Waverley Goes to Garvel Drydock – March / April 2005.

Pictures by John Crae and Gavin Stewart. Words by Stuart Cameron

A sure sign that summer is coming was the fact that Waverley raised steam in the week before Easter to make the 20-mile voyage down the River Clyde to the Garvel ship repair yard in Greenock. It is now 5 years since the completion of the first phase of Waverley’s rebuild so this year’s work includes a major survey of the vessel for the renewal of her load line exemption certificate. Also scheduled for completion this winter is the replacement of the burners in her two Cochran boilers (it being more cost effective to replace them rather than refurbish), replacement of her port side paddle shaft (not done in the rebuild), replacement of the port side spring beam (damaged during operations last year) and repair of damage to her starboard side paddlebox and belting sustained last Autumn.
The ship is also to be completely repainted externally (and some internal parts) including restoration of the ‘scumbled’ deckhouses.

Waverley left her winter berth adjacent to Glasgow’s Science Centre early in the morning of Thursday 24th March and in the first picture John Crae has captured her coming round Garvel bend as she approaches Greenock.

In the following view she is seen off Greenock Customhouse Quay for the first time in 2005. The blue covers over the after deck shelter are providing protection against the elements during restoration of the wood grain effect on the outer surfaces of the structure.

Garvel Drydock had been occupied by the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry Isle of Arran until the previous day and she is seen on the left of this picture completing her overhaul in the James Watt Dock which she left later that day for berthing trials at the new Dunoon roll on roll off ferry berth. The other vessel (under tow) is the former Clyde Navigation Trust chain ferry that served on the Renfrew – Yorker crossing from the mid 1950s until 1984 since which time she has been an entertainments venue at Clyde Place Quay in Glasgow, She has been brought down to Greenock to share the Garvel Drydock with Waverley for three weeks. During this time she will undergo a £0.5m renovation before returning to a new berth at the Broomielaw in Glasgow, the move being required to make way for a £20m bridge to be built between the new Broomielaw International Financial Services District and the intended leisure and residential development at Tradeston in Glasgow

Capt Luke Davies took Waverley out to the famous old Clyde anchorage the ‘Tail of the Bank’ to make the approach to Garvel from the west and the following picture was taken from the port paddle box by Gavin Stewart as the vessel approached the drydock.

In this fine shot by John Crae Waverley is now under tow, being assisted into the dock by the powerful little tug Beaver Bay, operated by Clyde Marine of Greenock. The ‘Portakabin’ that has occupied Waverley’s starboard side promenade deck all winter can also be seen in this picture. This facility has been used by the ship’s winter crew and work party volunteers – this gang of dedicated enthusiasts play a very important role in getting the ship ready for another season whilst helping to minimise costs.

In the next picture some of the damage caused to Waverley’s starboard paddle box and belting during last autumn’s inclement weather can be seen – this damage will be repaired during her time in drydock.

A final super shot from John Crae shows Waverley entering the Garvel Drydock (below)

And a few moments later Gavin Stewart’s picture shows the view forward as Capt Davies moves the vessel to the head of the dock to leave room for the Renfrew Ferry astern.

Once the two vessels were in dock and aligned over the blocks on which they would sit, the dock gate was closed using this magnificent electrically operated hydraulic pump

And once the gate was closed these two electrically driven pumps started to pump the water out of the dock. These pumps were manufactured by the Drysdale company and were originally driven by steam engines. The Drysdale pump works were on the north bank of the river Clyde at Yoker just to the west of the Yarrow’s (now BAE Systems) shipyard. The site is now occupied by housing. The pumps reduce the level of water by 1 foot every 11 minutes.

In the next view Waverley is settling down on the specially prepared blocks on the floor of the dock as the water level falls. The blocks serve the dual purpose of allowing access to the underside of the ship and supporting the hull in key areas of the keel and bilges while she is out of the water.

View astern from Waverley (below) shows the Renfrew Ferry in the western half of Garvel.

Before entering the drydock the port side paddle box steps had already been removed in preparation for removal of the landing platform, paddle drum and port paddle wheel to allow replacement of the port paddle shaft and spring beam.

In the following picture the steam from Waverley’s two boilers is being ‘blown down’ as the boilers have to be shutdown while the vessel is in drydock – emptying each boiler takes about 50 minutes.

With the dock now dry inspections of the hull and paddle wheels commence

Just over a week later and the post side paddle drum has been removed in preparation for lifting out the paddle wheel (note that the paddle box facing has also been removed to enable work to commence on removing the feathering gear and ‘jenny nettle’ to allow the spring beam to be replaced)

This view from the port side engineroom alleyway shows how the paddle shaft cover / step has been removed and the paddle box access door has been burned out to enable the old paddle shaft to be lifted out of the ship once the paddle wheel has been taken out. Unfortunately, due to the sad decline of the UK’s foundry industries and costs the new paddle shaft has had to be made overseas.

Finally, although the ship is now in drydock the volunteer work parties continue undeterred! Dr Shelagh Holt has spent most of her winter Saturdays these past few months ‘single-handedly’ repainting the inside of Waverley’s engine room. Its been a sterling effort on Shelagh’s part but she would be first to point out that others have also been busy restoring the varnishing on miles of woodwork and a whole host of other tasks, Well done to all of the volunteers – the results of your labours are there for all to see and admire and they are much appreciated.

Stuart Cameron
3rd April 2005.

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