The first of the new SPIRIT class from Ace Marine Ltd – Naval Architects Ltd., a
14.75m high speed passenger ferry has now entered service on time and on
The vessel was built by Sandy Morrison Engineering in Uig, Isle of Skye. Sandy
Morrison reported “the Spitit of Skye had finished its trials with flying colous.
The performance of the vessel was better than hoped for by a large margin.
Predictions were in the region of 28 knots. A top speed of 32.7 knots was
recorded. The vessel is now in service – the UltraJets are superb and well ahead
of other types we have used”.
According to David Gray of Scottish naval architect practice Ace Marine, the
idea of a ferry going over the sea to Skye is not a new one, although with the
Skye bridge opening a few years ago, it is not an adventure many people
undertake these days. Before today’s network of roads came into existence,
travelling by boat was the best and sometimes the only way to explore the
northwest Highlands and Islands. Caldedonian MacBrayne provided a link
between the communities of Gairloch and Portree unti lthe 1940s, when
improvements to roads and the ascent of the motor car made the service
unviable. However, improvements in maritime efficiency now made the
reintroduction of this route a viable and attractive alternative to the time
consuming and hair-raising journey by road.
There had long been talk of a possible passenger service linking the North of
Skye to the Scottish mainland at Gairloch. Following a feasibility study a group
of local businessmen formed a new company in 2003 called West Highland
Seaways Ltd., trading as 6o West.
The vessel will operate on a scheduled 26 nm service between Portree and
Gairloch in the Isle of Skye. The requirement to make it successful was that the
journey must be done four times per day, in one and a half hours - which
required an average speed of 18 knots. The journey had to be comfortable, but
in a craft that could also handle the rough sea conditions that can be
encountered in that area.
Ace Marine were approached to design the craft and responded with what the
company describes as a new concept in boat design. Lightweight comfortable
aircraft style seating was the starting point for its passengers. A total of 36
passengers and two crew will be onboard. The craft has on-board catering
facilities and toilet. The vessel is designed to meet the requirements of the EU
Passenger Ship Safety directive class C, and the Workboat Code of Practice.
She is constructed in Aluminium. A narrow hard chine planing hull form was
moulded around six rows of seats, the hull being designed to offer excellent
seakeeping qualities, both at speed and loitering.
West Highland Marine requested twin Cummins 6BTA5.9M engines @ 315hp to
give a level of propulsive redundancy. However, the large 26 inch propellers
required to push the vessel at 18-20 knots meant long shafts with brackets and exposed rudders.
A long and deep sloping keel would have had to be added in order to protect
the propellers and rudders for beaching purposes. Waterjets were investigated
and although initial findings were not encouraging, following discussions with
UltraJet, Ace Marine found twin UltraJet 305s met their requirements of
efficiency, thrust and cost.