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Monday 29 September 2008

Winter Ferry Timetable begins……

Today is the start of the Winter ferry schedule for all the Orkney ferries serving the islands. For Graemsay this means we lose our “mid-morning” service (10.45 from the island to Stromness, Mon-Fri), our afternoon service moves from 4.30 to 4pm from Stromness, we don’t get any evening boats on a Friday, and weekend boats are only running on the first and third weekend of each month.

The first week of the new schedule always has me double and triple checking the time. Although I do have friends in Stromness I can stay with if I do miss a boat!

The boat I miss most is the mid-morning run. In the winter it just feels so dire to get up in total darkness and down to the pier to the “early boat” which leaves Graemsay at 8.25, with daylight only appearing as one drives into Kirkwall at 9am!

Three times a week we have a “mid-day” boat service which brings cargo to the island, but this service then sails onto the island of Hoy and round a rough bit of coast back to Stromness. This takes 45 minutes to go from Graemsay to Stromness instead of 15 minutes if one does get up early enough to go in the morning! And the cargo boat doesn’t arrive in town till about 1.15pm so that doesn’t give much time to go into Kirkwall, shop etc. and get home for the 4pm boat. Though we do have the option of a later boat leaving Stromness at 5.45, as long as one remembers to book by 10am that morning! Ho Hum. I do get used to the changes eventually. It’s been this way since I moved here 8 years ago and with rising fuel costs we’re not likely to get additional services so I’m not complaining – just mumbling because I hate any reminder of the onset of Winter! Roll on the first week of May when our “summer” schedule starts again!

And funnily enough I don’t miss having a boat service at the weekend. There is something very relaxing knowing that you just *can’t* leave the island for a couple of days. Though there have been times when I’ve been unwell that I get a bit nervous *not* having a boat to pop over to the doctor or chemist. But I keep a supply of medications for most eventualities so again it’s not too much bother. And in emergency circumstances the boat will bring the doctor out to the island, or evacuate folk who are ill. In extreme circumstances there is an air-ambulance helicopter that arrives with paramedics etc. But usually the boat is the better option – as often the wind is too bad for the helicopter to land, but the ferry generally manages to get in at some point during the day in extreme bad weather depending on tide, wind direction.

In fact there are generally only one or two days in the winter when our ferry service doesn’t run – unlike most of the other isles which have more exposed piers or harbours. So we are very fortunate. Though I’ve noticed in the last couple of years more occasions when the ferry doesn’t run due to health and safety precautions. Once when I first moved to the island some years ago I was returning from work in the town and having managed to get off the boat, found the wind was so strong I couldn’t move to walk up the pier. Fortunately the skipper had phoned a neighbour to come down to catch the rope and help me up the pier! Thankfully nowadays I don’t have to “commute” regularly to Kirkwall so can pick and choose the days I go to town depending on weather (usually whether I can get out of bed in time or not!).


  1. We got an extra day of the summer timetable here in Westray, the winter boats starting on Tuesday. From the middle of October that means we lose our afternoon sailing back from Kirkwall and when refit timetable comes aroundin January you can get into Kirkwall on a Saturday, but not return - roll on next May!

  2. Ferry cancellations due to "adverse weather" expected tomorrow I see. Autumn's here ..... Roll on next may......