Waverley’s Spring 2015

Report by Martin Longhurst

Waverley’s first outing was on 17 April 2015 to dry dock at Greenock. She was towed by the tugs Battler and Biter to the Garvel Shipyard.   She left dry dock on Monday 4 May and spent the next few days at Custom House Quay prior to engine trials.  After these trials and compass adjusting, she steamed back to Glasgow under own power.

There she underwent final preparations leading up to the start of the season on 21 May. First of all on that day there was a Reception at noon for invited guests, including the Lord Provost of Glasgow Sadie Docherty, to mark the start of her 40th year of operation in preservation.  Speeches were given by the Lord Provost, WSN Chairman Lawrie Sinclair and PSPS Chairman Iain Dewar.  At 2.30 p.m. she offered a public cruise to view Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 at Greenock. At 7.30 p.m. there was a second cruise to Greenock to view the departure of the Cunarder and the accompanying spectacular fireworks to celebrate Cunard’s 175th Anniversary.  The QM2 signalled the start of the fireworks by sounding the whistle of her 1936 namesake which is permanently installed on board with its own boiler.  It is worthy of mention that Waverley often tendered to Cunard’s liner Carinthia at the Tail Of The Bank in 1950s and 1960s when proudly flew the Cunard house flag.

The following day the steamer sailed from Glasgow to the mouth of Loch Goil after calling at Helensburgh, Largs and Dunoon with a moderate load, predominately from Largs.   May 23 saw the paddler give her normal Saturday schedule to Tighnabruiach and this sail attracted strong support.   Sunday’s timetable was a special trip to mark the 40th Anniversary of her first public sail in preservation.   This took Waverley to Largs, Rothesay, Tighnabruaich, Tarbert and towards Ardishaig, the latter being the last calling point of the 1975 cruise.   The steamer was piped into Tarbert Pier by the Mid-Argyll Pipe Band. Again this sailing was well supported from Largs.  On Bank Holiday Monday 25 May she operated her normal Friday schedule to Rothesay and this trip was well supported.

Waverley looked smart with newly repainted funnels and hull.  One disappointment was the abandonment of scumbling on the deck houses owing to the high cost of maintenance and these are now painted a plain brown to match the ventilators and fiddleys.  Another change is the use of orange lifebelts.

The excitement was palpable on Tuesday morning as Waverley set sail from Glasgow and Greenock for her Western Isles season.  However, it was not to be.   Before travelling north I had watched Carol Kirkwood’s TV weather forecast and she promised high winds starting on the Tuesday and continuing through the week.  Approaching Campbeltown Captain O’Brian announced that he was going to have to terminate the sailing there as the forecast was for Force 6 winds and as our intermediate port of refuge (Port Ellen) was closed to Calmac.   Coaches were arranged to take passengers either on to Oban or back to Glasgow and Greenock but as most of the coaches had to come from Troon, they could not leave until 5 o’clock.  Passengers could remain on board for shelter and refreshment or go ashore.  This proved useful as many booked onward travel by CityLink coach from Oban to Kyle of Lochalsh at the nearby Tourist Information Centre in the hope that the steamer would eventually get there. Another popular diversionary route was by train to Mallaig via Crianlarich, by ferry to Armadale and finally by service bus to Kyle.

In the event, Waverley was unable to proceed further west than Campbeltown as the forecast of strong winds continued in force and after a short calm spell on Saturday May 30, another large storm was due to move in.  So on the Friday the decision was reluctantly taken to cancel the remainder of the programme and return the steamer to her Glasgow base.  In fact, the weather around Skye and Oban did remain cold, windy and rainy apart for the one day.  Waverley is due to resume service on 20 June 2015.

Another anniversary of note occurred on May 29 as 65 years earlier Waverley’s namesake was sunk by enemy action while taking part in the Dunkirk evacuation.

However, every cloud has a silver lining as the Western Isles Friends of Waverley took the opportunity to investigate other places and trips in the area. Four of us clubbed together to hire a car and proceeded north by a devious route taking in Port Appin and the Kylerea car ferry.  The next day we sampled the hybrid car ferry Hallaig to explore all the roads on the Isle of Raasay. Then the following day back to Oban via the Armadale and Corran ferries, stopping en route to see The Jacobite steam train pass by.

We then invested in a Calmac Rover ticket, sailing on the Lord of the Isles to Lochboisdale on Saturday and to Coll, Tiree and Colonsay on Sunday.  The trip to South Uist was glorious but the Sunday trips were lively even in a large stabilised ship and had been subject to cancellation and disruption. Amber alert continued on Monday so we did the short trips to Craignure and Lismore.

For some pictures of the proceedings please visit my Flickr site.

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