As we finalise the text of this update, off the coast of Dunkirk many of the survivors of the Little Ships are at this very moment forming into a circle to commemorate officially for the last time both the tragic loss of life which took place 60 years ago and the heroic role of the Little Ships in the evacuation. There are two absentees from the ceremony. Despite the Herculean efforts of the Medway Queen Preservation Society, the Paddle Steamer which rescued more than any other Little Ship from the beaches in nightmare trips still lies in a precarious condition on the Medway while those organisations who are in a position to help MQPS give Medway Queen a future remain reluctant to commit themselves. The other, of course, is Waverley, which was there ten years ago for the 50th anniversary, representing her predecessor built in 1899, which was lost in the evacuation. The present Waverley now lies being reborn in Great Yarmouth - the very place from which her namesake had set out on that last fateful voyage to Dunkirk.

The past two weeks have been momentous ones for our ship, with the two new Cochran boilers being fitted. This marked the culmination of several years’ work, and it was an anxious moment for the Project Team as the two new units were successfully lowered into their rightful positions with inches to spare. The boiler-room is now resplendent with all items of new equipment in place; as well as the boilers there are the new generators, bilge pump, domestic heating and pressurisation units and all manner of other paraphernalia. In the engine-room, all pumps and auxiliary items are back in place having mostly been overhauled in our own workshops in Glasgow. The crosshead guides have been machined and refitted, and the alignment of the engine frames and crankshaft bearings is now almost complete. It is interesting to note that in order to achieve correct alignment, the crankshaft requires to be moved up by 1.25 inches and slightly aft.

On Wednesday June 7th, a large mobile crane will visit Prior’s Yard. Its first job is to lift the new After Deck Shelter out of the workshop and lower it into place on the new steel Promenade Deck. Then it will deal with the massive timber spring beams, each 26 feet long and 2 tons in weight, originating from our long-term suppliers in Scotland. Finally, it will lower the 8-ton refurbished crankshaft back into place, after which reassembly of the main engine can begin in earnest. Waverley is taking shape again....

Within the passenger areas, new and familiar items are being fitted, with all new staircases in place, as are the food hoist to the Lower Dining Saloon, the galley bulkheads, and the roller shutter between the galley and the servery. In the workshops; well, at least we can walk around now as more items return to their rightful places on board. Tantalisingly, nearly all the furniture, most notably that for the restored Dining Saloon, lies complete and varnished ready for use.

We should not be too upbeat, since there is still much hard work to be achieved by all parties and it is sad to record that Waverley’s planned return to service will now not take place until August 18th on the Clyde. No single cause has driven the redelivery date back so far, but the need to accomplish some additional work and the difficulty in realising all the detail in a project for which there is no precedent have been factors. Another cause has been the determination of both the Project Team and the shipyard to ensure that, despite the current lack of sufficient funds to realise the project objectives in full, the completed vessel must be of a standard of which we can all be duly proud. The major cause of delay, however, is self-evident in that Waverley arrived 7 weeks late at the shipyard. This was itself the result of administrative delays and then the weather took a predictable turn and prevented Waverley reaching Great Yarmouth for a further 3 weeks. Despite the ship being handed over on December 21st instead if November 1st, the contractors were at the time hopeful that redelivery could be made on schedule; the scale and complexity of the job have dictated otherwise.

Meanwhile Balmoral soldiers on alone and you can support Waverley by sailing on her. And certainly don’t miss Waverley herself from mid-August on. As those 160 or so members who have seen the ship being rebuilt will know, we have a lot to look forward to!

lan McMillan; Nick James - 4th June 2000

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