Paddling a virtual sea (a.k.a 'the pixelised paddler').

Imagine having your own Waverley to command I'm sure most of those who have sailed on her would love to take the helm, now you can!... well in a virtual world anyway thanks to the talents of Scottish based virtual modelmaker and real-world deckhand Simon Richardson and a sailing simulation known as "Virtual Sailor" developed by Italian programmer Ilan Papini.

"Virtual Sailor", now in version 6 genius is in its open ended data format which allows computer users from all over the world to create their own model ships and sceneries with suitable 3d packages and graphic applications and plug them into the virtual world. In 'Virtual Sailor' a whole host of variables can be changed placing your Waverley in everything from a flat calm to a raging storm, or a beautiful sunrise to a starlit night. Virtual Sailor 6 also incorporates instruments such as radar, depth sounder and GPS along with the ability to anchor your ship or sink her by ramming her into a pier or rock or simply by pressing the f9 key on the keyboard!


Its not all plain sailing for a virtual vessel - imagine what the MCA would say!

Whilst current computer hardware places a level on the amount of a model's detail, Simon has pushed this limit to the maximum even incorporating animated telegraphs, paddle wheels and a rudder and helm that correspond to the users moves on the keyboard mouse or joystick, the model also has incorporates authentic sound effects including the real world Waverley's steam whistle . Created though many months of hard labour, Simon's model shows the ship in her late 1990s configuration, immediately prior to the first rebuild.

Simon's Waverley joins a large fleet of historic vessels including RMS Titanic.
Amazingly, considering the amount of research and work that goes into recreating the boats and ships, Simon's 'Waverley' and the hundreds of other ship models painstakingly recreated by users from all over the globe are freely available to download across the internet and use with the 'Virtual Sailor' software, which itself only costs around $25 (about £18).

Here's a few shots of Simon's 'Waverley' in action

Evening cruise off Arran

"Paddle Steamer Waverley is now arriving... at Algeceras? "

Bridge overview showing high level of detail

The helm your command

As an ex-Waverley crewman, I advised Simon on some of Waverley's technical details and supplied him with many photographs and plans to work with. I am also building my own virtual Waverley, a post refit version in her current/original colours, at a much earlier stage than Simon's completed Waverley, some work in progress shots are shown below:



Returning home through a virtual Clyde sunset

.Please resist the temptation to press the F9 key!

Join In

Hopefully some of you will be inspired to purchase the 'Virtual Sailor' software and join it's online community and if you are creatively minded and have an appropriate 3d package, create a 'Balmoral', 'Prince Ivanhoe' 'Maid of the Loch', 'Medway Queen' or paddler from the past. Imagine a virtual Clyde Coast, Bristol Channel, Thames or Solent of the past populated by all the old favorites, the possibilities are endless.

Virtual Sailor 6 is available from
'Waverley' for Virtual Sailor is available from

Stephen Wilson.

poster image created by Stephen Wilson