Competition to guess the start date of MV Loch Seaforth

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Islanders can win £100-worth of shopping vouchers if they can correctly guess when the new larger Caledonian MacBrayne ferry from Ullapool to Stornoway finally starts service.

A series of delays and mistakes have angered islanders on Lewis and meant the £42 million vessel MV Loch Seaforth is regularly to be seen on crew training around the west of Scotland but it cannot take yet fare-paying passengers as the pier works at Stornoway and Ullapool are not yet ready after a series of project planning blunders.

Now a cheeky Stornoway guesthouse operator has joined up with a supermarket to offer a prize to anyone who guesses the correct ferry start date in a move which also supports the local fishermen’s mission.

Ali Maclennan, who runs the Hal o’ the Wind guesthouse opposite the ferry terminal being upgraded with wife Shona, came up with the idea after seeing at first hand the work done on Lewis by Finlay Macleod, the islands Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen superintendent.

Ali said: “Everybody is waiting for the new ferry to start but when is that going to be? The ferry cannot start until the completion of the pier works and with the weather we have been having recently the start date is still not known.

“So why not enter our fun fundraiser? Every pound you donate entitles you to an entry to guess the date of her maiden voyage to Ullapool or even another port along with the number of passengers on that sailing.”

The Loch Seaforth was originally due to enter service in September 2013. It was then supposed to begin sailings last summer and then in September. A taskforce has been set up by the Scottish Government to expedite the project but it may be June before the ferry is fully deployed.

Supermarket giant Tesco has teamed up with Alistair’s guesthouse to put up a £100 Tesco voucher for the winner.

The winner will be the person who selects the correct date and is closest to the number of passengers. The competition will close as soon as the ferry start date is officially announced.

There has been controversy since it was announced that all vehicles crossing from Ullapool from May will be diverted to Tarbert on Harris, a move which tourism operators fear may cause mayhem as many visitors already booked and will expect to be arriving in Stornoway.

You can donate and be part of the contest: at

CalMac has so far not commented on the draw and the prize being on offer.

Pictured is guesthouse owner Ali Maclennan who came up with the idea for the fundraising competition.