What, you might ask,
is a magazine entitled 'Gear Wheels'
doing by including a maritime feature within its pages?
The answer's really quite simple, for the vessel involved
in fact, a two-wheeler! One on each side.
In this first instalment of a two part feature we look at
Waverley prior to its recent major refit/rebuild
Nostalgia is what it's all about
and the Waverley is the world's last sea-going paddle
steamer. With a length of about 73 metres (approximately 240
ft) combined with an all-up weight of around 700 tons, it's
also one of the largest of its type.
For many of us old enough
to remember, paddle steamers will always be associated with
the fleet of small boats bringing the troops back from the
beaches of Dunkirk and the original Waverley was indeed
part of that armada. But sadly, it was also one of the casualties,
going down off the French coast on the 29th May, 1940 along
with most of its crew and servicemen.
The existing ship was
built in 1947 at the Inglis shipyards in Glasgow for the LNER
(London and North Eastern Railways) and was originally intended
for cruising on the Clyde. Despite changes brought about by
the nationalisation of the railways and becoming part of the
British Transport Commission/British Rail fleet, the Waverley
retained its name and, for many years, continued as a cruise
ship (and ferry) in the Firth of Clyde area.
by 1972 the general public were more interested
in looking to the future and
the introduction of faster,
more comfortable and more economical vessels meant that
the Waverley was becoming a liability. Reliability
a problem, making a nonsense of schedules and, in 1974,
the ship was taken out of service with the intention of
it becoming a static restaurant or museum.
Fortunately, some people
had other ideas and in August 1974, the Waverley changed
hands once again, the new owners being the Waverley Steam
Navigation Company Ltd., a company set up by the Paddle Steamer
Preservation Society who had paid the magnificent sum of £1.00
for the vessel. But it was going to cost almost 100,000 times
that figure to restore the ship and make it suitable (and
safe) for passenger traffic once again.
Restrictions imposed during
the sale negotiations initially allowed only a limited role
in the Clyde area of Scotland and this, along with a useful
season of five months (or sometimes less) meant that, in the
early days, the ship finances were somewhat tight to say the
least. But rather than sit back and hope that things improved,
the new owners bravely decided (in 1975) to move the enterprise
further afield, first to the Mersey and north Wales and then,
in 1978, along the south coast and into the Medway. It was
the right decision for by 1979 passenger numbers were almost
double the 1975 figure.
1981 the Waverley made her longest-to-date voyage from
Glasgow to Poole in just 35 hours sailing time. It then went
on to make history by becoming the first coastal steamer to
sail round Britain offering excursions at various ports along
of course, the Waverley is a regular visitor to the
south coast and Bristol Channel offering day trips from places
such as Bournemouth, Swanage, Yarmouth (Isle of Wight), Weymouth,
Ilfracombe, Minehead, Clevedon, etc., along with special event
trips such as a fireworks cruise or a trip to see some of
the great liners at Southampton.
the Waverley Steam Navigation Company and
the Paddle Steamer Preservation
Society are recognised charities, meaning
that all the profits generated are used to
help out with the high costs of regular
maintenance and running the vessel.
So by taking
a trip, you will not only get an enjoyable experience, you
will also help preserve a living relic of the past. For further
details and bookings, etc., contact Waverley Excursions on
0141 243 2224, or visit the website.
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