Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Festive Ice in The Sun - Chairman's Blog No 6

(click on a pic to enlarge)

For the second year in a row, our Scottish Branch Festive Cruise was held in the finest weather for this time of year. Flat Calm, Cold, Crisp, Sunny, and Bright. Our river looked like the best ever tourist brochure photographs for Scotland!

With ticket sales for this year topping out most respectably in the mid seventies, the open deck was well populated in the minutes leading up to departure, with those of us gathered on the aft end of Cruiser getting a good whiff of main engine exhaust due to the windless morning!

Leaving the Victoria Harbour promptly at eleven to the sound of our safety announcement, we set off into the river. This was soon followed by an enticement to head below decks for Tea, Coffee and Mince Pies. No sooner than we had all found a spot to have our mid morning snack than we were cornered by our Branch Raffle ticket sellers, a captive audience indeed! A fine collection of prizes including a model of the Duchess of Hamilton, Bottles of Whisky, DVD’s, Calendars had been donated again this year and this combined with the enthusiasm of ticket sellers and buyers alike resulted in a grand total of about £270 being raised. As far as my dodgy arithmetic can work out, that equates to an average of £3.60 for every passenger aboard. Well done one and all!

Although our first port of call was Blairmore, we had time to head across and stick our nose in the Holy Loch before turning to Blairmore where further treats awaited.

Negotiating the pier, still slightly frosty in places where the morning winter sun had yet to penetrate, we were greeted at the pier house by Agnes and her “catering team” who were dispensing mulled wine and mince pies to the masses. We had but 40 minutes ashore but that was plenty of time for the mulled wine, a good natter and some photo opportunities.

First prize for dedication to getting “The Picture” must go to Peter Reid for scaling the frosty slopes behind the pier, and even more impressively getting back down the frost covered slopes with out resorting to any impromptu “tobogganing”.

All too soon it was time to get back aboard where the main deck had been furnished with tables for lunch, each with the name of a Clyde Steamer on them. This is part of a cunning ploy by our cruise organiser, Deryk Docherty, where the names of the steamers are drawn out of a bag to determine which table goes in turn to the buffet. It works very well as it saves a scrum (albeit a polite one!) at the buffet table. Someone has to be last however, and this year it was the turn of that stalwart of the Caledonian Steam Packet Co Ltd (and Soc Anon di Navagazione of Genoa, apparently), PS Galatea, occupied by our very own David and Maura Edwards.

Our cruise up Loch Long and Loch Goil continued as we ate, turning just North of Carrick Castle, destination of many previous Christmas Cruises by PSPS. As we sailed north and then South again we had the slightly strange experience of observing a number of sunsets and sunrises……all of them in the West, as the sun grazed the tops of the hills on the West side of the lochs. After a quick and unscheduled call at Blairmore on the return leg to drop off Agnes who joined us this year for the cruise, we again entered the more open waters of the tail of the bank and the “real” sunset.

Having been kept occupied on the downward leg by the raffle draw and the odd nip from the collective hip flasks to stave off the evening cold, it was all too soon that we tied up at Greenock.

During the prize draw, Deryk had commented on the various committee members and regulars who had drawn the Paddle Steamer names from the bag for the buffet scheduling, mentioning the various activities we had been involved in over the last year. One person he forgot to mention….was himself! Our heartfelt thanks Deryk, for another sterling effort resulting in a great day out for all concerned.

Stuart Mears
Scottish Branch Chairman