Please send me SCA's fortnightly briefing:

June 27, 2012

Cashing in on the high seas

Some hobbies are generally recognised to be the sole preserve of the well off and yachting is certainly one of them. Research shows that if a yacht ties up overnight and its crew go ashore, the local economy will reap the benefits. The west coast of Scotland is a world renowned mecca for yacht cruising so it’s something of a mystery that more communities haven’t tried to lure these floating cash machines to stop by.  Lochaline is one that has.


Extract from Morvern Community Development Company’s website

To view a photograph of the pontoons click here.

Concern over reduced prospects for employment in the Lochaline area, combined with the strong recommendations of The Countryside Exchange report in 2001, led the community to recognize the potential of marine based tourism in sustaining the local economy. The location is remote by land but by sea is strategically well placed as an anchorage and is well used as an overnight stop for yachts on the popular routes up and down the Sound of Mull, well placed between Oban and Tobermory. 

At present the popular anchorages in the loch are distant from the village and access to the shore and village is difficult. There are commercial access restrictions associated with the ferry slipway and the silica sand mine, plus strong tides, restrictive depths and difficult access to the foreshore. There are also limited facilities accessible to yachts for servicing such as water and fuel. As a result the village does not benefit greatly from passing yachts. 

The Morvern Community Development Company (MCDC) aims to stimulate the local economy through encouraging both visiting yachts to stop here and to come ashore to the village and to develop permanent marina berthing. The project is seen as having an important and mutually beneficial relationship with an independent private proposal for a boat yard and yacht storage facility in the loch put forward in 2003. 

We have compiled a brief overview of existing data on yachting in Scotland and on the West Coast in particular to assess the potential market and potential benefits to the community of a yachting development in the loch. Local surveys and visits to other yachting developments on the West Coast have confirmed this view.

In consultation with the community we have assessed the physical and technical problems associated with developing such a facility and identified a number of development options. The most popular and most economically viable option is installation of pontoons to berth up to 20 average size yachts and associated services, water, electricity, marine diesel fuelling facilities and Wi-Fi access.

Morvern Community Development Company have been pursuing for some time the installation of a floating pontoon based structure which will enable visiting yachts to tie alongside and either come ashore safely to purchase provisions and services or to use as an overnight berth.

The Company originally had proposals for an 80 berth marina, however following feasibility studies it was deemed that this was not an economically viable option. Since then the proposals have been altered to a floating pontoon structure to berth up to 20 average size yachts some with 50m walkway to it, built on top of an old stone jetty. Planning permission has been granted for this by the Highland Council. 

At present Lochaline has a large volume of visiting yachts but unfortunately with most of the good anchorages being located away from the village and its facilities the visitors tend not to come ashore in great numbers. The pontoons will be located at the closest feasible point to the village and will enable visitors to take a 10 minute stroll along the loch side path to the village facilities. 

Informal observations throughout summer 2006 (Mid May-Mid September) indicated that there were an average of 19 visiting vessels entering Lochaline every day during this period, using an estimate of 3 persons per visiting boat this equates to almost 7000 visits during the main summer months. While this figure drops off rapidly over the winter months there are still many sport dive boats and sport fishermen operating out of Lochaline throughout the winter months who have expressed interest in safe berthing facilities.

The pontoon development will ensure that locals and visitors will have a safe and reliable access to the sea. Local people have indicated that better mooring and berthing facilities would encourage them to use the water more readily. A number of local boat owners are elderly and the pontoons will allow them safe access to their vessels. 

Local dive boat operators have indicated that they will use the facility, as the pier at the mouth of Lochaline is unsuitable for use at low tides, giving problems of safe access for clients. 

New small businesses could be generated through activities, such as windsurfing, kayaking and scuba diving. The area is agreed to be the premier all year round diving Mecca in the UK and Lochaline itself is described in many yachting magazines as offering some of the best all weather anchorages of any harbour in this part of the West coast.

The pontoons would further assist in the aspirations of Morvern to be a player in “Lochaber, Outdoor Capital of the UK” project. New leisure opportunities, which may be engendered by the creation of pontoons will be a major benefit to the young people who live in the village, providing healthy outdoor activities, without them having to travel to Fort William and beyond to participate.

It is expected that with creation of pontoons, that extra visitors will add significantly to the sustainability of existing businesses, and may create new business opportunities. 

The nearest pontoons to Lochaline are in Tobermory Harbour on the Isle of Mull. Tobermory offer slightly superior facilities to what Lochaline pontoons will be offering initially, and this is reflected in the price. We have plans for installing shore facilities as soon as the pontoons are in place. We do not consider ourselves to be in competition with Tobermory, quite the opposite – we are going to be working together to promote each other’s businesses as safe and secure places to stay overnight while exploring the Sound of Mull.