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PADDLE STEAMER WAVERLEY - 2013 SEASON


From Largs to Campbeltown and return : 21st July 2013


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Things are looking good for Waverley with a long queue on Largs pier. Unlike Helensburgh, passengers are prevented from going on the pierhead until the ship is fully berthed and the gangways ready. Cal-Mac have two ferries on the go between Largs and Cumbrae Slip.  Who says that tourism on the Clyde is dead ?


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This is what the crowds are waiting for .... and they are intent on discovering the lochs and isles aboard Paddle Steamer Waverley. Whether many people stumbled across this sign on Largs promenade and joined the queue one can only guess


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There looks like there might be plenty of space aboard. It was an early Sunday morning start over two hours earlier from Glasgow - and no stops to pick up further passengers. However, it was a rare opportunity to visit Campbeltown and see the Mull of Kintyre so who knows ?


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A fair number of prospective passengers who had not pre-booked were held back until the gangway crew could be clear exactly how many were on board. It seemed that there would be a number of disappointed people ....... but fortunately all were squeezed on


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It was clear, though, that Waverley was full to her certified passenger capacity. Another good day for the accountants. It was just a matter of the sun keeping shining to make it another good day for the passengers


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Leaving Largs it was just heading towards lunch time. Clearly the ship could not cope with 700 passengers descending into the restaurant, but for those who still like their Sunday roast aboard, the opportunity was there. Not really the best views in the world from here, but by the time pudding had been finished, Waverley would be approaching the magnificent Isle of Arran, "Scotland in miniature", and offering spectacular views - from the open decks at least


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No band on a Sunday and with the young day trippers unlikely to be attracted to Lochranza or Campbeltown for their fill of ale, the bar was a more sedate, though equally popular place. So much so, in fact, that the bar steward had additional help from one of four ladies seen assisting the crew in a number of roles and dressed smartly in PS Waverley branded white shirts and red neck ties


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Despite there being little apparent activity on Arran and the Kintyre peninsula, there is a wealth of fascinating historical information associated with these areas .... information delivered with great enthusiasm by a select group of Paddle Steamer Preservation Society volunteers who give of their time and money to provide this important service to the company's customers. Today it is the turn of John Galloway to provide an excellent commentary. Judging by John's enormous batch of papers, there is much more to say about these areas than most of us ever imagined !  Thanks John. I never knew all that !


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The only settlement of any size is Campbeltown, near the foot of the Kintyre peninsula. Once a daily excursion for the speedy turbine steamers based at Gourock, it has been virtually cut off from steamer services. Apart from calls on the way to and on return from her short early season progarmme at Oban, today was Waverley's only call of the season. A sleepy place at the best of times and even more so on a Sunday, there does seem to be some activity at the pier and fortunately it has not been left to fall into disrepair and closure once the steamer services were withdrawn. Once boasting over 20 whisky distilleries and probably producing enough of the stuff to fill the protected bay (Campbeltown Loch) on which the town stands to satisfy the hopes of that famous Scottish crooner Andy Stewart, only three remain. The town is forging a new future with the manufacture of wind turbines!


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The attractions of Campbeltown are enough to see a fair percentage of the passengers disembark. Attractions ?  Well, maybe just curiousity about a place now well off the beaten track !


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What is in store ? I guess everyone is thinking. Are the pubs open on a Sunday ? What about the shops (if there are any) ?  They never used to be, but surely times have changed now...


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Here's one reason why the pier has been maintained in working order. There appears to be a modestly sized fishing fleet still working out of Campbeltown


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There also seems to be a fair number of people embarking Waverley for a couple of hours' cruise to Sanda Island and the Mull of Kintyre. This is one of the highlights of the year at Campbeltown no doubt and for those tourists who are here, a welcome attraction. Despite its remoteness, the area still attracts a fair number of visitors and is on the itineraries of a number of coach tour companies


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So, it is gangways back aboard .......


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...... ropes thrown back .........


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....... and secured back aboard.


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Now loose, Waverley's stern drifts away from the pier head. Should she be doing that ?


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There's a good reason. Waverley reverses out of Campbeltown. Anyone seeing her at Rothesay or Helensburgh the previous day would have noticed the same manoevre. She never used to do it so much in the old days, did she ?


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Plenty of people stay behind to see her leave - and catch it on film. Now you know why so many photos you see of Waverley nowadays show her going backwards !  Even WEL's "Great Days Out" brochures do !


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With space to turn in Campbeltown Loch it is now "half ahead" as she heads towards the Mull. There looks to be a nice wide channel to head through - but not so. If she tried that she would soon end up on a shingle beach !  Davaar Island, to the left, is only an island at the top of the tide otherwise it is accessible by a causeway. The channel out of this protected harbour is to the left of the island


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True to form, there was not much to do except while away the time on a park bench overlooking the loch and soak in the sun. However, newly for this year, you might be lucky and be distracted by a magnificent large ship. This is Cal-Mac's car ferry Isle of Arran, once pride of the Ardrossan to Brodick service, but in recent years relegated to "spare" vessel. Her opportunity came with a new service to Campbeltown from Ardrossan which has required the building of new end-loading berth and associated terminal facilities. This new service gave the opportunity for an outward trip on Isle of Arran and a return to the mainland on Waverley - an unusual opportunity which at least one Waverley enthusiast was known to have taken advantage of.


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A rare opportunity now to get Waverley and Isle of Arran in the same shot. I wonder if many of the photographers waiting for the paddle steamer's return were aware of this !  Anyone waiting was courteously asked to stand back - just in case they might be hit by a flying rope......


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One last chance to see Isle of Arran and the new port facilities. Maybe whisky now leaves the area by road, but it seems that there remains a decent trade in timber


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The north Arran hamlet of Lochranza was a regular call on the route to Campbeltown, but the steamer pier closed down after the route closed with the withdrawal of TS Duchess of Hamilton in 1971. The area gained a car ferry service across to Kintyre, but this ran from a slip where the old pier had been. Mercifully a new pier was built as a breakwater to allow the Cal-Mac ships to berth overnight with the added bonus that for the last ten years, Waverley has been able to call, and now makes several visits per season on her Sunday Special outings.  So, it is not just at Rothesay that Waverley has to ensure that she coordinates timings with car ferries in order to share facilities and avoid delay.


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Only a limited number of people chose to spend the afternoon at Lochranza - a collection of only a few houses, but with a ruined castle a brisk walk away. The captain has to ensure that there are no delays here as he must get back to Largs and away from the Ayrshire pier before 8 pm or else the rope handlers will have gone home and Largs passengers will have an extremely long day, having to make their own way back from Glasgow !


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Thankfully, Waverley leaves Largs a couple of minutes before the 8 pm deadline as the light fades on a beautiful day's excursion


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Largs is left to private boat owners as her passengers dig in for another two hours aboard. She will no doubt be ahead of one of the Rothesay ferries MV Argyle or MV Bute which can be seen emerging from the late evening haze, allowing her to keep full speed up towards Glasgow. It will have still been a very long day for those doing the whole trip - thirteen hours all told !


Go to : Previous day's cruise :  (Glasgow) - (Greenock) - Helensburgh - Dunoon - Rothesay - Tighnabruaich


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