On the evening of 30th July 2008 Waverley visited the Ayrshire port of Ardrossan for the first time in over 20 years. During her years with the Caledonian Steam Packet Company in the 1960s she had visited Ardrossan Harbour quite frequently especially at holiday weekends when she assisted the Arran car ferries on the busy service to Brodick. After she transferred to the Waverley Steam Navigation Company she continued with occasional calls and for a few years in the early 1980s she called at the former Glasgow & South Western Railway Company terminal at Winton Pier on a weekly basis on her Sunday schedule which entailed sailing from Ayr to Troon, Ardrossan, Millport, Largs, Rothesay and Loch Riddon. After the change of the Sunday schedule to Glasgow her calls at Ardrossan became infrequent. The picture above (click on picture for higher resolution) shows the vessel berthed at Winton Pier on 20th May 1985 for a special evening cruise as part of the local Three Towns Festival (Ardrossan, Saltcoats and Stevenson). This was the only time that I saw her berhed 'port side to' at Ardrossan. She spent that night at Ardrossan and left the following morning, sailing direct to Barry Docks on the Bristol Channel. Little did we realise at that time that it would be over 20 years before the paddler returned to the port.
Berthing charges at Ardrossan inhibited Waverley's operation from there. It was not until 2008, when local man Mr Stuart McMahon decided to charter the paddler for a special sailing to raise funds for the Vine Trust, that the paddler returned to Ardrossan . So just before 6pm on Wednesday 30th July Waverley entered Ardrossan Harbour for the first time in 23 years.
Unfortunately it was not so sunny as it had been for her last call at Ardrossan but that did not discourage a large number of people from assembling on Winton Pier to support the very worth aims of the cruise organiser. In fact 670 people boarded the vessel for the cruise. By a quirk of fate, Waverley was under the command of Captain Steve Mishel (allowing the ship's normal master, Capt Andy O'Brien, a few days well earned leave). Capt Mishel had served aboard the paddler during her previous visits to Ardrossan in the early 1980s.
Above, Waverley at Ardrossan Winton Pier - historially an unusual combination with a steamer displaying the livery of the North British / LNER railway fleet at the rival G&SW / LMS Railway base. In the days of intense railway fleet competition it would have been very rare to see a steamer with this livery at Ardrossan. As the paddler loaded her large complement of passengers the Cal Mac Ferries Arran vessel set out for her regular service to the island (below). Waverley and Caledonian Isles have met many times in Brodick bay but this was the first time that the two ships had met at Ardrossan.
With all passengers aboard Waverley set off. Prompted by the ship's purser Jim McFadzean they offered up three loud cheers as the vessel went astern through the harbour mouth into the famous Ardrossan swell. A number of PSPS Scottish Branch members supported this venture while others recorded the visit for posterity
At the end of the day it was announced that the sailing had raised the magnificent sum of £4200 for the very worthy Vine Trust. Stuart McMahon is to be congratulated for his hard work and determination in organising this superb event.
Three vessels formerly serving on the Clyde are now in service for the Vine Trust in South America. The former naval tenders Milford and Ixworth, refitted for the Trust by BAE Systems plc, have been renamed Amazon Hope 1 and Amazon Hope 2 and carry vital relief supplies to people living in distressing conditions in the Amazon basin. Also the small tender Inverkip 1, which originally tended the mooring ropes of tankers at Inverkip Power Station jetty, was donated to the Trust by Scottish Power plc
After returning to Ardrossan at the end of the charter Waverey departed for her overnight berth at Greenock (photo courtesy of S McMahon) Wonder if she'll return some day!