Ferry Duties

MV Etive Shearwater – Ferry To The Hebridies




Etive Shearwaters normal run was to the Islands of Muck, Rum Eigg, Canna, Soay, and Skye from Arisaig and also making port at Malaig.

She has left behind countless memories, anecdotes and photographs. Some of which are here but many more are with those who have sailed on her, along with the memories that they take with them. She is more than just a boat to many, she has charisma and character. Those memories are best portrayed by one who remembers her most.

“Who can ever forget the whale watching, the boat while anxious people on the islands watched circling round in the distance and getting no closer? I particularly remember one beautiful but bitingly cold November day some twenty years ago when the boat went on her monthly mail run to Soay.

We caught up with a pod of killer whales off Rum and travelled with them for a while before they swam off into the distance.
Speaking of the monthly mail run; a school pupil on Soay entered a National Competition run by Royal Mail . The task was to draw a picture of your Post Office – he drew the Shearwater and won first prize.

She has carried other odd things besides passengers, including piglets to Muck which travelled safely and contentedly in a wheelie bin. Ronnie has carried out numerous ceremonies of scattering ashes at sea. She has starred in any number of television programmes and news stories and carried countless well known people either at work or on holiday. She even figured on ‘Spitting Image’ when the programme poked fun at Selina Scott’s trip to Muck. There was the on-board ceilidh organised specially for a Russell Harty programme.

Ceilidhs of course – during the cruise or while moored at the pier on Eigg. From the famous Eigg Ceilidh Band and it’s individual musicians to Farquhar and Tearlach MacFarlane, there have been so many tunes played aboard, on fiddle, pipes, guitar. It’s a theory that the whales are drawn by the sound of the fiddle or pipes…

For many years the Shearwater acted as the off-shore watering hole for the island inhabitants, a fact mentioned in the Radio Times when promoting a TV star’s programme on one of the Small Isles. She had got off the boat at Eigg to see a number of men rushing down the pier towards her and had waited, smiling, to sign autographs for her adoring fans – only to find herself ignored as they clambered eagerly aboard for a lunchtime ‘pint’. Hence the modern day myth on Eigg with regards to the standing stone now erected to mark the purchase of the island. Local craic has it that it was being carried towards the cemetery when the bearers saw the Shearwater coming in.

MV Shearwater made her last scheduled run out of Arisaig with her ferry duties, on Sunday 30th September, taking the chance of a ‘window’ in the gales to fetch home the Mallaig High School pupils who had been taking part in a ‘digital imaging weekend’ on Eigg.”

Her final sail from Arisaig however took her up the Caledonian Canal to her new owner, who intended to live aboard and take her out for the odd trip.

Although at one time lived on in this period by the gentleman mentioned, at some point he sold her to a family, sadly her time as a home came to an end, during this time many changes were made to her fabric the main and most obvious change was to the superstructure, this has served very well in preserving the ship beneath, from the elements.

Having now passed through several hands in the past few years, she finds herself with no engines aboard and the superstructure has been disturbed although replaced, to facilitate their removal. So under new ownership it is now intended to return her to her wartime appearance, enough of her original fabric remains for this to be a real proposition, as beneath her most recent additions to her topsides, her original coachlines aft are still present along with all hatchway openings. Internally much of her appearance from her ferry days also survives well intact including her bespoke staircases