following stories about Ferguson’s.

Shipyard to launch claim against ferry firm amid design row

Ferguson Marine to lodge claim in Arran ferry design row

Sadly, this was telegraphed months ago, when it was clear that the two parties were not seeing eye to eye, and things (to an outside observer) were deteriorating, rather than being progressed towards some sort of amicable conclusion.

It seems that whether its the 20th century, or the 21st, Clyde shipbuilding is going to be beset with one problem or another, be it strikes or disputes.

This post began with consideration of attraction work to Inchgreen Dry Dock.

Given how overseas shipyards seem to be able to get on with the business of building ships, while Clyde shipyards seem doomed to be sources of some discontent or another…

Much as I’d like to be posting about growing local success (and Ferguson’s was actually doing quite well, with both work and innovation), I don’t think many looking for a shipyards are going to be looking towards the Clyde, and even the giant Inchgreen, as their first choice.

I think they should try REALLY REALLY HARD to win maintenance work within the UK, or start to think about filling it in and building ‘luxury flats’ on the reclaimed land.

Dec 5, 2018 Posted by | Civilian, council, Maritime, Naval, Transport | | Leave a comment

Dredgers at Riverside

I spotted some work on the river (Clyde) a while ago, and almost mistook it for some sort of dredging.

Next time I dropped into Riverside, I had a look at the shipping display, fitted on a clever conveyor system which moves the models around the display, and triggers a visual display which shows details of each ship as it passes.

After watching for a while, I was surprised to note there were no dredgers passing.

I knew there were such models in the collection, having seen them in the static displays on show in previous incarnations.

I even took a walk around some of the neighbouring static displays, but still couldn’t see any dredgers.

That was a surprise, since the River Clyde depended on dredgers for its life and success, being a fairly shallow river when left to its own devices, and having to be dredged regularly to maintain its navigable channel and allow large ships to make their way all the way to the docks.

There ARE dredgers on display, but you have to look UP to find them.

While this does show their secret below the waterline, it’s not really as good as the original displays seen in Kelvingrove, as you can’t see the detail, or topside.

Hard to see and photograph too, because of their distance, and the lighting, which give a lot of glare. Riverside really needs to review this display.

I did try to take pics, and fettle them, but I’m not proud of the result (this would need a dSLR, not the compact I was carrying).

Riverside Dredger 1

Riverside Dredger 1


Riverside Dredger 2

Riverside Dredger 2

I hope they plan to move the models around a bit, and bring those ‘In the sky’ down to ground level at some time.

I’ve always liked the dredgers, as they’re so different from other vessels, most of the mechanical bits are in clear view, and there’s always the fact that those buckets go through a big hole in the hull.

And they made guest appearances in ‘Taggart’, when bits of body were seen coming up in the bucket – and rather upset the wee man watching them.

Nov 26, 2018 Posted by | Maritime, photography, Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

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