Final Weekend on the Clyde

20 October 2008

by Martin Longhurst

A large number of supporters gathered at Glasgow Science Centre to partake of Waverley's final weekend of cruises for 2008 on Saturday 18 October. Shortly after 1000 Captain Ian Clark gently eased the paddler way from Pacific Quay and around the knuckle to turn her from the trip downstream. The timetable took us to Greenock, Helensburgh, Kilcreggan and Blairmore for an afternoon cruise.

The weather started off grey with occasional short, sharp showers but gradually improved and the afternoon was bright and sunny, although a little fresh. Good numbers joined the steamer at both Greenock and Helensburgh. Approaching Kilcreggan, Waverley had to stand off to await Seabus to clear the pier on her regular ferry run linking with Gourrock and Helensburgh.

A piper welcomed us to Blairmore and joined the steamer for her afternoon cruise. First we visited Arrochar at the head of Loch Long, turning in one movement with the head of the loch well in sight. Plans are being developed to provide a new pontoon pier at Arrochar, possibly as soon as 2009. This is being financed to improve marine access to the National Park by yachtsmen, cruise liner passengers and Waverley passengers. The National Park would like to see the Three Lochs Tour reinstated in the future.

Returning south, the steamer turned into Loch Goil for a short cruise turning by Carrick Castle, again in one movement. At Blairmore, Iain Quinn started a pattern of announcements thanking the pier staff for their assistance during the season and local passengers for their support.

Once again, we found ourselves in conflict with Seabus at Kilcreggan and stood off once more to allow her to call first. On arrival at Glasgow, it was a quick turn round for the evening Show Boat trip due to depart at 1930. This was not heavily loaded and turned just beyond Greenock Container Terminal on a clear night. Certain members of the Waverley office staff were to be found celebrating the end of the season in The Maltman Bar.

The forecast for Sunday was atrocious with southerly gales and an inch and half of rain expected. The cruise had been due to take us to Greenock, Helensburgh, Dunoon, Rothesay and Tighnabruaich. Before departure from the Science Centre, Purser Jim McFadzean announced that the Helensburgh call would not take place owing to the weather conditions.

Although we sailed in the dry we had not reached Clydebank before the rain started. Conditions gradually worsened thereafter. Visibility was severely restricted by the falling rain and the wind whipped up small white horses, even in the lee of the Inverclyde shore.

Alongside at Greenock a further announcement indicated that all the rest of the calls had been abandoned although the steamer would make a short afternoon cruise in sheltered water. This turned out to be a slow cruise down to the Cloch Light and then across to Kilcreggan, towards Helensburgh and then south (into the wind) back to Greenock. This took about an hour and a quarter, still in heavy rain and with choppy seas.

Back at Custom House Quay the wind was blowing fiercely offshore and it proved impossible to land the heaving lines. The conditions demanded decisive action and Captain Clark sounded two short blasts on the whistle and rang Full Ahead to set course back to the Science Centre. Purser Jim grabbed his phone and headed for the Bridge. It was some time before he could announce that coaches would be available to take the Greenock passengers home - the last coach substitution of the year.

Waverley came alongside Pacific Quay safely at 1440, some five hours earlier than anticipated, to draw the 2008 season to a conclusion. Iain Quinn thanked the ship's officers and crew and the Company's staff for all their efforts throughout the difficult year.

So what does 2009 hold for Waverley and Balmoral?

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