New Oban berths will benefit everyone
Sir, In the 1980s I looked after the 24-berth, very weather-dependent, pontoons at the South Pier and I was amazed at the amount of business this created.
I think this was not generally recognised as the sailor ashore – apart from the heroes who go shopping wearing their lifejackets – appears as just another tourist.
We always had a large influx of yachts from Ireland and, frequently, could not accommodate all those wanting berths. Bear in mind that this was 30 years ago.
As a keen sailor, I am very much aware that yachts sail from, say Crinan, directly to Tobermory or, more recently, to Loch Aline, which now boasts a marina. For some 30 years Oban has been a backwater, largely bypassed due to lack of berthing facilities.
This is a tragedy as Oban has all the facilities a yachtsman might require such as quality marinas, marine engineering, marine electronics, boat building repairs and excellent storing from the shops and supermarkets.
Tobermory is a shining example of the success of providing visitor berthing. I recently sailed into Tobermory for a brief shop. We used, for one hour in the middle of the afternoon, the second last of the 50 available berths, and this is only May.
The new transit berths in Oban – and the clue is in the name – will not disadvantage any local marina businesses as the maximum number of permitted nights is three. Rather it will complement them. The more yachts that are attracted to Oban, the greater the chance that they will choose to base themselves here permanently, taking advantage of the excellent road, rail and even air connections.
When the owners of the Blue Dragon, a diminutive yacht which cruised the West Coast in the late 1800s, looked for a year-long facility, where did they choose? Kerrera boat yard.
The greatest beneficiaries of the new transit berths will be, firstly, Oban Marina at Kerrera; secondly, Dunstaffnage Marina; and, thirdly, Ardoran Marine. Creran Marine will also benefit as keeping yachts in the Oban area benefits all in the industry.
If yachtsmen are not attracted to Oban, they will not be aware of the benefits of using the area as a permanent base and that is where the real money lies. We have already seen pressure being applied on Argyll and Bute Council for compensation by the previous owner of Oban Marina and it may be that recent correspondence is a precursor to a similar cynical attempt to seek redress for what can only be of benefit.
This suggests a lack of understanding of the industry to an extent that beggars belief. ‘Flying a kite’ springs to mind. The council must not bow to these claims of potential loss which are without foundation in fact. J Patrick Maclean, Oban.