paddlesteamers.info : The Internet's leading database of
Paddle Steamers past and present
PADDLE STEAMER WAVERLEY - 2013 SEASON
From Helensburgh to Tighnabruaich and return : 20th July
A good crowd had gathered early on Helensburgh
pier in the scorching hot summer sun
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
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 ?
The Helensburgh and District Pipe Band were on
hand to give Waverley a very "Scottish " welcome
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 !
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
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
The fine weather ensured that the decks and especially
the observation deck were packed out ......
....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.
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.
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
Still, the prospect of the beauty of the Kyles
is sufficient to attract the crowds.......and was there something
going on at Tighnabruaich ?
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
Did someone say that there was something on at
Tighnabruaich ? Well, we're keen to find out ! Get that
gangway on to the pier !
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 !
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
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
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.
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.
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
Regrettably, after a considerable amount of "aggro",
one passenger was led away ...... extremely unwillingly
After all the shenanigans, it was time for the
ropes to be untied and the ship's prow eased into a northerly aspect
Was Waverley going to head up on to Helensburgh's
No - the captain rang down "full astern"
and she backed away with much waving of arms from the shore to
those on board
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 ?
to : The following day's cruise : (Glasgow) - Largs - Lochranza - Campbeltown
- (Cruise Sanda and Mull of Kintyre)