News from the Clyde 1998

Part 1

In summary Waverley returned to the Clyde on Tuesday 18th June. From then until 3rd July she was kept reasonably busy with 11 charters ranging from full day charters for pensioner's clubs to evening charters for the PSPS Scottish Branch, the Glasgow International Jazz Festival and Helensburgh Tourist Office. Public sailings have been more lightly loaded than hoped for due to a combination of various factors (unseasonal weather, lack of tourists due to the high pound, World Cup(?) and, more controversially, higher fares and lack of local publicity i.e. hanging cards etc). However, a welcome boost is the weekly party from Brightwater Tour's Scottish Steam Weekends which combine a Helensburgh to Tighnabruaich sailing on Waverley with trips on the Bo'ness & Kinneil Steam Railway, steam trains on the West Highland Line (Fort William - Mallaig) and a trip on Sir Walter Scott on Loch Katrine. This is generating a healthy weekly loading of 100-150 each Saturday.

During late June Waverley was under the command of Captain Steve Colledge whilst Captain Gellatly enjoyed a well earned break after the English and Welsh early season tour. During his time in command Capt Colledge flew the Welsh flag at the jackstaff. Marine Superintendent Capt Steve Mishel has also been in command during the past few weeks. Captain Gellatly has had talks with Clydeport and Inverclyde Council with regard to Waverley's involvement in the Tall Ship's Race visit to Greenock in July/August 1999.

On 28th June Waverley took part in the Dunoon Pier Centenary Celebrations. PSPS Scottish Branch mounted a display in the pier buildings and Waverley arrived to take part in the re-enactment of the pier opening after which a number of passengers in Victorian dress boarded for a cruise to Loch Goil. On her return Waverley lay at the pier whilst her port paddle box was converted into a pulpit and an hour long 'Songs of Praise' was conducted by the minister of Dunoon Old Kirk.

Picture by Stuart Cameron

Incidentally, it may be worth mentioning that the weekly calls at Troon on Mondays which were due to start in late July have had to be abandoned due to lack of space in the harbour!  The Ayr fish market has recently been relocated to Troon, timber imports from the Western Isles for the paper mill at Irvine and a big revival in the fortunes of the Ailsa shipyard have brought about the situation. Ailsa are using the berth that would normally be used by Waverley for fitting out work of a series of new deep sea trawlers and landing craft which they are building for the Royal Navy. Although the loss of Troon is regrettable it should not affect the Waverley's programme too much as she will still call at Largs, Ayr and Girvan on her very popular full day Monday sailing from Glasgow to Ailsa Craig.

Stuart Cameron

20 July 1998

Part 2

Over the weekend of July 25/26 Waverley met up with two other steamships during the course of her regular sailings. Firstly she met up with Direct Cruises Edinburgh Castle (ex Costa Lines Eugenia C) off Cloch Lighthouse on Saturday. This vessel is now a regular caller at Greenock Ocean Terminal. On Sunday Waverley passed the Greek registered Apollon at the Ocean Terminal and saluted her with a blast on the whistle. This was appropriate as the vessel (also operated by Direct Cruises) is the former Canadian Pacific liner Empress of Canada which called regularly at Greenock (anchoring at the Tail of the Bank) on the service between Liverpool and Montreal in the late1950s / early 1960s. The liner, together with her sister ships Empress of Britain (now Thomson Holiday's Topaz) and Empress of England (now scrapped), were tendered by Clyde steamers and Waverley was a regular participant in these duties so it was something of  reunion.

Stuart Cameron

27 July 1998

Part 3

Overall the Clyde season has been characterised by gloomy weather. Passenger numbers are consequently down but revenue is holding up well with increased spending per head on board. As a precaution, following the distortion to the boiler furnace, which needed a week's repairs in mid July, it has been decided to restrict the steaming rate (and therefore speed) for the time being. This is being achieved by not opening the throttle beyond the 'E' position. This means that time lost during the day is not made up by increasing speed nor is speed increased to counteract adverse tides. This means that arrival back at the end of the day is often 20 - 30 minutes late.

On Friday 7 August, despite continuous rain all day, both day and evening sailings carried good numbers who were forced to rain below deck with consequently high bar and catering spending. The following day had the best weather of the summer with no rain at all and the highest temperature. Excellent numbers turned out on Saturday and Sunday, which was still fine but a bit dull, and the sailings ran to schedule.

Monday's sailing starts from Glasgow and runs down the Clyde coast to go round Ailsa Craig. Limited numbers were picked up at Glasgow and Largs but arrival at Ayr saw several hundred queuing along the harbour side. The call at Girvan produced a virtually full ship for the final run out to 'Paddy's Milestone' and back to Ayr. There were only a couple of slight showers and some sunshine in the afternoon although visibility was a bit hazy.

On Tuesday Waverley ran from Ayr to Millport, Largs, Rothesay, Tighnabruaich, Tarbert and a Loch Fyne cruise. Again there were a few slight showers but numbers were still very good. Unfortunately a small boy fell down one of the forward companionways during the return journey and had to be taken off the ship at Rothesay by paramedics. Leaving sheltered waters after Rothesay it became apparent that a southerly wind was blowing up. This did not affect the ship too much but preparations were made to drop anchor at Millport, should it be necessary which it was not.

Campbeltown is Waverley's scheduled destination on Wednesdays but this year's weather has meant that she has only managed to get there twice. August 12 marked another disappointment. Owing to the southerly wind and the late arrival the previous evening, Captain Gellatly had not canted Waverley. The wind was now more westerly and it was deemed possible to leave the harbour astern. The pilot cutter was used to push the bow to line up the paddler for the harbour entrance. Unfortunately she pushed a little too much leaving the stern pointing at the southern harbour arm rather than the entrance itself. The wind did not correct the course and inevitably Waverley came into slight contact with the harbour wall before managing to make a sedate exit.

Normal progress was made to Brodick but before arrival Purser Jim MacFadzean announced that conditions were too bad to go on to Campbeltown and the Mull of Kintyre. Instead a northerly course was to be set to Tarbert for time ashore. The wisdom of this decision became clear as the wind increased and the sea was covered with white horses. Docking at Tarbert the wind blew the bow off the pier before the bow line could be landed. The narrow confines of East Loch Tarbert meant that there was no room to turn and Waverley had to be nursed out of the Loch assisted by the wind which was now broadside to the ship. Finally she got clear water ahead and was able to go round again for a second approach which was accomplished successfully. Passengers had about two hours ashore in Tarbert but the wind and drizzle hardly desisted during that time. Later we were to find out that it had stayed mainly dry in Brodick!

We returned to Brodick without incident with the sea looking a little less white, although there was still a strong wind. The docking and transfer of passengers went smoothly but leaving the pier Waverley set course for Largs. The Purser announced that conditions at Ayr were too bad for us to return there and that special buses were being laid on to return passengers to Ayr. Conditions moderated as we entered more sheltered water and steered between Great Cumbrae and Little Cumbrae close by Millport. It was low tide at Largs so Captain Gellatly opted to berth Waverley across the south west corner of the pier. On shore a fleet of four double-deckers and one single-decker drew up ready for the trip to Ayr. Having disembarked her passengers, Waverley continued light up the Firth to her overnight berth at Greenock, ready for the next day's sail.

Martin Longhurst

15 August 1998

Part 4

Waverley finished her Clyde season on 31st August. The season can only be described as poor in terms of weather with more rain than experienced during any summer since the ship was built! This depressed passenger numbers in July but, despite continuing poor weather in August, passenger numbers picked up during that month. This situation was also alleviated by very good charter bookings. The weather finally improved during the vessel's last week of service on the Clyde with the highlight of the year occurring on Saturday 29th August. This is traditionally a busy day for Waverley as she carries significant numbers to the Cowal Highland Gathering at Dunoon. This year the event coincided with the first ever visit of the liner S.S. Norway to the Clyde.

An inspired schedule allowed the ship to carry out a 'Cowal Games' sailing in the morning (returning in the late evening) and fit in an afternoon cruise to view the departure of Norway at 6pm. The best weekend weather of the summer helped to ensure a hugely successful day for Waverley. She left her base at Glasgow at 10am with almost 700 people aboard and reached Dunoon just after noon with 890 passengers for the Games. Later she boarded another 680 passengers for the Norway departure cruise bringing the total passenger loading  for the day to an amazing 1,570. After the Norway cruise she returned to Dunoon to board the initial 890 for the return to Glasgow at 11pm. The day was a great success - thanks mainly to the hard work of the ship's crew.

Waverley completed her Clyde season with another two well patronised cruises in the last two days of August. It has been a difficult summer for Waverley - mainly due to the poor weather. Many of the regular passengers have expressed great admiration for Captain Graeme Gellatly in his first season as the ship's master. He has had to cope with more than a fair share of problems this summer and has done so with great professionalism and good humour. All of his crew have helped to make this summer another very enjoyable one for Waverley's passengers on the Clyde - despite the weather. Waverley heads south to carry out a series of sailings on the Solent, Thames and Bristol Channel in September and October. Following that programme she enters the most significant refurbishment programme since her construction in 1947. It is hoped that she will return to service on the Clyde in July 1999. Her directors and officers face many challenges over the coming winter to meet that demanding schedule.

The end of the Clyde season is always tinged with some sadness as the ship gives three long farewell blasts as she departs from each pier for the last time. This year there was the added feeling that another chapter in Waverley's remarkable story had come to an end. However, thoughts will now turn to the new chapter that will begin with the revitalised ship's return to service on her native river next year.

Stuart Cameron

1 September 1998


Waverley made both of the last two Campbeltown calls, the first with Steve Mishel as master and the last with Graeme Gellatly. The last sailing was in very good weather conditions with great views across to Ulster.

Incidentally, two members of crew from the SGV steamers on Lake Lucerne in Switzerland were aboard Waverley on a number of occasions during the final week and were impressed by the ship's performance.

Stuart Cameron

2 September 1998

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