Small Craft Beware Ferries & Large Vessels

CalMac Ferries make approximately 13,000 crossings every year to and from Oban. This is in addition to the 4,600 large vessel movements to Oban Harbour (north pier). In the summer there can be a ferry using the large vessel channel, in the north entrance, every 15 minutes. It is therefore important that care is exercised by both the masters of the ferries and other commercial vessels and the skippers of leisure craft to ensure that incidents and close quarters situations are minimised.

To reduce the risk of incidents between ferries and small craft the following points should be noted.

  • When navigating in Oban Bay and the Sound of Kerrera mariners must comply with the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS)
  • If you do use the fairway you must not cause obstruction to vessels which can navigate only within the fairway.
  • Please be aware of the navigation constraints under which the ferries operate. When using the fairway, keep to the starboard side of the channel and avoid using the large vessel channel, unless there are no other vessels in the vicinity.
  • On the approach of ferries, large vessels or when the volume of traffic is high, keep in single file and only overtake when it is safe to do so.
  • If sailing be aware that the ferry is a large object and will take your wind. Plan accordingly and be prepared.
  • Keep a good look out so that you are aware of what is going on all around you. Don't forget to look behind you, especially in bad weather.
  • The sterns of the ferries swing outwards as they turn so keep well clear.
  • Ferries have powerful thruster units at each end of the vessel that can cause turbulence that may be hazardous for small craft. This is particularly noticeable if they need to stop and hold their position against the wind and on approach manoeuvres into the berth - be aware of the effect of the ferry's thrust on your intended course and keep clear at all times.
  • The wake of the ferry often looks deceptively calm. However, underwater eddies can affect the steerage of small craft. When following a ferry keep a sensible distance astern – at least one ferry length.
  • There are strong tides in the Bay and approaches. Allowance should be made for this effect to avoid being swept onto shallow areas or across the channel and into the path of oncoming traffic.
  • If you cannot see the ferry's bridge the Master will not be able to see you. Keep where you can be seen at all times.
  • Manoeuvring under sail: yachtsmen (particularly those trying to make the start of a race) are asked not to hoist sails in the main fairway or in the channels or areas used by the ferries.
  • Remember that when ferries are forced to take avoiding action for small craft they may change their relationship to other small craft. Try not to force them to take avoiding action. If ferries do alter course or speed due to another vessel, reassess your situation.