ONE OF Shetland’s most popular tourism ventures has been secured by three local men who have signed a deal to take over the ferry service to Mousa.
Tom and Cynthia Jamieson have been trying for almost two years to hand over the business they have run for the past 41 years, and had almost given up on finding a local buyer.
However this week former Donvale fishing boat crewmen Garry Sandison, Alan Pottinger and Jimmy Fullerton have clubbed together to buy the Solan IV and its exclusive right to take passengers to the isle of Mousa.
Mousa is an RSPB bird sanctuary and remains a highlight of any visit to the isles with Scotland’s best preserved Pictish broch and world famous wildlife.
Mr Sandison is a self employed photographer who hopes the venture will complement his interest in taking pictures of local wildlife.
His two partners are both lobster fishermen who have the flexibility to work the ferry service alongside their own businesses.
Mr Sandison said he was very worried when he heard the Jamieson’s were starting to look south for a buyer after no local buyer materialised. He stressed that the trio were not using a penny of public money to take over the service.
The Solan IV had been purposely built to carry a coach load of up to 60 passengers to the island using the pier at Sandsayre, at Leebitten, and the rocky shore on the island even at low tide.
“If that ferry disappeared out of the south mouth it might be the end of the service that Tom and Cynthia have built up over the past 41 years,” he said.
“It’s a dream that we have had for a couple of years and every time we looked at it we thought it was going to be unaffordable, but taking other people on board has made it possible.
“When you get someone like Simon King writing what he did about Mousa and for tourists to come up here and not be able to go there would have been a terrible shame.”
There has also been talk about a pontoon being erected on the Mousa side to make landing easier.
Mrs Jamieson said they were delighted to be able to pass the boat on to the next generation along with its exclusive licence to take passengers to Mousa.
The couple bought the first Solan after its owner Peter Smith died in January 1971, and have replaced it three times with larger vessels. Solan IV was built at Lerwick’s Malakoff & Moore shipyard and launched in 1999.
“It’s been very enjoyable and we have met some wonderful people over the years that we are still friends with, but we are in our 70s now and it’s time to hand it over to some new blood with some new ideas,” Mrs Jamieson said.