Paddle steamer Waverley makes triumphant return to passenger service

The paddle steamer Waverley following her boiler refit
The paddle steamer Waverley following her boiler refit

Paddle steamer Waverley, has made a triumphant return to passenger service on the Clyde with a two-week series of cruises from Glasgow and other piers on the river.

The inaugural cruise of the ship’s 2020 season left the ship’s base at the Glasgow Science Centre for Rothesay and Kilcreggan on Friday 21 August, following the fitting of new boilers and the successful completion of sea trials.

Other cruises will serve destinations such as Lochranza, Loch Fyne and Tighnabruaich. All bookings have to be made in advance, on-line, with a phone system being used for passengers joining for part-day cruises from smaller piers.

Passenger capacity is reduced because of Covid-19 physical distancing restrictions and sanitisation with enhanced cleaning is in force on the paddler.

Paul Semple, Waverley Excursions general manager said: “We are delighted and proud that we have been able to operate for this limited period in 2020, despite current Covid-19 restrictions. It is thanks to all who responded so generously to our new boiler appeal that it has been possible to sail for the first time in 22 months.

“Please join us if you can to experience Waverley this summer and enjoy the unique experience of sailing by steam power on the world’s, last, sea-going paddle steamer. We will be launching a second appeal later this summer to sustain us over the winter to ensure that we can operate paddle steamer Waverley in 2021.”

Old archive photo of the paddle steamer Waverley. Image: Waverley Excursions
Old archive photo of the paddle steamer Waverley. Image: Waverley Excursions

A brief history of the paddle steamer Waverley, which was launched on 2 October 1946. She was built in Scotland on Clydeside by the London and North Eastern Railway. She was named after the debut novel of Sir Walter Scott, but wasn’t the first paddle steamer to bear the name. The previous Waverley, built in 1899, had been requisitioned as a minesweeper during World War II and sank during the Dunkirk evacuation in 1940.

Materials were so scarce in post-war Britain that the new paddle steamer Waverley had to wait more than three months after her launch to have the boiler and engines installed. She finally entered service in June 1947, sailing a scenic route up Loch Long to Arrochar.

Ownership of the Waverley passed to the Caledonian Steam Packet Company in 1948. However, by the 1970’s, changing holiday habits meant that pleasure steamers had fallen out of fashion. Fortunately, the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society – a group of enthusiasts based in Scotland – were able to buy the ship for the token sum of one pound.

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