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PADDLE STEAMER WAVERLEY - 2013 SEASON


From Helensburgh to Tighnabruaich and return : 20th July 2013


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A good crowd had gathered early on Helensburgh pier in the scorching hot summer sun
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The passengers kept coming down to the pier at the pleasant resort town on the north bank of the Clyde estuary. A good crowd was expected especially as this was a Saturday
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So good, in fact, that anyone hoping to go for a sail and has not booked in advance would have been severely disappointed. However, would they have seen this notice down at knee height on the pier among the hundreds of legs ?
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The Helensburgh and District Pipe Band were on hand to give Waverley a very "Scottish " welcome
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Excited crowds lined the pier to greet the paddle steamer as she emerged from the haze having crossed over from Greenock. No barriers here or zealous pier staff exhorting the passengers to keep away from the pier edge. Just like the old days ................ and in contrast to the experience at Minehead on June 5th !
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Around 240 passengers had to squeeze on in Helensburgh. There were already over 400 on board, with only a few disembarking. Good summer Saturdays usually bring out the Glasgow crowd - and with this being the second weekend of the Glasgow Fair, it seemed that the Waverley operating company was now making up for the poor passengers numbers and lost sailing days on the Bristol Channel in June
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Next stop was the Cowal resort of Dunoon, where people were out in good numbers - but not so many boarded Waverley from the new pier which has now replaced the famous traditional pier which lies forlornly, but with some semblance of its former grandeur, in the background
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The fine weather ensured that the decks and especially the observation deck were packed out ......
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....but there was an attraction in the bar down below - a band pumping out classic hits. The bar area was packed out too - and at times the open space in the middle of the saloon was turned into an impromptu dance floor.  With ticket sales bringing in the cash, the bar tills were ringing too !  A good day for the Waverley accountants was in prospect.
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In the heyday of Clyde Steamers, numerous ships, mainly paddlers, jostled for space at Rothesay pier in the summer months. In those days it was a very popular holiday destination, especially for Glaswegians. Things are much calmer now, but in terms of service to the mainland, probably better than ever. MV Argyle and her sister MV Bute shuttle back and forth to Wemyss Bay. New facilities have been built at Rothesay to accommodate these end-loaders. Despite the amount of space, Waverley has to ensure that her arrival time is consistent with allowing the ferries to dock unhindered.
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A modest number of excursionists were assembled at Rothesay intent on a leisurely cruise up the Kyles of Bute. They needn't have feared that they would not be able to get aboard. A large percentage of Waverley's passengers disgorged at Rothesay - a traditional Glasgow day out.  The band appear to have had the same idea. The Kyles were to be a peaceful part of the Scottish landscape  - and the bar staff were to get a chance to catch breath
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Still, the prospect of the beauty of the Kyles is sufficient to attract the crowds.......and was there something going on at Tighnabruaich ?
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Despite their fame, the Kyles of Bute are not fjord-like. Bute is, in fact, quite a flat island. In the distance, the hills of Argyll behind the western Kyle represent highland scenery much more. A vital transport link is the short ferry crossing from Rhubodach (on Bute, seen with Cal-Mac's Loch Dunvegan about to load up) to Colintraive, across the upper end of the eastern Kyle
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Did someone say that there was something on at Tighnabruaich ?   Well, we're keen to find out !  Get that gangway on to the pier !
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Waverley lies peacefully at Tighnabruaich for just over an hour as usual and some people stay aboard and soak up the sun. However, something does seem to be going on ...... and it is a RNLI demonstration !
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The pier building was turned over to a number of second hand book and bric-a-brac stalls. Fine for those needing something and looking for a bargain, but for many the attraction was an enormous canister of Zavaroni's Ice Cream.  It was so popular that it sold out - so quickly that this photographer was one of the disappointed, although 1.50 better off
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Normally there is not much to do or see at Tignabruaich but today the drift of passengers back down the pier and back on to Waverley was a slower trickle than usual. A number of people who had decided to walk into the village proper would only just make it back in time for the ship's departure
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Back at Rothesay and an ominous sign. Two police officers at the ready to assist the gangway crew with the returning crowds. I have already mentioned that Waverley's bar had done a roaring trade on the outward leg. Publicans in Rothesay have also found that Saturday afternoon brings a healthy influx to their establishments, especially with the sun out. The officers were, unfortunately, required to deny boarding to some seriously intoxicated excursionists.
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Waverley is still at Rothesay as MV Bute heads off to the mainland. In the left distance is the chimney of Inverkip Power Station, not far from Wemyss Bay, the ferry's mainland terminal. It has been a landmark on the upper Firth for many years, but from a power station that was rarely used. With the main buildings now demolished, the stack had only eight more days to go. On the evening on July 28th, it was demolished in a controlled blast.
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More ominous signs as the gangway was heaved on to Helensburgh pier. Two officers boarded the ship. Had the ship to shore radio alerted them to an issue which they need to resolve ?  It was hard to know above the throbbing music and the animated chatter of around 700 passengers
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Regrettably, after a considerable amount of "aggro", one passenger was led away ...... extremely unwillingly
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After all the shenanigans, it was time for the ropes to be untied and the ship's prow eased into a northerly aspect ..........
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Was Waverley going to head up on to Helensburgh's "beach" ?
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No - the captain rang down "full astern" and she backed away with much waving of arms from the shore to those on board


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It is now back to Greenock and Glasgow and two more hours of paddling in the sun. No doubt the bar was still doing a good trade. Let us hope that in the next two hours everything was peaceful and serene ....... like a paddle steamer trip ought to be ?
Go to : The following day's cruise :  (Glasgow) - Largs - Lochranza - Campbeltown - (Cruise Sanda and Mull of Kintyre)

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