Puffer group left powerless without meter

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The group behind the restoration of the Vital Spark berthed in Inveraray has become a victim of current affairs, after being repeatedly refused an electricity meter by suppliers citing ‘market volatility’.

Owned by the North of Scotland Distillery Company, whose owner Ricky Christie purchased the puffer last year and pledged to return it to its former glory through an extensive restoration project, the Vital Spark’s facelift has slowed during recent months because the group can’t find a supplier to fit a meter – meaning the already-installed power supply can’t provide any electricity.

Now the spirit producer is hoping that an independent supplier can step in to help install a meter to allow its project to return to full steam.

Ross Bradley, one of those overseeing the project, explained: ‘Work was done earlier this year to install power into the electrical box by the pier, but the power supply could not be activated because a meter couldn’t be installed.

‘We approached several energy suppliers looking for a meter installation, but successive companies refused us, citing ‘energy market volatility’.

‘We understand that, as a business customer, we would be on a fixed tariff and that this might be less profitable for a supplier.

‘We almost had a contract signed with one supplier, but close to finalising it, they pulled the plug on us.

‘It’s having a real-world effect on our restoration work. Importing plating to the boat’s hull is being powered by a generator, which is slower and costlier than if our installed cabling was able to power it.

‘It’s a real chicken-and-egg situation we’re in, so we are open to any independent suppliers stepping in to help us with the installation of a meter. That would allow us to step up the restoration work on the Vital Spark again.

‘Similarly, if any individuals or organisations were able to advise how we could get a meter installed, we would be grateful to hear from them. They can contact ross@strathlevendistillers.com’

The iconic Scottish puffer boat, built by Brown’s Shipyard, Hull, England in 1944 and described by National Historic Ships UK as being of ‘national importance’, as one of only a handful of ships of her type still in use today. Its owner has plans to build a ‘floating distillery’ on the vessel, and produce rum.

The Vital Spark gets its name from the fictional vessel in the Para Handy books, written by Neil Munro, an Inveraray native.

Elsewhere in the town, the Inveraray Pier Fund is making a renewed push for contributions, as it approaches a quarter of the way to the £100,000 it needs to first buy the pier and to modernise it.

The two main groups behind the funding push, Inspire Inveraray and Inveraray Community Council, are raising money to reopen the concrete pier again, and even add to the pier area to make it suitable for small craft, sailing vessels, and motorised dinghies to tie up there, in the hope it will invite a new wave of sea tourism.

More than 20 Inveraray businesses are taking in-store donations from the public, to help raise further funds.

Mid Argyll councillor Garrett Corner said: ‘Between Inspire and Inveraray Community Council, they are doing great things to try to make the pier improvements a reality, from street-level fundraising, to applying for funding from local government and other avenues.

‘There is huge potential in the project, with the possibility of pontoons for the pier and a range of vessels being welcomed into Inveraray.

‘The groups’ work is so impressive and shows what can be done when a community works together.’

To back the campaign, visit https://inveraraypier.scot/