Well it seems when I posted previously that our Hebridean adventure was over, I spoke too soon! We made it to the pier in plenty of time, had our tickets checked, filled out boarding cards and all the usual odds and ends, then had a wander around while waiting for the boat to arrive into Lochboisdale from Oban. A short while before due arrival time - 13.40hrs - we wandered to the headland outside the hotel to watch her arrive....only she didn't! By 13.45 the Calmac chaps on the pier waiting to receive her were looking at their watches, and by 14.00 the rest of us were doing the same! At about 14.10 a couple we'd met on the RSPB Raptor Walk with Stuart on Thursday came over to say hello, and he confirmed that he'd been told that there was a problem with the boat's stabiliser fin - they couldn't get it to retract apparently, and were in the process of trying to fix it...hmmmm. It was pleasant enough sitting in the sun, and this news didn't seem too desperate, so expecting to see MV Lord of the Isles appearing round the headland any second, we sat, chatted and waited.
Half an hour or so later and still no ferry, I decided to go and find one of the pier staff and see what the latest was. No change - they were still trying to fix the problem, the boat was still just out of sight around the headland, but apparently the skipper had confirmed that if necessary he would be able to get the ferry berthed OK at Lochboisdale...worryingly there was no mention of whether he'd then be willing to take her out again!
By this time I think we were all starting to wonder whether in fact we would be sailing - there is no scheduled departure from Lochboisdale on a Sunday so if the boat didn't go as scheduled there was a chance we'd be there until Monday - the only viable alternative being to see if we could get on a ferry across to Barra in order to get the ferry from there but even that wouldn't get us back to Oban until after 2pm - meaning a very late arrival indeed home in Essex! Eventually the chap we were sitting chatting with went off for a status update, and came back with the cheery news that they were now moving again and should be in view shortly, and sure enough very soon thereafter she appeared round the headland for all the world as though nothing had been wrong!
They positively chased the cars that had been on board off, practically hurled those of us waiting aboard, and got underway again as quickly as possible, but still nearly 2 hours late unfortunately. As I'm writing this while we're aboard, I currently have no idea how much - if any - of this time we'll manage to make up, but cross your fingers for us please!
*edit* I was unable to get this to post earlier in any event, so have an update! We didn't make up any time on the crossing in spite of flat calm seas, and arrived at Oban bang on our revised ETA of 21.05pm. Thankfully we had a flying journey through to our overnight stop and arrived at Stirling Services - where this is being posted from - exactly two hours after disembarking. I do hope the poor people we were talking to earlier on - whose overnight stop was at Carlisle (something we had considered ourselves) have a similarly smooth journey through to there and don't arrive there too late!