REVELLERS headed for a Hebridean music festival have been hit as anger surfaced over the breakdown of a lifeline ferry vessel which has put it out of action for a fifth day.

The issues over one of the oldest vessels in the CalMac fleet MV Hebridean Isles has hit services to Colonsay and Islay.

After repairs and sea trials, it was discovered yesterday (Wednesday) that the issue with the 36-year-old vessel's hull requires further investigations therefore it remained sidelined.

CalMac confirmed all sailings on the Oban to Colonsay were cancelled yesterday (Wednesday).

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It is not yet clear how long the vessel will remain out of action.


Some performers and visitors due to take part in the Ceòl Cholasa music festival on Colonsay today (Thursday) have raised their concerns over being able to reach the traditional folk event which is now in its 13th year.

Organisers have said that while the Wednesday ferry to Colonsay may have been cancelled the festival will go on as planned.

They said: "All of our sympathies to those stuck on the mainland, desperate to get over and ease themselves into proceedings."

But travellers have told of their concerns to state-owned ferry operator CalMac over social media.

Artist and musician Lucy Johnstone said a a sailing she was expecting did not happen.

"I have an exhibition for the festival in my car which I now have no idea when I can get to Colonsay," she said.

"Ferry is cancelled. OK. I asked if I would be able to sail on Thursday in this circumstance. Three phone calls, Twitter, Messenger and email registered and not one answer."

Another made contact saying: "Calmac, this is really disappointing and unfortunate timing.

"This crossing is really important as it brings artists and visitors to the annual music festival on the island Ceol Cholasa. Please will you have a relief boat to make sure the festival can happen?"

Another traveller, Jacqueline Gallacher told CalMac: "Surely this route should be prioritised and another boat put on in place as it’s festival week on Colonsay. Ceol Cholasa can’t function without bands and audience.

"Surely as our Colonsay boat has been cancelled tomorrow we should be automatically booked on Thursday boat. Why is this not happening?"

Stacy Steven said that her ferry to Islay was cancelled at short notice on Wednesday.

She told CalMac on Tuesday: "Three people, four dogs and luggage now cannot get to our non refundable accomodation. What will CalMac be doing about this?"

And she added yesterday: "Twice in three days there's been last minute cancellations. One nearly lost us £760 accomodation. It boggles my brain there is no contingencies. Particularly with commuting routes."


CalMac officials offered apologies for the inconvenience caused.

The state-owned ferry operator confirmed that it had to redeploy MV Isle of Mull from the Oban to Craignure route, one of Scotland's busiest routes on Monday to Islay - leading to further cancellations.

Services to Islay and Colonsay were reduced initially to just one vessel as repairs were sought just nine days after Hebridean Isles was laid up due to a technical issue with its port main engine.

CalMac suggested that customers make a just over two hour detour to Lochaline in the Highlands, 67 miles away from Oban, where there is an alternative ferry to Fishnish on Mull.

This was due to what the ferry operator called "limited capacity on alternative sailings".

CalMac has traditionally served Islay with two vessels including MV Finlaggan.

It is the latest in a summer of issues with breakdowns and Covid issues involving Scotland's ageing ferry fleet.

Transport minister Graeme Dey said attempts were being made to ease the ferry crisis by purchasing another ferry.

Last week, another ferry brought in to help support Scotland's beleaguered lifeline network was put out of action the day after it was chartered.

The 40-passenger catamaran MV Larven, normally operated by Western Isles Cruises was brought in by the state-controlled ferry operator as further disruption hit services to and from the so-called Small Isles including Eigg, Muck, Rum and Canna.

But a day after CalMac told customers they had secured the charter - it was taken out of service for what was only described as a "technical issue" and is not expected back for three days.

CalMac warned that they were not accepting any additional day trip bookings for two days so that it could accommodate existing bookings and island residents.

That came just six weeks after another ferry chartered with the sanction of ministers to support Scotland's the network broke down in less than a week.

The MV Arrow was brought in to help relieve pressure on freight services between CalMac's Stornoway to Ullapool crossing.

CalMac had hoped the charter would free up space on its MV Loch Seaforth ferry, particular during the busiest weeks of the summer tourist season.

But even it hit problems after marine waste got tangled with a propellor on Saturday and all sailings were scrapped till the end of the month.

The breakdown in April of Scotland's biggest publicly-run ferry MV Loch Seaforth, which operates on the Stornoway to Ullapool route, caused disruption across the islands network for seven weeks.

Islanders from Arran to Islay have lodged complaints to ministers about disruption and cancellations to services as the ageing Scottish ferry fleet falters.

While industry experts agree the working life of the ferries is 25 years, 14 of the 33-strong ferry fleet run is older than that, with eight, including Hebridean Isles, past their 30th birthday.