Made in Argyll: Sula launch celebrated at Creran

Owner Claire MacRae launches the Sula III while builder Edwin Payne looks on from the hull.

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The Sula III in all her majestic glory awaits her launch at Creren Marine.

Alutec Marine Ltd, a local company building aluminium boats at Creran,
launched their latest new-build on Saturday morning.

Commissioned by North Berwick-based Sula Boat Trips at the end of 2018, Sula III was scheduled for delivery at the start of this year but due to the Covid-19 pandemic her journey hasn’t all been plain sailing.

Established in 1970 the Sula company set out running passenger boat trips (Sula I) around the Bass Rock, while Sula II started her life as a fishing vessel in Norfolk before returning to the east coast of Scotland to also run as a tour vessel.

In 2011 Duncan, cousin of the Oban-based Mathesons Furniture family, and Claire MacRae bought the company and Sula II continued sailings until 2018 when due to more stringent Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) rules being introduced she would not longer be allowed to carry passengers out of North Berwick.  She was sold and now operates from Lulworth Cove in Dorset.

To preserve the Sula business for the future a new vessel was needed and at the end of 2018 Sula III was commissioned. Designed by Argyll-based Murray Cormack Naval Architects and built by Alutec Marine in Balcardine her majestic presence will ensure that Sula boat trips can continue as North Berwick’s premier boat operators long into the future.

Sula III makes her way down to the slipway followed by her many admirers on launch day.

A sizeable crowd turned out to watch Karen launch the new vessel on Saturday in the traditional ‘champagne’ manner.

‘Watching her slide down into the water was a really proud moment for everyone,’ she told us.

‘It hasn’t been an easy road, with the pandemic stopping work for months, but the team here at Creran have been amazing and it’s credit to everyone involved that we now have such a beautiful boat.’

Alutec Marine are based at Creran Marine’s facility north of Oban. It is a small
company employing local people to construct and fit out aluminium hulls to a high standard. This is the sixth passenger vessel the company has built using a proven hullform, the first being built in 1998 for use in the exposed waters at Barra in the Outer Hebrides.

Boat builder Edwin Payne, Alutec Marine, watches proudly as his latest creation is launched.

Karen Payne, who runs the business along with husband Edwin said: ‘We were hit by a few problems nearer the end of this build but with a great effort from our team and understanding from our customer meant we got there eventually.

‘It’s definitely something to be celebrated at the end of what has been a very difficult time for everyone.’

The 13m long boat was designed by Murray Cormack Associates to carry 63 passengers and has been built to meet the E C Directive regulations inspected by the MCA.

Day trips will include going around the Bass Rock to view the gannets and other seabirds.

The boat is designed for bow and side boarding at different levels and is fitted
with a gyro-stabiliser unit to minimise rolling and enhance passenger comfort especially when making a passage across the Forth to Anstruther or out to the Isle of May.

The Sula III takes to the water at Loch Creran to the skirl of the pipes.