Back in Service after Broken Radius Rods

Paddle Steamer Waverley re-entered passenger service at 2 p.m. on 28 July 2002 after suffering damage to her starboard paddle wheel the previous day. Following a day on charter on the Sunday, the steamer will take up her regular schedule from Monday. Here are some accounts of the weekend's news.

From Stuart Cameron (21:37 27.07.02):

In spite of the best efforts of the media to create a drama where none exists, I'm sure that most people will be glad to hear that Waverley will be back in service very soon - perhaps as early as tomorrow.

Some people may have concerns about over dramatisation by the media but I gave up long ago any hope that media coverage of Waverley events may be balanced. Such is life when we are talking of such a famous and historic vessel. Fortunately, ordinary people are much more rational than the media, something else I noticed quite a while ago.

So just to set the record straight - here is what happened and how Waverley Excursions have sought to compensate their passengers. Note that this is in no way an official statement by Waverley Excursions Limited - I have no jurisdiction to make such a statement and I'm sure that the Company will comment officially in due course. Rather this is the observations of a steamer enthusiast ('dreamer' or 'nutter' if you prefer) who has seen it all before - fortunately not very often.

Waverley had picked up sizeable numbers of passengers at Glasgow, Greenock and Helensburgh on her traditional Saturday sailing to Tighnabruaich (I note that one of the media sources seems to have had some problems of their own coping with the name of one of the Clyde's most famous villages) After Dunoon she proceded south to Rothesay. Between the Perch and Toward Point a failure occured in the starboard wheel. In normal practice (dating back nearly a couple of centuries to the time that paddle steamers were invented) the engine was stopped quickly to allow the engineers to inspect the damage and prevent further damage to the wheel and the feathering gear.

On opening the paddlebox Chief Engineer Ken Henderson noted that the No 1 radius rod had fractured and several other radius rods had been damaged. Although there was no damage to the wooden floats or the main structure of the paddle wheel it was immediately obvious that remedial work would take some time and require some shore based resources. Within minutes passengers were informed that it would not be possible to continue the cruise and that the ship would have to be towed to a port from where passengers would be returned to their ultimate disembarkation point. The engineering staff set about disengaging some components of the port wheel to make the vessel easier to tow. Passengers were informed that teas and sandwiches would be available free of charge until the vessel reached port.

Overcoming their disappointment at the truncation of the cruise most people settled down to make the most of it - at one point a ceilidh 'broke out' on the promenade deck!

The lifeboats from Tighnabruaich and Troon were mustered as this is a standard precaution for any passenger carrying vessel which is incapacitated at sea. Waverley was never in any danger nor were any of her passengers.

After a bit of a delay Clyde Marine's Beaver Bay appeared and took Waverley in tow for Greenock. We were against the tide so progress was a bit slow initially but somewhere near Launderson Bay the Biter arrived to take over the tow. She has a significantly greater bollard pull and progress stepped up markedly.

Meanwhile, Chief Purser Jim McFadzean was performing miracles in arranging alternative transport for the near 800 passengers - not easy on a Saturday afternoon. Buses were hired to meet passengers at Greenock Custom House Quay - some taking Glasgow passengers back to the city, others taking Dunoon passengers to Gourock for a free return to Argyll by CalMac ferry. Clyde Marine's passenger vessel The Second Snark was chartered to pick up passengers that Waverley had left at Dunoon and Helensburgh and bring them to Greenock for the coaches. A magnificent bit of arrangement by Jim and his helpers and all the time updates were announced to passengers as they became available.

Ashore, frantic efforts were underway by Second Engineer Gordon Reid (on his spell of leave) to source the schedule 160 tubing that would enable Waverley's engineers to repair her quick time - spares are kept but rather more were damaged than normal.

As Waverley approached Greenock her patient passengers were given the bonus of a magnificent view of the departure of the new liner Brilliance of the Seas. Also Jim announced the options open to passengers for the inconvenience caused. These were:


(A) a full refund of the day's fare


(B) a ticket to use freely on any other sailing by Waverley of any value PLUS a voucher for half price travel on a further sailing.

Waverley arrived at Greenock just after 6.30pm and the large crowd, in good spirits, were efficiently disembarked. Ashore the media photographer scurried around for the most dramatic picture of the 'striken paddler' - look out for it tomorrow, should make entertaining reading. Ah well such is life!

Waverley's hard working, long suffering engineers had a H*LL of a day but remained cheerful, informative and professional throughout - they face a hard night to try to get the paddler back in service for tomorrow (she is scheduled to operate a private charter tomorrow afternoon) I'm sure most of us take our hats off to them and wish them well.

And finally a very big thank you to Hamish Munro of Clyde Marine and his crews of Beaver Bay, Biter and The Second Snark for answering the call so magnificently at such short notice. Thanks too to the coach companies for their co-operation.

This could have been one of Waverley's best revenue days of the year - the reality will be rather different. Such are the joys of operating the world's last seagoing paddle steamer.

Stuart Cameron

Vice Chairman, Paddle Steamer Preservation Society, Scottish Branch

From Alistair Black (21:54 27.07.02):

To pick up where Stuart left off, Waverley was towed from Greenock Customhouse Quay shortly after 7 pm, Biter at the bow, Beaver Bay on the stern line and made directly for the James Watt Dock.  Despite the dock entrance being fairly narrow and quite tricky of approach, the Clyde Marine tugs made it look simple as they towed Waverley through and into the dock basin where the Garvel Engineering staff were waiting on the north quay wall. The two tugs then turned Waverley in the basin, again not an easy feat as Waverley is 240' long and the dock basin appears to be less than 300' wide.  As the heaving lines were put ashore, Jim McFadzean's voice was heard to come over the ship's p.a. system announcing that Waverley was now berthing at the James Watt Dock, Greenock!     The work facing the engineers tonight involves cutting away the damaged radius rods (all eight on the starboard wheel), fabricating new rods and re-fitting them to the wheel. To give a measure of the scale of the work, each rod is approx 9' long and approx 3" diameter. In order to fit them to the wheel, the lugs on the ends of the old rods will need to be cut off and welded to the ends of the new rods.  All in all, quite a job, especially when the job is STARTING at 8 o'clock at night!

From Joe McKendrick (18:07 28.07.02):

The engineering staff worked on rebuilding the feathering gear continuously through the night, the final welding being completed about 1 p.m. After a full speed trial, the paddler returned to Custom House Quay to pick up Sunday's passengers about two o'clock. This was a private charter. The passengers had been diverted in their own coaches from Anderston Quay to join the steamer at Greenock. The sailing will terminate at Anderston Quay as planned, allowing Waverley to take up her timetabled duties on Monday morning.

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