Monday, October 14, 2013

Island Paradise: Voyage Aboard the MV Pentalina

I've travelled by ferry many times before - and written about it! I've travelled with Northlink Ferries more times than I can count. I've sailed aboard the Hrossey, the Hjaltland, and the Hamnavoe. However, there was something I hadn't done - I'd never sailed with Pentland Ferries, Orkney's non-subsidized ferry service. Pentland carries passengers and cars aboard the MV Pentalina, a purpose-built catamaran, between St. Margaret's Hope (Orkney) and Gill's Bay (Scotland). Needing to make a run to Aberdeen, I sailed with Pentland Ferries for the first time last week.

The day was slightly windy - as days in and around Orkney tend to be - but there was enough sunshine to warm things up a bit. There were amazing views of both Scapa Flow and South Ronaldsay - the latter of which I have fond memories of. We passed by Flotta, and I explored the ferry. It's basically a big horseshoe, with an internal corridor, an upper observation deck, all of the crew areas up front in the bow, and a big, open car deck. The Pentalina swings around before docking, and lowers the stern ramp to allow both passengers and vehicles to disembark.

Having not studied the route very extensively before departing, I was pleasantly surprised that although we didn't pass directly by Burwick (at the southern tip of South Ronaldsay), we did pass by two islands: Swona and Stroma. Neither are populated, though there's a sort of abandoned village and a lighthouse or two on Stroma. Both are gorgeous and green in the sunlight, with awe-inspiring swells. It's tough to take pictures of things like swells, or waves, or whatever. I tried, but they just turned out as scenery shots. Maybe I'll try again later or something.

The catamaran design is faster than a standard ferry, but it doesn't handle that turbulence quite as well. The Pentalina isn't quite as plush as the Hrossey, the Hjaltland, or the Hamnavoe, but there are some advantages, which Pentland Ferries is keen to advertise. One example is its short duration - compared to about an hour and a half from Stromness to Scrabster, the run from St. Margaret's Hope to Gill's Bay is only about seventy minutes. Another example is the timetable - while the Hamnavoe runs pretty early in the morning, and then again in the evening, the Pentalina boasts mid-day runs throughout the year. At any rate, something else I find fascinating is just how good the Scots are at transport - whether you take the Hamnavoe or the Pentalina, Stagecoach has a bus there to take you to Inverness within about twenty minutes. That's pretty cool, right? I can see myself sailing from St. Margaret's Hope - or from Gill's Bay - again in the foreseeable future.

No comments:

Post a Comment