14th July and at last I have “bagged” my first HM of 2020 – Vicki Mckenzie of Oban – Britain’s second busiest ferry port after Dover!
There is far more to Oban Harbour than initially meets the eye, including the discovery of two more Harbour Masters I never knew exisited – more about that later. It is the main HQ for Calmac ferries (I will be doing a separate story for ferry lovers) and also the operational HQ for the Northern Light Board – the Scottish equivalent of Trinity House in England, reponsible for all the lighthouses and navigation buoys in Scottish waters. Again, the story of Robert Stevenson the lighthouse engineer deserves its own post.
Back to the harbour, and Vicki who trained as a skipper with The Ocean Youth Trust before taking over as HM in 2011. She is assisted by Richard Dobson, an ex Royal Navy submariner who is photographed with Good Dog and her new Seafarers Banner which I am pleased to say has already secured a £50 donation! They run the main “yachtie” & commercial area of the harbour (not the ferry port) and also manage the 90 cruise ships which visit Oban in a normal year. in 2020 she thinks there will be none visiting which rather sums up the VERY empty feel the harbour had as you can see from the photos. Normally in July the population of the town has swollen from 8,000 to 30,000 people – hard to imagine.
Back to technical stuff – a wonderfully unique fact about Oban harbour is the the buoyage on the main entrance channel appears to be back to front – i.e. Green buoys on the left and Red buoys on the right. Confusing as this might sound, it is in fact quite correct – the buoyage runs up the Kerrera channel from the south – and simply continues out to sea at the north end which happens to be the main entrance. A lesson to us yachties to read charts properly! Vicki’s most unusual job to date has been dealing with a sperm whale trapped in the harbour for a few days.
Thank you Vicki and Richard and I hope Oban soon returns to its normal busy “Gateway to the Highlands”.