The captain said the first half of the ferry trip might be a bit rough.

Oh, and the second half would be too.

I’ve usually stood out on the deck for the next hour to marvel at how the catamaran has only one speed: foot to the floor.

Still, it all seemed okay as we left Bluff wharf, and we hugged the coast for the first five minutes, in the lee of Bluff Bluff. Then the open water hit, gale winds accompanied by steep breaking waves, maybe 4 m or so, and I had to use both hands to hold on as the ferry rolled and rocked around, 25° each way from the horizontal.

Speed? Foot to the floor!!

Didn’t take long to realise attempting to stand outside wasn’t such a sensible policy and like everyone else moved inside. Even the crew were sitting down. It felt like we were all in a giant top-loading washing machine. A couple of times I thought we might cartwheel, but the captain seemed unconcerned.

Just another day at the office for him.

They offer a complimentary coffee as part of the ticket price and I took advantage of that, despite taking a considerable time to cross from the bar to a seat. No grabrail was available, and I needed to time my dash between waves. Eventually I was seated at the rear table, but I have to say I only managed to get half my coffee down. The rest was sloshed onto the tabletop.

I learned something. Image stabilisation for cameras had progressed so well that the kind of rollicking we were doing just looks normal in a video.

People disembarked after our hour of fun looking pale and feeling green. I’ve been on that catamaran numerous times over the years, getting near 20 crossings, and that was the most vigorous seas I have encountered.

Only my first two trips to Oban on the old non-catamaran ferry, the Wairua, were anywhere near as uncomfortable as it used to bob around like a cork in the waves. And take about three times as long.

The Wairua, a 45 m tub, operated from 1961 to 1985 and I later found something on the Internet that helped explain the 627-ton ship’s idiosyncracies.

Wairua was a funny little ship. One of her more endearing characteristics was her inability to steam in a straight line. You could steady her on course for a minute or two, then for some reason she would sheer off to one side or the other and have to be coaxed back on course, only to lurch off again in a minute or two. This made ship handling ‘interesting’ (and probably many passengers seasick.) In contrast, going astern, she was quite docile and controllable – which is why she was backed into her berth at Bluff.”

After the turbulent ferry trip, I realised Oban was a good place to rest up for the remainder of Wednesday morning. And the afternoon, and next day for that matter.

Time to sort out all my gear and repack my pack so three-week’s worth of food all fitted in.

Day 1 | to North Arm Hut →