Sunday, 30 August 2009

Cowal Games Berth - and the 'new' Engineer.

The 'Cowal Games' at Dunoon (or the Cowal Highland Gathering to give the event its proper title) is always one of the busiest days in Waverley's year. In recent years it has begun with a direct Glasgow to Dunoon sailing followed by the ship doubling back to Greenock to pick up her normal Saturday excursion, albeit at later times. In 2009 Waverley used the side berth at Dunoon breakwater for the first time, rather than the end berth where she had been damaged following a heavy landing due to awkward weather and currents. The views below show her arriving at and leaving the 'new' berth on Saturday 29th August 2009. (Click on individual pictures for larger, sharper versions) Waverley departing from the inside (or RoRo) berth at Dunoon Breakwater, where she had called for the first time on Friday 28th August 2009. The two navigation buoys in the background between Waverley and the Cloch lighthouse mark the position of the substantially intact wreck of the Swedish bulk carrier Akka which was inbound to Glasgow in April 1956 with a cargo of iron ore for the Lanarkshire steel making furnaces when she hit the nearby Gantock Reef, ripping a gash along her side and causing her to sink quickly on the Dunoon Bank - sadly three of her crew were lost and three others subsequently died in hospital in Greenock. The wreck of the Akka is probably the favourite of divers on the Clyde. Departing Dunoon light (almost) to pick up her normal Saturday itinerary at Greenock Customhouse Quay. A view of the World's Last Seagoing Paddle Steamer passing the classic buildings on Dunoon's Victorian steamboat pier. At one time a viewing balcony spanned the two pier buildings - a good vantage point, sadly missed by Clyde steamer and ferry photographers. All the shipping services to Dunnon are busy on Cowal Games weekend - in this view Caledonian MacBrayne's ferry Saturn (left) had forsaken her normal Arran duties to accompany her quasi sister ship Jupiter and the passenger catamaran Ali Cat on the Gourock-Dunoon service while one of Western Ferries McInroy's Point - Hunter's Quay ferries can be seen on the extreme right. A very distant view of Waverley, 3-4 miles distant rounding Roseneath Point, heading back to Dunoon after picking up passengers at Greenock and Helensburgh, the latter town can be seen in the distance behind the paddler. Possibly with the lever of the main steam valve cotrolling the flow of steam to the high pressure cylinder of her triple expansion engine at a mark or two 'above the E', Waverley steams steadfastly back towards Dunoon for the second call of the day. In the background is the town of Gourock, its suburb of Ashton and Tower Hill. One of Waverley's main attractions is her triple expansion reciprocating engine, which is open to full public view. The engine was constructed by the firm of Rankin & Blackmore at the Eagle Foundry in Baker Street, Greenock and fitted to the ship at the Victoria Harbour in Greenock in the early part of 1947 after the new ship had been towed down the Clyde from the A & J Inglis shipyard at Pointhouse on the River Kelvin. With an indicated horsepower rating of 2,100, Waverley's engine is one of the largest and most powerful engines to be fitted into a British esturial paddle steamer. The low pressure cylinder is 66 inches in diameter and the stroke of the engine is 60 inches. The shipbuilders, A & J Inglis, built many paddle steamers in their 100 year history, supplying not just British coastal fleets but also substantial paddlers to fleets as far afield as South America (the Mihanovich and Entre Rios Railway fleets on the River Plate), Australia (Bay Steaners of Melbourne) and China (Swire's Yangtse River fleet). The engines for most of these paddlers were supplied by Inglis from their engineering workshops in Warroch Steet, which runs perpendicular to Anderston Quay in Glasgow and from the engine shops in the Pointhouse shipyard. After Inglis' amalgmation into the huge Harland & Wolff shipbuilding group, the Warroch Street works was part of H&W's large Finnieston Engine Works. By the end of World War II Inglis had stopped building reciprocating steam engines and, for its last few paddle steamers, subcontracted the manufacture of the engine to Rankin & Blackmore of Greenock, which continued to build that type of engine up to those supplied to Ferguson Brothers of Port Glasgow for the South African Railways & Docks steam tug J R More in the early 1960s. Coincidentally, Daniel Rankin and Edward Blackmore had set up their engineering business about the same time as brothers Anthony & John Inglis has set up their firm in the mid 19th Century. Similarly, the Greenock firm was taken over by a larger company, Lithgow's of Port Glasgow in their case, in the post WW1 rationalisation. Lithgow's was the largest family-owned shipbuilding company in the world about that time. Waverley's engine achieved a speed of 57 rpm, driving the ship at a speed of over 18 knots, when she ran trials over the Skelmorlie Measured Mile in the first few days of June 1947. Nowadays, the engine is normally run at a more economical speed of 40-44 rpm, giving the vessel a through-the-water speed of about 13-14 knots but, since the vessel's major rebuild in 2003, the engine has run at close to its original speed on a couple of occasions.

The following video shows Waverley's engine at high speed - the video is reproduced courtesy of Iain McCorkindale, one of the longest serving members of Waverley's engineering team. After serving for many years in the ship's boilerroom and as donkeyman, this week (Aug 2009) 'Corky' attained the qualifications to enable him to serve as Second Engineer. A great day for Corky and for the Waverley - I am sure than many of the ship's supporters will join in the congratulations.

In the evening, after returning from Tighnabruaich and Rothesay to Dunoon, Helensburgh and Greenock, the paddler heads back to Dunoon to pick up th large complement of passengers that had come down river from Glasgow in the morning. She is about to pass the large cruise liner Crown Princess, berthed at Greenock Ocean Terminal. Normally visiting cruise liners depart from Greenok between 18:00 and 20:00 in the evening but in August many of the departures are delayed to allow passengers to take in a performance of the world famous Military Tattoo at Edinburgh Castle. On this occasion Crown Princess departed from Greenock at 02:00 on Sunday 30th August.

Stuart Cameron

Friday, 28 August 2009

Two Waverley Stalwarts

Above: Great to see them back aboard - Jim Clark (fiddle) and Ian Moffat (Accordian)

For a large part of her preservation years passengers aboard Waverley have been entertained by a wide variety of musicians. Jim Clark, accompanied by the late Len Edwards, and by Ian Moffat have combined the entertainment with raising funds to keep the paddler in service. It is estimated that Jim's efforts have raised in excess of £25,000 and he has been greatly missed by many Waverley supporters over the past couple of years in which has suffered some ill health.

It was a great boast to all Waverley's regular passengers and long serving crew members to see Jim back aboard during one of the paddler's early August sailings and even more so on her final sailing of 2009 to Tarbert in Loch Fyne on 25th August when Jim and Ian performed many old favouites and raised well over £200 in generous donations from the passengers.

On the second call at Tarbert on Tuesday it was announced that there is reason to hope that the paddler will be able to return to a full programme of calls at Tarbert. (The paddler's Tuesday itinerary to Tarbert is one of only 2 of the 2009 Clyde excursions that have operated since the start of the ship's preservation operation in 1975 but in the last couple of years she has only been able to call at certain tidal conditions). The East Pier at Tarbert has been in service for around 130 years having been built to accommodate the huge 300 foot long paddle steamer Columba, which was delivered from J & G Thomson's Clyde shipyard in 1878 to serve on the prestigious 'Royal Route' mailboat service from Glasgow to Tarbert and Ardrishaig, the latter at the eastern extremity of the Crinan Canal. Passengers from Columba could traverse the Canal on the small steamer Linnet, boarding another paddler (notably the Chevalier) for onward passage to Oban (where they could connect with other steamers to the Hebrides) or continue to Fort William and Corpach tho connect with the Caledonian canal paddle steamer for onward transit to Inverness.

As Waverley departed Tarbert for the last time in 2009 Jim and Ian played 'We're no' awa' tae bide awa' while passengers joined in the singing that reflected the sentiment of the occasion. Great to see both gentemen aboard again.

Above: View of the East (or Columba) pier at Tarbert, Loch Fyne from Waverley following her final departure of 2009

The longest Clyde paddle steamer of all, Macbrayne's Columba arriving Tarbert East pier

Stuart Cameron

Thursday, 6 August 2009

BBC Filming Aboard Waverley 24th August

Just a wee note to say the BBC will be filming on board Waverley on Monday August 24th for their programme "Country Tracks".

The film crew will board the steamer at Girvan and will be filming during the cruise round Ailsa Craig.

Arrangements have been made to interview a couple of Branch Committee Members but any PSPS members on board that day may be spoken to as well!!

So if you want to stand a chance of being on the telly take a sail on Waverley Monday August 24th!!!

Waverley in Switzerland

Click images for larger view
This week a number of Waverley crew members and enthusiasts have been enjoying some Swiss steamer sailings. Earlier in the week I met up with Waverley's Iain McCorkindale i.e. Corky and John Sims on Lake Lucerne where we enjoyed some sailings on the four operational paddlers Uri, Schiller, Gallia and Stadt Luzern. (the lake's fifth paddle steamer,Unterwalden, is currently undergoing a life extension rebuild in the SGV Shipyard at Luzern (Lucerne). When she returns to service in 2011, Unterwalder's two original 'Scotch' boilers will be replaced by new steam plant - unusually from Italy). It is good to see that a fine picture of Waverley is now on permanent exhibition opposite the entrance to Schiller's First Class Saloon, as exhibited above. The picture was the result of a genorous donation by a PSPS member during the celebration of the 75th Anniversary of PS Stadt Luzern in the previous year. Many thanks to Captain Kuno Stein of PS Schiller for arranging for the picture to be displayed in such a splendid location and for bringing my attention to it on our first meeting of my 2009 visit.
It was John Sims' first visit to the Swiss steamer fleets and I think he was suitably impressed - except possibly for the 'view' from the summit of Mount Rigi (after we had disembarked from PS Uri and ascended the mountain on the Vitznau - Righbahn, which was the world's first mountain railway). Later in the week I met up with Waverley's relief Purser/Shopkeeper/Chief Steward Paul Semple at Lausanne on Lake Geneva for a sailing on the newly rebuilt 99 year old paddle steamer La Suisse.
Corky was first to work out the intricasies in the changes to the SGV timetabled excursions on 2009 - particularly the daily 'Dampfer Matinee'. In this the paddler covering the 'express' Luxern-Beckenreid sailings (usually Schiller or Gallia) joins with the early Fluelen service paddler (usually Uri) on the return voyage at Vitznau. The two paddlers sail on a parallel course to Weggis but just before they get there, the 1315 Luzern-Fluelen paddler (the other of Schiller or Gallia) sailed through the gap between them - a spectacular few minutes but you need to be ready for it. The view below (from Weggis) shows Uri (left) and Gallia with the '1315' boat Schiller in the distance approaching Vitznau i.e. first time round I wasn't ready for it!

The second part of the show plays out about half an hour later (provided you are on the 1245 or 1315 sailings from Luzern when both steamers converge on the pier at Beckenreid (along with a motor ship going to Luzern. The two paddlers cruise across the lake at full operating speed about half a boats length apart giving good photograph opportunities. Below is Schiller from Gallia
Better prepared today for the meeting of the three paddlers off Weggis on Lake Lucerne at just after 2pm:
Uri on the left (on the return leg of the full lake sailing that originated at Luzern at 0912), Schiller on the right (on the new 1245 roster from Luzern to Beckenreid with added attractions) and picture from Gallia (on the 1315 full lake sailing from Luzern. Paul Semple on the main deck (forward, starboard side) for the nearer the water shot!

Second part of the show plays out about 30 minutes later when the two ships on the 1245 and 1315 sailings from Luzern converge on Beckenreid at full speed - Schiller from Gallia

SGV, the Lake Lucerne Navigation Company, are justly renowned for their famous fleet of five classic paddle steamers and some of the world’s best passenger excursion motor vessels. Therefore it is probably to be expected that the arrival of the lake’s first large passenger catamaran, the MS Cirrus, has provoked lively debate – not just between professional crew members and enthusiasts but also amongst Lucerners in general, who always seem to be very interested and knowledgeable on ‘their’ fleet. The view below provides some contrasts between MS Cirrus, turning into Pier No 1 at Luzern with the restaurant / bar paddler Wilhelm Tell and the Bucherer motor vessel Stanserhorn (or Pegasus?) in the background at the Schweizerhof Quay.

Cirrus was specified by SGV and designed and built by their in-house subsidiary ‘Shiptec Lucerne’ which also undertakes specialist contact work for the Swiss water and power infrastructure companies. Anyway the debates continue over dinner and a few drinks as we gaze out on Luzern’s beautiful nighttime lakeside.

Other Views of the Lake Lucerne paddle steamers and the spectacular mountain scenery of Luzern and its lake can be found at the following links
Lake Lucerne and its steamers
Lake Lucerne and its steamers - part 2
Paddle Steamer La Suisse, which reaches her 100th year in 2010 has just returned from very extensive 2-year long multi-million pound rebuild and restoration, carried out at her owner’s shipyard at Ouchy in Lausanne. The results of the work on the external areas of the ship may be regarded as quite subtle, apart from the much more appropriate and traditional wheelhouse. Although the structure to support an awning over the forward section of the upper deck has been put in place, so far the awning has not. She did have such an awning when new. Internally, facilities on the upper deck have been upgraded including a very well presented new wood panelled forward ‘observation’ section. The view below shows La Suisse, heralding her imminent departure from Montreux, on the Swiss Riviera, at 5.10pm on Wed 5th Aug 2009. Although she seems to have two steam whistle tubes these do not produce the two tone sound that might be expected. Instead it starts with a rather ‘dry’ tone, changing to a powerful sonorous single tone somewhat reminiscent of the whistle of a great American locomotive.

Another view of the magnificently restored La Suisse departing from Montreux to trace her way back to Lausanne. Her owners operate five paddle steamers on the lake – La Suisse. Simplon, Savoie, Rhone and Montreux.

The following view shows the beautifully restored ‘Beau Rivage’ 1st Class Saloon of La Suisse with its traditional decorated wooden panelling, runner carpets and mirrors (to enhance the impression of size. Of particular note is the very characteristic lighting which reflect those originally fitted a century ago when the vessel was new.

Man with a mission, Waverley enthusiast and relief crew member Paul Semple (incognito), captures La Suisse’s departure from Lausanne.

For more views of the Lake Leman (Lake Geneva) steamers and the cities of Geneva, Lausanne and Montreux follow this link:
Lake Geneva
Also visit the Swiss Transport Museum

Stuart Cameron

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Oh Deer - A Caption Competition!

This photo was taken by Joe McKendrick at Lochranza Ferry Slip last Sunday (2nd Aug) - leave your caption via the comments option below!!!

No Cruise for the Crews! - Chairman's Blog No 9

I was fortunate enough to be anchored off Lamlash the other night in David Edward’s fine yacht, Enigma. As is often the case, over the course of consuming a modest amount of Scotland’s finest exports, namely Malt Whisky, Oatcakes and cheese, the conversation turned to all things Waverley. One comment that struck a chord concerned some of the changes we have seen over the course of our thirty year involvement (as of June 16th this year, jings!). In those early days, those who crewed our ships for us, certainly at a senior level had either direct experience of the “driving” of other Clyde Steamers, direct experience of operating and maintaining similar steam machinery, or had the benefit of such knowledge being passed directly to them by those who had. Over the years it is inevitable that the thread of such experience has been stretched to the point of being almost invisible.

And yet…….and yet we have people on our ships who have come into our world of Paddle Steamer Preservation from markedly different back grounds, but still operate and maintain our ships with an incredibly high degree of skill and professionalism.

Make no mistake about it, their’s is not an easy task. Our ships are uniquely demanding “characters”, and the very organisation that sustains their operation is not blessed with multi-national muscle and resources.

I can certainly vouch for the uniquely demanding characters of our vessels. I have known hugely experienced masters with incredible passion for Waverley refer to Waverley as…..well lets just say it was implied that she was advanced in years and more than capable of having puppies! This was usually when she decided to be a bit….stubborn, such going astern to Port despite the rudder being hard-a-starboard. Or her ability to suddenly appear to be made of lighter than air materials when the lightest of unexpected breezes would carry her sideways at a frightening rate of knots, mid cant at Glasgow.
In Waverley’s engine room I have had cause in years past to refer to Waverley either in whole or directed at specific bit, in the most indelicate terms. Threatening, begging, pleading with or generally swearing at the air pump, feed pump, paddle wheel, steering engine to do what they should, is a pastime I can still recall in great detail.

As for the Balmoral I could probably write a book on my experiences of her engine room in the “Sirron era” in 1988, which I remember with huge affection but were undoubtedly “a hard shift”.

Speaking of a hard shift, only yesterday, I had my normal working day from 0830 to 1630, went home, had a bath and bite to eat, walked down to Largs pier and caught a taxi to Fairlie. There I joined Waverley who’s crew had been up probably earlier than me, and when I left them at Greenock at 2130, still had at least two hours work ahead of them to get the ship to Glasgow and put her to bed for the night. Thought: repeat daily till mid-October or thereabouts. Daunting, isn’t it?

You might be forgiven when on Waverley, on hearing the amount of salty sea stories that abound when a few of us get together, for thinking that life on Waverley or Balmoral was just one continuous succession of amusing and exciting happenings. Well, I can tell you nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is that much of what happens, week in week out is just pure, hard slog. Same routine: different day. It’s interesting enough and yes, rewarding but certainly not what you could often really call fun, and incredibly hard work.

Perhaps it’s the fact that, on the surface, our ships seem to be operated with such ease and general lack of….fuss, is the biggest testament of all to the skill and professionalism all of those who strive and labour and in doing so allow us to indulge our hobby.

We owe them all a huge debt of gratitude.

(Photo of Waverley's 2008 Crew taken August '08 at Tighnabruaich by A Black)

Stuart Mears