Until recently almost any journey on our western seaboard would have involved a ferry crossing or two. The ferries were part of the lifeblood of the coastal communities and stories about them form an interesting component of our social history. The skills of the ferrymen were legendary in keeping vital routes open in all weather.
Greatly improved roads and numerous bridges have reduced the numbers considerably and ferrymen and women are now quite a rare breed. Some of the ferries from earlier days can be seen gently rotting in remote bays, a reminder of the greater skills required of the early motorists than those of today.
There seems to be constant pressure, certainly from landowners if not from the ordinary folk, to reduce ferry links further by constructing more bridges and causeways. After all, having a proper road link to the mainland provided at the taxpayer's expense will easily add a zero to the end of whatever figure one's island is currently valued at. The implications of this in terms of rapid influx of new residents, pressure on island roads and so on are pretty obvious. Perhaps more important is the loss of the peculiar quality that makes islands special, the uniqueness of access by ferry.
I was able to reflect on this a few days ago when crossing to Easdale for a quick visit that had been arranged before the wind got up. With over 30 mph blowing across the Sound I wouldn't have been surprised to find the ferry off, so there was a little surprise and apprehension when I saw the two ferrymen and their dog setting off in response to my summons. I needn't have worried, because the trip across and back was a model of expert seamanship and boat-handling. It would take a lot to stop the Easdale ferry running.