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April 26, 2006

Vital Spark

At Inverary we found this pair of small ships that make up a fascinating Maritime Museum. In the foreground is the Antarctic Penguin, once a Light Ship in the Clyde Approaches and now a preserved vessel with displays of the maritime heritage of the Clyde and the Western Isles. Tucked in behind her is one of a large number of "Puffers" which once roamed the Lochs and islands collecting and delivering goods before the trade was taken over by the juggernaut lorry and the vehicle ferries. The one captured here was originally built for the Royal Navy and served all her working life as Vic 27, carrying stores and munitions around fleet anchorages to replenish the capital ships of the once mighty Royal Navy. Now she is preserved with the dual purpose of comemorating the men and small vessels who kept that fleet at sea, and also the large number of similar ships and hardworking men who plied the Scottish coast with their little ships supplying communities with the necessities of life.

The former Light Ship "Antarctic Penguin" and the 'puffer' Vic 27 now bearing the name "Vital Spark" alongside the quay in Inverary.

Those familiar with the Tales of Para Handy will recognise the name the Vic 27 now carries, the "Vital Spark" being the roguish Para Handy's little ship. In fact this small ship and one or two like her, have stood in for various TV programmes which have brought Para Handy and his crew to life for a more recent generation who will never have encountered their like.

The Antarctic Penguin is home to a fascinating display of famous ships and their crews and owners, of the conditions aboard them and of the "emigrant ships" - some as small as fifty feet in length - that carried the displaced Highlanders and Islanders away from Scotland during the "clearances" of the 1800 - 1850 period. Conditions aboard were horrendous for these unwilling passengers. The Penguin herself was never used for oceanic voyages, buit served instead as a moored navigation beacon in the Clyde approaches. Her rig is authentic, she did indeed have three full masts, the fixed lights she displayed being carried on them. For all that she has a sound sea going shape and must have been a good sea keeper when in use. She carried a crew of eight and they would have done a "tour" of a month at a time aboard.

Both vessels are well worth the time to visit - as is the Castle, home to the Dukes of Argyll, the famous heads of the Campbell Clan.

Posted by The Gray Monk at April 26, 2006 09:07 AM

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