Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Sailing up the Clyde

Some pictures from a beautiful Saturday evening as Waverley sailed up her native River Clyde towards the end of her 2010 main Clyde sailing season.

Waverley off Tighnabruaich
Racing up the West Kyle (of Bute)

Returning to Tighnabruaich

The 'brakes' go on (i.e. the paddle wheels are set to run fast in the reverse direction of their normal rotation) to bring the vessel to a halt alongside the traditional steamboat pier at Tighnabruaich, one of only a few such structures still in existance. In past times, when many vessels such as Waverley would call at these piers in the course of a summer's day, the approach to the berth in all directions would be maintained clear of small anchored craft but this is no longer the case and today's Masters of the Clyde's last paddle steamer have much less room for manouvring a vessel that is much less manouvrable than her modern counterparts. Paddle steamers must be kept steaming along at a fairly high speed to maintain steerage. Fortunately, the paddle steamers have one mitigating attribute - their ability to stop much quicker than ships fitted with conventional screw propellers. Its an asset that skippers new to paddlers must learn about and put to good effect very quickly.

The paddler 'on the knuckle' at Helensburgh pier, the only way in and out of the pier for a vessel of Waverley's size and manouvrability at lower states of the tide.

Looking astern towards the Bowling bend as the sun decends behind the Kilpatrick Hills and the more distant hills of Argyll

Looking astern, having just past under the Erskine Bridge, which will celebrate its 40th year in 2011

Waverley's passengers enjoy a fine evening for the paddler's run upriver

This is where rural Clydeside meets industrial Clydeside (or whats left of it at least). The flat fields on the right are on Newshot Isle, which, if truth be known, is not an island at all - but it was at one time over two centuries ago. Gradually the old south channel of the River Clyde silted up and Newshot became attached to  mainland Renfrewshire near Inchinnan. In the 1960s the Clydebank shipbuilding company John Brown (more of which below), recognising that their yard would not be able to produce the large tankers and other vessels then being proposed by their competitors inthe Far East, proposed a plan whereby the old channel to the south of Newshort would be re-opened and greatly expanded to become the main shipping channel on the river, Once the river had been diverted to the south of Newshot they planned to turn the north channel into a vast shipbuilding drydock, capable of accommodating the largest ships envisaged at the time. Needless to say the plan never materialised, which is probably just as well

As Waverley steams round Dalmuir bend on her run upriver the scene ahead is much changed from the halcyon days of Clyde shipbuilding. Only Sir William Arrol & Company's first giant cantilever crane, the Clydebank Titan, remains to mark the site of the world-famous Clydebank shipyard. The yard was laid out at Barns o' Clyde in the 1870s by established shipbuilders J & G Thomson when the site of their original yard was required for the new Plantation Quay and Princes Dock (now occupied by the Glasgow Science Centre and BBC Scotland). Thomson's built many state of the art and world renowned ships, including the record-breaking twin liners City of Paris and City of New York for the Inman Line. Successive owners of the Clydebank shipyard were the Clydebank Shipbuilding & Engineering Company, John Brown & Company, Upper Clyde Shipbuilders Ltd, Marathon UK Ltd and finally UIE Scotland Ltd. During the 65 years that the yard was owned by John Brown it built many of the world's largest, fastest and most famous ships - RMS Lusitania, RMS Aquitania, HMS Hood, RMS Empress of Britain (II), RMS Queen Mary, RMS Queen Elizabeth, HMS Vanguard, HMY Britannia, RMS Transvaal Castle and RMS Queen Elizabeth 2 (Yard No 736) to name a few. The final ship built at Clydebank was the humble bulk carrier Alisa in 1972. For the next 20 years the yard continued to be productive, turning out massive and complex structures for the North Sea offshore industries but it finally closed after almost 120 years of world-leading engineering. It left behind a town that may not have existed had the Thomson brothers not moved to this site and brought with them the name of their original shipyard - Clyde Bank. The site of Brown's East yard is now occupied by the new Clydebank College (as seen behind the Titan, above) but the site of the West yard,where the Titan stands in splendid isolation, is still largely derelict, almost a decade and a half after this once centre of engineering excellence closed - a stark reminder of how much easier it is to be destructive of undevalued assets and skills that it is to create them and maintain them.

Passing Garmoyle (Erskine beyond)

Approaching Scotstoun and the almost complete new Type 45 destroyer HMS Diamond

HMS Defender, the 5th of  6 Type 45 destroyers to be fitted out at BAE Systems Scotstoun shipyard. The Scotstoun shipyard was founded by Alfred Yarrow in 1906 when he moved his business and 300 of his Thames-based staff from his former shipyard at Poplar. In this view Defender is berthed in No 3 Drydock at the Elderslie Dockyard (or '3 Dock' as it is now known). The Elderslie Dockyard was created by John Shearer & Co in 1907 when his slip dock at Kelvinhaugh was removed to make way for Yorkhill Quay, the latest extension to Glasgow Harbour. The No 1 Drydock was converted into a covered drydock in the 1980s. No 2 Drydock was added at a later date (upriver of the No1 dock) and the No 3 dock was added in the mid 1960s. Until the mid 1970s the Elderslie Dockyard was operated as a commercial ship maintenance facility by Barclay Curle Shiprepairers and it was common to see 4 or 5 large merchant ships undergoing overhaul or refit simultaneously

A detail of Defender

HMS Diamond (D34), the third of six Type 45 destroyers to be built at BAE Systems Clyde shipyards

MV Rover, Clyde-built at Renfrew in 1964 for Greenock-based Clyde Marine, one of the oldest family run businesses on the Clyde. In 2010 Rover has been operating a new passenger service between Braehead, Glasgow Science Centre (ex Plantation Quay) and the Broomielaw, the Port of Glasgow's original quayside.

Passing the small bulk cargo vessel A B Liverpool, loading scrap metal, at Shieldhall Quay