There are many fond memories of that cantankerous lady with steel in her guts
Simon Calder’s career in travel started at Gatwick Airport, where he cleaned aircraft for Laker Airways and later worked as a security officer. He became The Independent’s Travel Correspondent in 1994, and is known as “the Man Who Pays His Way” because he does not accept free travel facilities. He writes across the Independent titles, as well as for the Evening Standard.
Saturday 30 August 1997
"In the article you write that the Argyll & Antrim Steam Packet Company has reinstated the Campbeltown-Ballycastle route using the MV Claymore. Over 25 years ago I frequently sailed from Oban to the Isle of Coll on the Claymore, then owned by MacBrayne's (or NoBrains as we called them).
"I have very many fond memories of the old Claymore, especially when Captain Gunn was aboard - once he took her out across the Minch in a force 14." This is not a wind strength that appears on my Beaufort Scale, but perhaps Mr Osborne's recollections are slightly distorted by a mechanical condition on the Claymore.
"When I sailed on her, she had a severely unbalanced flywheel on the engine. This caused a vibration throughout the vessel which would build up and then die away.
"The bar was equipped with small, round, metal-rimmed tables. At one time MacBrayne's somehow got their hands on a huge stock of miniature bottles of spirits (rumour has it that they fell off the back of a British Railways train), so the optics were taken down and the miniatures used instead."
Mr Osborne and his pals used the vibration to entertaining effect. "The trick was with several of us standing around one of the tables using one half-pint glass and filling it with whisky using the miniatures. One person would take a drink and then set the glass down next to the metal rim. The vessel's vibration would cause the glass to travel unaided around the table, each person taking a drink as it passed. The last person to drain the glass paid for the next refill. In this way, the four-hour voyage passed in a gentle haze of empty miniatures bobbing along in the Claymore's wake, and a storm force 10 became, in the words of Captain Gunn, `a gentle breeze'.
"Then there was the time a Scottish Blackface ewe wandered into the bar but was thrown out for being underage, and the ceilidhs in the crew's cabins when she was docked in Oban overnight (the Claymore sailed for Coll at 6am).
"Many, many fond memories of a grand, old cantankerous lady, with steel in her guts. I will definitely be sailing on her new route to Ireland, if only to find the bar and say hello to the vibration."
Could this be the most expensive public transport in the world? The handsome old lift that towers over Slussen in the middle of Stockholm saves a steep climb, but to cover 200ft you pay 5 krona - which, even with the most favourable exchange rate for years, converts to 40 pence. Translating this to a per-mile rate, the cost is pounds 11 per mile. For comparison, Concorde is a bargain at less than pounds 1 a mile.
American bookshops are always good value, not least for the ambitious nature of many of the titles. Two examples of wishful thinking in the travel section of Crown Books at Dupont Circle in Washington DC: Trouble- Free Travel by Colwell and Shulman, followed by an even more hopeful offering by Vicki Lansky: Trouble-free Travel with Children ...
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