Tuesday, 26 August 2008

The Heart of Our Paddler

When you see Waverley going about her business in one of her many sailing areas throughout the cruising season what do you see?

Well.....the most obvious things are her two red, white and black funnels - rising proudly from the deck - their rake making the ship look like she is doing 18 knots standing still!! The subtle sheer of her hull or those black fan shaped paddle boxes.

But what makes this masterpiece of wood, steel and brass tick?

See video below to find out!!! (may take a few seconds to load depending on connection speed)

2100ihp of triple expansion steam engine - the heart of our paddler!!


Monday, 25 August 2008

Prodigal Sons and Daughters - Chairman's Blog No 5

Yesterday, Sunday 24th August, on the return leg of the sailing to Lochranza, The Scottish Branch was pleased to welcome back one of it's lapsed, formally stalwart members who has spent a few, though too many years in the wilderness, Mr Willie Ross. Willie has been home from Deep Sea on shore leave for a few weeks and to begin with, even getting him back up the gangway and onto Waverley seemed a forlorn hope. However some internal lubrication did the trick and we have shared a few enjoyable sails and drams over the last wee while. As he is due to run away to sea again this week, I thought should press gang him back into the Society before he went. With the help of some of the Usual Suspects who created a suitable diversion, we were able to spring the surprise on him. You can see the result below with Willie proudly holding his membership pack. Welcome back Willie, or to use your deep sea name, Bill! As luck would have it Acting Purser David Edwards was in a generous mood and made an announcement over the Tannoy system welcoming Willie back as an excuse for doing a plug for the Society and encouraging people to join at the souvenir shop.

Well, I found out this morning that a couple of passengers did just that! There are two lessons to be learned here:
1)Never pass up the opportunity to "sell" our Society and to get people to join.
Remember part of every membership fee will help our ships, and now more than ever they need every penny.
2)Never ever give up hope on lapsed members!
In fact target them if you know of any, and as a bare minimum try and find out why they left in the first place. It's long been a bugbear of the national Membership Sub Committee that when people leave they simply don't renew their subscription and it's nigh on impossible to actually find out why they don't want to be members anymore.
So if you do manage to find out why an ex member is just that, an ex member, please let any of the committee know as it is such valuable information. It might make painful listening at times but we have to know nevertheless if we are to improve things. Even more importantly, get them to join again. Explain to the ex member how our Society is changing quite a bit these days and that they would find much to interest them. If I can get Willie Ross interested again I'm sure there must be a few considerably easier ex member targets out there!

Saturday, 23 August 2008

A Weekend in Bristol from a Scottish Perspective - Chairman's Blog No 4

PSPS National AGM 2007.

In the Chairman’s Report of the autumn 2007 Edition of Paddle Wheels, our chairman included some very kind words about the age profile of the Scottish Branch Committee and also its ability to combine hard work with socialising. I thought it might be an idea to write a few words about the 2007 AGM in Bristol where some of us managed to combine both the work and socialising elements with a degree of success. The 2008 AGM is to be held aboard The Maid of the Loch at Balloch so hopefully this account will also whet your appetite for this forthcoming, IMPORTANT event.

I make no apologies when I say that the Scottish numbers that attended at the AGM in Bristol was embarrassingly low, only four or five of us. When one considers the number of members who made their way from south of the border to attend the national AGM when it was last held in Glasgow, it makes such a showing by us Scots in Bristol doubly embarrassing. I know that the Scottish AGM had perhaps more in the way of organised activities for visiting members but, as this account will hopefully show, one would have to try hard to not find entertainment on a weekend in Bristol. Hopefully this account will serve to let our members see how important it is that we support the Society on a National level, and that such activity can be enjoyable.

A party of four Scottish Branch members had agreed to make the trip; Gavin Stewart, Shelagh Holt, Aileen Kerr and me. On arriving at Bristol International Airport from Glasgow courtesy of Easy-jet, we made out way into Bristol Town centre and checked into ours respective rooms at the Ibis hotel. Unfortunately I had to then get back to the airport as I had someone else’s luggage! Ripped lime-green tee shirt and jeans, studded belt and caterpillar boots are fine if that’s your thing, but perhaps unsuitable for the AGM! Once all that had been sorted, we settled down for a bite to eat in the bar in the hotel. The Ibis is ideally suited for a nautically themed Bristol week end, being in the heart of the redeveloping Floating Harbour area. Just across from the hotel, our ship Balmoral could be made out in the night with just a couple of lights on, reflected in the still waters of the harbour. Our walk to this venue for the AGM would be a short one. Eager to sample some of the Bristol nightlife we made our way into the town centre and settled into the Bunch of Grapes bar where we enjoyed a couple drinks and live music. I was eager to reacquaint myself with a modest sampling of the wide variety of Ciders available in this corner of the country that just cannot be found in Scotland. Some were more palatable to my relatively uneducated Scottish taste than others. All seemed to be fairly potent. Caution and moderation were definitely orders of the day.

Saturday morning dawned fairly dull and grey, but undaunted, after a hearty breakfast, we made our way from the hotel to the town centre once more, this time with the benefit of daylight. I spent much of the morning telling anyone in our party who was prepared to listen, just how much regeneration had taken place since I last spent anytime in Bristol in 1988 when I spent the season on Balmoral as Motorman. In fact the regeneration, if such is the right word, in both Bristol and the good ship Balmoral, is most impressive in both instances. After a wander around the shops we stopped at one of the seemingly countless coffee shops before heading back to the Hotel to get changed for the AGM. En-route we bumped into none other that PSPS’s most famous Scottish ex-pat, Douglas McGowan. An impromptu exchange of pleasantries, Paddle Steamer memorabilia and raffle tickets ensued! We soon bid our temporary farewells, promising to meet in The Shakespeare after getting changed, before heading en-masse to Balmoral. On such an overcast and chilly day it was indeed pleasant to find Balmoral well lit and heated despite being well into the winter season. We filed past the entrance to the dining saloon, laid out with culinary delights that were to follow the business of the AGM.

At 2 o’clock prompt the 2007 Annual general meeting got underway in The Britannia Lounge of MV Balmoral (above). I am not going to recount the actual business of the meeting as; apart from it probably being reported elsewhere such as Paddle Wheels, YOU SHOULD HAVE COME IF YOU WANTED TO KNOW WHAT WENT ON!

On completing the formal business of the day we retired to the dining saloon where I was delighted to find Ollie was one of the team serving up teas coffees and a cracking selection of home baking. I well remember Ollie from his days as Motorman, when he and Willie Ross (with the assistance of a couple of engineers!) made up one of Balmoral’s most formidable ever engineering departments!

After a short presentation by a representative of Fred Olsen and the accompanying Prize Draw, we were free to leave the vessel……..or so we thought. Iain MacMillan intercepted us to carry out gathering of empirical data from the ship’s toilet system. In other words he wanted to know how much water was used in an average flush. Having removed strategic chunks of pipe Gavin and I were each invited to complete a standard flush which was then measured. I should emphasise that all we did was flush the toilet! The results were, one gallon for me and six litres for Gavin, if you must know. No doubt the benefits of this particular piece of voluntary work will become apparent by next season.

Our evening meal was in an Indian restaurant close to our hotel where we were kept up to date by phone and text message on the Scotland v Italy football score as there was nowhere this far south televising the great event. Needless to say, by Full-Time a reasonable degree of sorrow-drowning was required. Dave Elms, another Balmoral work-party stalwart had joined us for the meal. He must have felt as though he was at a funeral wake rather than a nutter’s night out.

The next morning, after meeting in the hotel lobby we set off for our much anticipated trip to see ss Great Britain. What a treat we had in store for us. When I was working on Balmoral at the end of 1988, Engineers MacMillan and Muir had set off to look round the Great Britain, leaving me to strip out scavenge valves. On their return it seemed that I had had the more interesting day as the few bits of the Great Britain that had been restored had not been that impressive. Well, things have changed by 2007(see below).

Our first part of the tour was to the bottom of the drydock. Anyone who has had the misfortune to spend any time at the bottom of a drydock will know them to be usually cold, draughty, damp fairly unpleasant places. Not so at SS Great Britain where the dock has been completely roofed over around the ship’s water line. This glass and steel structure, with a few inches of water on it gives the slightly unnerving perspective of looking up at the ship from underwater. Equipped with heating and dehumidifying equipment, the drydock environment is, uniquely, a most comfortable environment.

Close inspection of the hull reveals a few thin-to-the-point-of-being-a-hole areas, prompting that strange compulsion from some of our group to rap the hull with their knuckles, as though to test the soundness of the plating. Go on, admit it, we’ve all done that at some point! Numerous information boards stationed around the hull explain items of interest such as the part of the hull that was buckled and patched in the area where the ship had broken its back during its derelict years in the Falkland Islands. The information boards also informed us that Brunel had in fact originally designed the Great Britain to be a paddler!

Our next part of the tour was round the exhibition centre. The highlight for me was the full scale working replica of the mechanism for disconnecting and removing the ship’s screw to eliminate its drag whilst the ship was under sail. Impressive in any event but all the more so when this operation could be carried out whilst at sea, without the need for anyone to “go over the side” at that. If only Waverley’s wheels could be similarly retracted for maintenance work, or when engaging a secret gas turbine under the galley for that extra burst of speed!

On then to the ship itself where we were treated to faithful recreations of the ship’s different classes of accommodation; from steerage, which according to some of our party, bore more than a passing resemblance to Waverley’s infamous, pre-rebuild “Eight-Berth”, to the sumptuous first class dining saloon with it’s marble pillars. Many of the areas have dummy passengers and crew, to add considerably to the realism. Some areas also had authentic smells which also added to the realism!
There is limited access to the upper levels of the engine room, a truly dark and gloomy place where it would appear that four engineers had to co-ordinate their efforts on the control levers located in each corner of the engine room, one for each cylinder, by means of four interconnected voice pipes. This was obviously not designed with Waverley levels of engine movements per minute in mind.

The only part of the vessel not as yet refurbished is the forward fifty or so feet below prom deck level, with no decks in place and access by some open grate walkways. Although barren this open area of the ship gives a good impression of the scale of the hull as well as what appears to be some of the earlier mast foot locations, Great Britain having sailed with several mast arrangements, from Clipper to Windjammer.

For the final evening of our trip to Bristol we returned to The Bunch of Grapes where again there was some excellent live music and, armed with the wisdom gained on the Friday night, I avoided some of the more destructive Ciders.

So there you have it. A trip to the National AGM is what you choose to make of it, and a city like Bristol is just asking to be visited by those of a nautical leaning. It even almost has a paddle steamer. If only Brunel had stuck to his guns, who knows how the PSPS fleet might look in the 21st century!

So my message to our membership is, if at all possible, GET INVOLVED in such events as the National AGM, even if it is not on your doorstep. You might, just might find that you enjoy yourself!

The National AGM 2008 is on ps Maid of The Loch at Balloch Pier, Loch Lomond on Saturday 22nd November.

In addition to the usual Society business there will be opportunities to view the steam engine which drives the winch on Balloch Slipway (above) in operation, a meal in Maid of The Loch's Queens Room followed by a presentation by the Scottish Branch.

See you there? Go on....you know you want to!!!

Stuart Mears

Friday, 22 August 2008

The Clyde Season Clock Is Ticking!

Is it really getting to that time already??

Yep!! The 2008 Clyde Season has only 11 - yes - 11 sailing days left before our wee paddler heads south for her traditional South Coast of England and Thames cruising programmes.

The point of all this you ask??

Simple -if you haven't been for a cruise yet - you dont have much time left - so what are you waiting for??

To say the least Waverley's owners and operators have had a challenging season so far. The weather has been changeable - which is outwith anyone's control (including the forecasters it would seem) and the minor repair required to the steamer's port (left) side paddle shaft whilst in dry dock did nothing to assist. Nevertheless I think it should be said that the ship has been turned out beautifully and the crew have worked hard to maintain this level throughout.

Fuel costs are still a BIG factor in the continued operation of both Waverley and her consort Balmoral and this has resulted in a very reasonable £1 fuel surcharge being added to every Adult & Senior Citizen tickets. Hopefully the Gift Aid scheme - new for 2008 will go some way to offsetting the ever rising costs.

So, tell your family, friends, their families, their families friends, the dug, the cat, their friends dug.....well you get the picture...to come for a sail on the Clyde on or before Monday 1st September.

The Clyde Timetable can be accessed here.

When the steamer returns from her South Coast & Thames sojourn she will sail for one weekend in October - follow the timetable link above.

If you live down on the south coast - dont worry shes coming to a pier near you soon - have a look at the timetable here or alternatively the Thames here.

Book your sailings via the Waverley Excursions Website or by calling 0845 130 4647.

Now for some photos showing the steamer on the Clyde this season. (click on image to enlarge)


Arriving at Dunoon with a full load

Brodick, Isle of Arran

Lochranza, Isle of Arran

Leaving Customhouse Quay, Greenock

Approaching Largs

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

A Grand Day Altogether!! - Branch Hospitality Cruise 2008

(Photos by John MacFarlane & Shelagh Holt)

As you will have read previously Sunday August 10th was the annual members hospitality cruise held aboard ps Waverley during her usual Sunday cruise to Lochranza, Isle of Arran.

The main objective of these hospitality cruises are to give the branch an opportunity to mix with it’s members and also a pleasant way of thanking them for their continued support of the Society and Ships. Complimentary tea and coffee is served followed by Upper Engine Room & Bridge tours.

2007 saw a significant change in the format of this event. During winter 2006 / 2007 the Scottish Branch funded the installation of audio / visual equipment in the Lower Bar (now renamed Maltman Bar due to the extensive range of Malt Whiskies and Real Ales available) – an oft overlooked passenger space on Waverley – to permit the showing of video presentations designed to enhance the passenger experience whilst on board and also publicise the ship and her cruising areas. In 2007 this equipment was used to good effect for our hospitality event. Our then Branch Chairman Gavin Johnston presented a short photo presentation on branch activities after which tea and coffee was served while various videos were shown including footage of the steamer’s Lower Engine Room which is off limits on our Engine Room tours for Health & Safety reasons.

Anyway - back to 2008.

The day started off in style with the steamer sporting the Scottish Branch banner from her boat deck railings as can be seen below as Waverley arrived at Greenock.

On Sundays an excellent roast dinner is served in the steamer’s dining saloon which is always well received so the start of the event was delayed until after Waverley had sailed through the buoyed channel in the Kyles of Bute known as the “Narrows”.
With everyone sitting comfortably in a filled to capacity Lower Bar, Branch Chairman Stuart Mears welcomed members before handing over to our guest for the event David Rodgers (below), PSPS Member and Chairman of Waverley Excursions Ltd who gave a short talk on the company and its aims and also touched on a few ways that PSPS members could give assistance. Costs are a big issue in the current economic climate and it was shocking to hear that today’s cruise from Glasgow to Lochranza and back to Glasgow would consume in excess of £4000 worth of oil fuel alone!! It is not all doom and gloom of course but we must always be mindful of the challenges our ships face and be ready to assist where and when we can. David’s talk was very well received and I think it was good for our members to put a face to the name and vice versa. The branch thank David for joining us and look forward to working with him in the future.
Time for Stuart to take the floor again for short light hearted photo presentation on the LCD screen. This covered a variety of subjects from branch exhibitions to amusing and poignant pictures from the previous winter’s volunteer work parties. Tribute was also paid to Waverley’s deck crew for maintaining the ship in fine condition throughout the season under the supervision of bosun Jack Szkarlat. There was also a short series of shots showing the extent of works carried out on the ship’s port side paddle wheel and shaft during her dry docking.
Tours of the Engine Room and Bridge followed whilst the remaining members enjoyed a chat over a drink. The whole event was over in good time for us all to go ashore at Lochranza for a well deserved pint!!!

A very hearty vote of thanks must go to Gordon Reid - Waverley’s Chief Engineer, Bosun Jack Szkarlat, Purser Jim McFadzean and last but not least Waverley’s Senior Master Captain Andy O’Brien for allowing us to invade his ship for an hour or two!!

And finally to YOU our members for your continued support!!!

Gavin Stewart

Friday, 15 August 2008

Another Willing Victim! - Chairman's Blog No 3

Just a quick blog this time you will be pleased to hear.

Part (1)

Firstly a wee bit about the Hospitality Cruise we had on Sunday. I know there is going to be a posting specifically about this, so I will keep this bit brief so as not to pre-empt anything in that posting. On behalf of the Branch, I’d like to thank David Rodger, Waverley Excursions Chairman, for his contribution to Sunday’s hospitality Cruise.

I’d also like to record our appreciation to all those from the ship’s company who helped, giving of their time for the Bridge and Engine Room visits, making the bottom bar (and snacks!) available, and generally having the ship so well turned out, complete with PSPS banner on the Boat Deck railing.

It is no boast to say that The Scottish Branch leads the way in the Society when it comes to Hospitality Cruises, and Sunday’s event raised the bar still further for our other Branches to aspire to, thanks in no small part to the efforts of those on the ship.

On a personal note I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Shelagh and Gavin for all the work they put in to making Sunday the success it was, whether it was making sure that the appropriate people on the ship knew we were coming (!) or working on the Slide Shows etc etc etc.

At the end of the day, thanks to them, all I had to do was stand up and waffle for ten minutes! Thank You.

Now, Part (2), and the reason for the title of this particular Chairman’s Blog.

On Monday I received a very welcome email from John Anderson, PSPS National Secretary, asking me for Gavin Stewart’s contact details as he is now on the Council of management! His nomination this year went unchallenged and so he is now “in”.

Congratulations Gavin! You can see from the photo below just how delighted he was when I phoned him with the good news!

Just for clarification, Gavin and I are elected members, on the Council of Management (I think this used to be called the National Council), not to be confused with being Scottish Branch representatives. That particular role continues to be most ably undertaken by Stuart Cameron.

I think that what Gavin and I will bring to the Council of Management is that we will be advocates of the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society as whole. After all as I keep saying, we are the PSPS, not simply the "We Love The Waverley Club" (even if we do)!

However I hope that this increase in representation from North of the Border cannot help but further inform, and in the best possible way influence the C.O.M., regards all matters paddle "up North".

We welcome and need your support and input now and in the future!


Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Come Along and Meet Us at the Branch Hospitality Event!!

The Scottish Branch will be holding their annual Hospitality Event on board ps Waverley as she sails to Lochranza on the Isle of Arran.

These events are always popular and have recently been revised to include a Welcome audio visual presentation by our Branch Chairman in the ship's Lower Bar after which members can relax and chat over a cup of complimentary tea of coffee before visiting the ship's Engine Room and Bridge areas.

The flyer above (click on image to enlarge) gives more details but suffice to say that this is an ideal introduction to the Branch - so join on or before Sunday and come along!!

Whilst there is no charge for the actual Branch event you must purchase a cruise ticket from either the Waverley Excursions Website, by phoning 0845 130 4647 or from the Ship's Purser on the day.

Proceedings will begin just after the ship has sailed through the Narrows (Kyles of Bute) and will come to a close to allow members to view the approach to Lochranza Pier so if you want to come along make sure you join the ship at or before Rothesay -the timetable can be found here.

Fancy it ? We'll see you on Sunday then!!!

Gavin Stewart

Scottish Branch Exhibitions Manager