“Miss Pick Up”, one of the world’s only airworthy Catalina flying boats, suffered engine trouble at the weekend while trying to take off from loch Ness after completing a filming project. It was towed to safety by the Loch Ness RNLI and had been moored to a buoy in Urquhart Bay as operators Plane Sailing Air Displays, planned a rescue operation. What was originally thought to be a faulty starter motor turned out to be a more serious problem so it was decided to remove her from the Loch so that engineers could undertake a more detailed engine examination.
A carefully planned logistical operation was then hatched to recover the aircraft to dry land.
Ness Ribs were tasked with getting the aircraft to Temple Pier and then Stoddart Crane Hire with the lifting operation.
The pressure was on to complete the task asap due to vulnerability of the Catalina. Secured to an old mooring on one of Scotland's deepest Lochs, "MissPick Up" was in real danger of sustaining further damage from the inment arrivial of Autumn storms if she could not be recovered quickly. Fortunately, a small weather window was identified and the chance of light winds and a calm Loch and the carefully planned operation mooved into gear.
A suitable mooring buoy capable of securing the 10ton aircraft was layed approx. 50 m from Temple Pier as an anchor point. Due to both the drag and lift potential a tri-anchor system was used for holding power.
The Catalina was then rigged with a towing line at both the nose and the tail. The plan was to tow her by the tail using the workboat “Tern” then a second workboat “Tytra” would be attached to the nose to help with steerage and to offer a braking option. A third vessel “Petrel” would assist with manoeuvring of the Catalina and for attaching her to the temporary mooring buoy sited alongside Temple Pier.
The Catalina all rigged and the vessels attached the 800m tow across Urquhart Bay began. Transit across the bay took around 45minutes to complete. Once at the temp mooring buoy she was secured, then spun 180° at the tail so that the nose was now facing Temple Pier. The ropes were now passed ashore and as she was eased from the mooring buoy the shore lines would take up the slack drawing her slowly towards the quay wall.
Once 5m off the quay wall, Engineers were transferred to secure a lifting strop to attach to the crane hook. All secure the crane lifted her slowly out of the water and placed her gently onto the hard standing.
This was a very challenging project calling on our skills and expertise to safely deliver "Miss Pick me up” back on dry land.
“Local experts Ness Ribs have been contracted to supply their boats and skills to move Miss Pick Up across the water. Moving her is easy, if you know how (tow from the tail!); holding her steadily and safely just 3 metres away from the quay, nose forward, ready for a crane lift, is an exceptionally demanding task, and we are grateful to Ness Ribs for agreeing to take on this unique task at short notice"
"The Catalina team has breathed a collective sigh of relief. A lot of breath was held today. This operation was difficult, but it was carefully planned, and beautifully executed by experts. Failure today would have been a serious thing as the wind is forecasted to reach nearly 20 knots this weekend at Urquhart Bay, and sitting on a buoy in strong wind and big waves would have been a bad situation indeed…"
Matt Dearden The Catalina Society