Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Waverley's Trafalgar Day on the Clyde

(click on images for larger versions - apologies for the 'greyness' of some of these images - the north bank of the Clyde is not ideal for southfacing shots in October - the sun was not enough to improve the situation but enough to cause frustration)

Usually on Trafalgar day each year Waverley's crew are busy putting the vessel into winter hibernation but in 2009 the paddler's lay-up was delayed as she was chartered by the UK's naval shipbuilder BVT Surface Fleet Solutions Ltd to convey their guests from the Ministry of Defence, sub-contractors and Glasgow City Council for a short sailing down the Clyde to Clydebank prior to the launch of the fifth and penultimate Type 45 destroyer at the BVT shipyard in Govan, Glasgow on Trafalgar Day, 19th October, 2009. This involved the paddler in berthing at three Clyde locations where she has not called for many years, if ever - firstly Stobcross Quay opposite her current base, then the Govan shipyard's fitting out dock (known locally as 'Fairfield's Basin') and finally at Meadowside Quay where the massive Meadowside Granary had been sited until the early years of the 21st Century.

Above, Waverley displays her charterer's banner carrying the logos and crests of the Type 45 Destroyer Design Team (left), HMS Defender (middle), and BVT (right). The BVT name is still a new one on the shipbuilding scene. It was formed in 2008 to amalgamate the surface ship building activities of VT Shipbuilding at Portsmouth and BAE Systems' shipyards at Govan and Scotstoun on the Clyde. Initially the new company was owned by the two pre-existing companies but more recently the VT Group have exercised an option to sell their holding to BAE Systems. Therefore, BVT is now a wholely owned subsidiary of BAE Systems which also owns the submarine building complex at Barrow-in-Furness. Most of these shipyards have long and proud histories. BVT's Govan yard, scene of the day's activities, was started in 1865 under the auspices of John Elder. In its 144 year hitory the Govan yard has been owned by at least 9 different companies but the longest lasting name, from 1886 to 1964, was the Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Co Ltd and, although it is now approaching half a century since that name officially disappeared, the yard is still known by many Clydesider's as 'Fairfields'. BVT's Scotstoun shipyard on the north bank of the Clyde was originally set up by the renowned naval builder Yarrow & Co when they moved from their Poplar shipyard on the Thames to a green field site at Scotstoun in 1906. In aggregate BVT's two Clyde shipyards have constructed over 1000 ships since 1865, approximately 75% coming from the Govan yard. Despite that impressive heritage it is amazing to reflect that their total only represents about 4% of the total of over 23,000 ships built on the Clyde in the last two centuries.

Over 350 guests of BVT Surface Fleet Solutions, including a large number of senior naval staff congregated in the Crowne Plaza Hotel on Stobcross Quay, Glasgow at midday on Trafalgar Day, 2009. To meet the requirements of the charterers, and with the cooperation of Glasgow City Council and Clydeport, the paddler moved to Stobcross Quay at a berth directly opposite her normal base at Plantation Quay. This was the first time that Waverley had berthed at Stobcross Quay in 28 years. She had operated from No 52 Stobcross Quay from 1977 to 1981 after demolition of her Anderston Quay base in the former year. She moved back upriver to No 36 Lancefield Quay in 1981 when her Stobcross base was removed to make way for the SECC and the Forum Hotel (now the Crowne Plaza). The picture above, from the base of the Glasgow Tower on Plantation Quay shows Waverley in place and awaiting her guests at Stobcross Quay with her normal berth, at Plantation in the right, foreground. However, this is not the berth that she occupied in the late 70s - No 52 was further upriver near the location of Bells Bridge. Under the old Clyde Navigation Trust numbering system all berths on the north bank from the Broomielaw to Stobcross had even numbers while south bank berths from Clyde Place Quay to Plantation Quay had odd numbered berths. The berth at which Waverley is seen above is probably No 66 or No 68 - it is so difficult to determine nowadays since so many of the old points of reference, when these quay were lined with ships, have disappeared.The Kingston, Queens and Princes Docks together with Yorkhill Quay and Basin, Meadowside Quay, Merklands Lairage, Shieldhall Quay and the King George V and Rothesay Docks all had their own individual berth numbering systems. At its peak commercial ship movements to and from these berths numbered around 16,000 per year.

The view above shows Waverley at Stobcross Quay with the tall spire of the University of Glasgow on Gilmorehill in the background. The University is the location of the oldest Professorship of Naval Architecture in the world - the Elder Chair of Naval Architecture was founded to commemorate John Elder, the creator of the Govan shipyard where HMS Defender was assembled. It was set up under a bequest from his wife, Isabella Elder, after the pioneering shipbuilder died at the age of 49 while on a business trip to London. Beneath the University can be seen the two red sandstone towers of Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum, home of one of the largest municipally owned art collections in Europe. It includes the world renowned 'Christ of St John on the Cross' by Salvidor Dali. Kelvingrove has recently undergone a £28m refurbishment and expansion. After the launch of HMS Defender, which will be affiliated to the City of Glasgow when commisssioned, a post-launch dinner was hosted at Kelvingrove for all guests at the launch.

Some additional views of Waverley at Stobcross Quay follow:
In the view above, the tall apartment buildings are the results of the regeneration of the site of the former Meadowside Granary, which was Europe's largest brick building - the Granary occupied the site of Partick Thistle F C'c original football ground. The silver clad building is the new Riverside Museum, the replacement for the highly popular Glasgow Transport Museum at Kelvin Hall. The new £80m museum will also commemorate the Clyde's shipbuilding and industrial heritage. It is being built on the east bank of the River Kelvin where it enters the Clyde. From 1862 to 1963 the site of the new museum was that of the Pointhouse Shipyard of A & J Inglis Ltd. In their century at Pointhouse Inglis built over 500 ships, including two Royal yachts and foreign-going liners but one ship has become better known than any of the others - the paddle steamer Waverley of 1947, the last seagoing paddle steamer in the world and one of the vessels entered in the UK National Historic Ship Register's Core Collection of 'ships of pre-eminent national importance'.
Time and tide wait for no man - below, one of BVT's splendidly dressed ushers awaits the 'procession' of guests from the hotel to the steamer while the paddler enjoys the sunshine of her temporary re-affiliation with the north bank!
Below, the guests start to arrive and encounter a splendid selection of food and refreshments amidships - fortunantely, the threatened rain did not appear!

Below, has Stobcross Quay ever seen the likes of it? A procession of admirals, provosts and captains of industry (about 350 in total) head for the paddler

Almost at the end of another long hard season - who said the Purser was 'demob happy'! Chief Purser Jim MacFadzean on the paddle box, Waverley's longest service crew member. Wherever you're off to this winter Jim, enjoy your travels.

Below, in the distance, the doors of the covered building berths at BVT's Scotstoun shipyard were opened so that the guests aboard Waverley could see progress on the two patrol ships for the navy of Trinidad & Tobago. The two ships were originally to be built at BVT's Portsmouth shipyard but assembly was switched to Scotstoun early in 2009. The first vessel will be launched in November 2009.

Below, the paddler passing Renfrew - never seen so many white hats aboard
Below, with the assistance of two(!) Clyde Marine tugs Waverley performed a remarkably fast 180 degree turn off the mouth of the River Cart and headed up river for her second unusual berth of the day - Fairfield's Basin.

and below, Waverley sailing into Fairfield's Basin - for first time ever? I can't think of any reason that she would have gone in there before.

After disembarking her party of VIPs Waverley came out of the basin and headed over to Meadowside Quay, her third unusual berth of the day - in the view below, after a helpful nudge form one of the tugs, Waverley heads purposefully towards Meadowside Quay.

Below, Waverley berths at Meadowside Quay - I've only seen her berth there 3 times before - one to take on late delivered stores, once to allow a large cargo vessel under tow to pass and once to witness the launch of one of the chemical tankers built in the 1990s during Kvaerner's tenure of the Govan yard.

See Stephen Lipton's excellent views of Waverey on this unique visit to Meadowside quay at

Waverley at Meadowside Quay 1
Waverley at Meadowside Quay 2

Heralded by a burst of pyrotechnics and release of baloons, the newly named HMS Defender makes her first (and hopefully only) overland journey to enter her natural element

A final blast on her steam whistle as the paddler leaves Meadowside Quay (see picture of her from one of the rise rise flats here)

And finally, her last wee jaunt of 2009 from Meadowside to Plantation Quay where she canted and berthed port side to the quay - her bows pointing downriver for the winter. May she winter well and we hope to see her graceful lines enhance the beautiful waters of the Firth of Clyde in 2010.

A Gerry Ward video of the paddler at the launch of Defender

2009 Finale - heading home for winter hibernation

Stuart Cameron

Waverley's Clyde Finale

(Click on images for larger format)
After a very calm and quick return home from London Waverley prepared for her final four days of public sailings for 2009 (16th to 19th Oct) plus a very special private charter to naval shipbuilder BVT Surface Fleet Solutions on Trafalgar Day for the launch of the fifth and penultimate Type 45 destroyer, HMS Defender.
The weather over the final weekend varied from bright sunshine and crystal clear visibility to dreich misty rain.

Waverley, back at her base at Plantation Quay, Glasgow after her 7 week absense in the South Coast and the Thames, preparing for her final sailings of 2009.

A good view of HMS Illustrious passing off Dunoon on Saturday 17th Oct. She had taken part in international naval exercises off the Scottish coast in past weeks and had come to the Clyde Naval Base at Faslane on the Gareloch a few days earlier for re-storing.

HMS Illustrious is the only one of the three current UK 'aircraft carriers' currently in service - HMS Ark Royal is currently undergoing refit and HMS Invincible has been decommissioned and is unlikely to sail again under the white ensign. The three ships will be replaced by the new carriers HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales in 2014-16. Fabrication of main hull sections of HMS Queen Elizabeth has already begun at BVT's Govan shipyard - in the last few days the yard has taken delivery of two of Queen Elizabeth's four, 50 tonne stabiliser units from the makers, Rolls Royce Marine at Dunfermline in Fife. RR Marine includes the former Edinburgh-based Brown Brothers which developed the famous Denny-Brown stabisation systems in partnership with the renowned shipbuilder William Denny & Brothers of Dumbarton. Brown Brothers also supply marine steering gear and the steam catapult for past and curret aircraft carriers (including the US Nimitz class).
On Monday 19th October the Cunard Line flagship Queen Mary 2 visited the Clyde for the first time - celebrating the 5th anniversary of her entry into service. Although Cunard is now US-owned, they seem keen to maintain their historic link with the Clyde. The Company's first transatlantic liners were designed to the specification of pioneering Clyde shipbuilder Robert Napier. One of the prime investors in the new Line (in 1840) was Glasgow shipowner George Burns and his son, Lord Inverclyde, was Cunard Chairman for many years. The Clyde shipyards built 122 ocean liners for the Cunard fleet.

Although Queen Mary 2's superstructure is similar to many modern cruise ships, her hull sets her apart from them and she is likely to be the last ocean passenger liner to be built. She is designed to cope with the Atlantic Ocean in tempest with her finer entry (slim bow shape) and sturdy hull. Unlike QM2, her new Cunard fleetmates, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth, are built in the style typical of modern cruise ships and are not ocean passenger liners. QM2's stern is certainly unusual - less elegant than her predecessors, Queen Mary (1936), Queen Elizabeth (1940) and Queen Elizabeth 2 (1969), but it is also intended to give her increased stability.

Unlike many of her Cunard ancestors QM2 is not a Clyde-built vessel although the shipyard at St Nazaire in France, in which she was built, was designed and brought into service by John Scott of the Greenock firm Scotts Shipbuilding & Engineering Company, which was the oldest shipbuilding company in the world until the nationalisation of British shipbuilding in 1977.
After a very impressive fireworks display to celebrate her first visit to the Clyde, Waverley escorted her until the liner reached Cloch Point; this sailing brought Waverley's 2009 public sailings to and end.
At 150,000 tonnes QM2 is the largest passenger ship ever seen on the Clyde - perhaps she will return some day.

After her last public sailing Waverley had a day off to prepare for a special private charter to te shipbuilders BVT - this entailed her first call in 27 years at Stobcross Quay which had been her base from 1977 to 1981.

Stuart Cameron

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Our Paddler Returns.......

Waverley returned from her South Coast and Thames season yesterday (Wednesday) in readiness for her final weekend of sailings for 2009.
Alasdair MacKenzie captured her as she approached Greenock.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

And Once You've said Goodbye QM2..........

Why not come ashore at Greenock and head to the Royal West Amateur Boat Club, listen to some good music and raise money for Waverley all at the same time??

Book tickets at the Boat Club by calling 01475 723260 - evenings and Sat/Sun afternoons

See below.....

Monday, 5 October 2009

Welcome the only seagoing Transtlantic Liner aboard the only seagoing Paddle Steamer!

Cunard's flagship Queen Mary 2 will visit the Clyde for the first time on Monday 19th October. The 150,000grt vessel is the first true Transatlantic Ocean Liner built since QE2 and is now the only one after the latter's retirement from the Cunard fleet last November.

To mark her 5th year in service Queen Mary 2 is taking a round UK cruise and will make a few first calls at UK ports including Greenock.

Queen Mary 2 will arrive at Greenock Ocean Terminal at 8am and will leave again at 6.30pm amidst a firework display - this time is later than the originally scheduled 6.15pm departure to allow for the fireworks.

Waverley will leave Glasgow at 11am on a cruise taking her past the Queen Mary 2 affording her passengers good views of the giant vessel (and QM2's passengers who dont go ashore for the day good views of Waverley!) returning to Glasgow at 3pm. There is an evening cruise leaving Glasgow at 4pm and Greenock at 5.40pm to escort QM2 down river.
Check the Waverley Excursions Website for further information and to book.

Here are some pictures taken by myself on a Caribbean cruise on QM2 in March 2008.

Taken from one of the vessel's tenders whilst anchored off Tortola.

Queen Mary 2 alongside Celebrity Constellation at St KittsAnchored off St Lucia.

So get your tickets and join in!

Gavin Stewart