The famous paddlesteamer Waverley has just been withdrawn from service for the 2019 season after engineers report that she needs new boilers. With fears for the future of this last seagoing passenger-paddle steamer in the world, her owners Waverley Excursions Ltd have announced an appeal to raise money to carry out the work. Her boilers were replaced as part of a £7m restoration programme from 2000 to 2003 but the company’s statement says:
“As part of our winter maintenance programme we have been undertaking boiler works but unfortunately the required repair is complex and costly. Following extensive consultation and investigation it is now conclusive that the ship’s boilers require replacement and no further attempts will be made to repair. We now face a significant challenge to raise the required funds to reboiler Waverley and return her to service.”
Waverley Excursions General Manager, Paul Semple, said: “The whole Waverley team is deeply disappointed that we are unable to repair the ship’s boilers and operate this season despite every effort being made to overcome the challenges presented.”
Faulty boilers were cited as the cause when the Waverley broke down on August 25 last year leaving hundreds of passengers stranded for several hours as she drifted on the Clyde. Far from being upset and with the bars busy serving drink many passengers tweeted their delight with Shug T saying: “Stranded on the Waverley between Helensburgh and Greenock for 4 hours… quality Saturday.”
An exact figure has not yet been released but the company’s Celia Maclean told CS they were looking to raise around £2m. The withdrawal of Waverley will be felt by the many coastal communities she visits on her annual programme. The company quotes a recent Economic Impact Survey that concluded Waverley contributes over £5.6 million to the UK’s economy every year.
Built in 1946 by A&J Inglis of Glasgow, and with her maiden voyage in 1947, Waverley is well known and loved around the UK coastline, visiting around 60 ports every season. Famously she can accommodate groups from 10 to 700 and has a dining saloon, two bars and a tea lounge aboard. Named after the Walter Scott series of novels she was built for the Clyde and Loch Long – sailing between Craigendoran & Arrochar in West Scotland. In 1975 she was sold to the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society for £1, and began a new life as a moving tourist attraction. Since her relaunch in 2003 her busy schedule takes in West Scotland, The Bristol Channel, Thames, South Coast and Liverpool and North Wales.
The boilers are the heart of the ship and as the Scottish Maritime Museum’s photo of one of her original boilers shows – they are a huge piece of engineering. Her two existing boilers were built by Cochran of Annan in 2000 and run on fuel oil; each contains 184 two-inch diameter steel tubes. Her original Scotch boilers were converted to oil in 1956, and then replaced with non-marine boilers in the 1970s.
Waverley Excursions Ltd are a subsidiary of the Waverley Steam Navigation Co. Ltd, a Registered Scottish Charity which owns the steamer and which will shortly be launching an appeal to ‘Save the Waverley’ and ensure that she sails in 2020. “We fully appreciate any support at this time to help return Waverley to steam,” they say.
Donations can be made now by visiting waverleyexcursions.co.uk or by texting STEAM followed by your chosen amount £10 or £20 to 70085.
LOA: 239ft 11 in (73.13 m)
Beam: 57 ft 3 in (17.45 m)
Draught: 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)
Below: Billy Connolly makes a promotional film aboard the Waverley in the 1970s