Minutes of the 28th Annual General Meeting of the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society held on 24th October 2015 at The Royal Dart Yacht Club, Kingswear.
Present: Iain Dewar (Chairman) and 62 members in person and 4 by proxy.
Tony Swainston, Vice Commodore of the Royal Dart Yacht Club, welcomed members to Kingswear and wished those present a successful meeting.
2. Apologies for Absence
Apologies were received from John Anderson, Andrew Pooley, David Kells, Bill Purves, Sandra Purves, Anthony Heritage, Geoffrey Marchant, Victor Gray, Gordon Wilson, Nigel Coombes and Richard Mills.
3. Minutes of the 27th Annual General Meeting
The Minutes were approved and signed by the Chairman as a true record.
4. Matters Arising
There were no matters arising not covered by the agenda.
5. The Reports of the Council of Management and Reporting Accountants
Martin Longhurst introduced the report and explained two pie charts which showed the breakdown of the Society’s Income and Expenditure.
The Reports of the Council of Management and Reporting Accountants were received nem.con.
6. P.S. Kingswear Castle (KC) Report
John Megoran presented this report in his role as Chairman of the PS Kingswear Castle Trust (PSKCT).
He reported 2015 had been a good season for KC over fewer days. Mechanically there had only been two minor problems with pumps. Recruiting competent steam engineers is a problem but the Dart Company had a magnificent refit facilities including a covered slipway.
The senior directors of Dart Pleasure Craft, Andrew Pooley and John Jones, were unable to attend the meeting and had sent their apologies. Therefore John Megoran read the following report on behalf of Andrew Pooley:
“The KC has had another good season. In 2015 we curtailed her sailing schedule in April to just the Easter holidays and reduced her Totnes schedule. During the Port of Dartmouth Royal Regatta weekend she was offered at ½ price for shorter cruise and she was the only harbour cruise vessel available; the result was almost capacity sailings which was a spectacle in itself.
The Dartmouth Steam Railway and River Boat Company (DSRRB) has enjoyed a particularly good year despite very poor weather in July and August. In order that the company may meet the demands elsewhere in the business (e.g. Torbay), the KC will operate a combination of shorter cruises, her normal 1¼hr cruise and Totnes cruises in 2016. This will hopefully free up a vessel to service Torbay and provide variety.
During the 2015 season another two engineers have been passed out as competent and a third is planned for 2016. However, Nigel Thomas remains the regular engineer/stoker.
DSRRB, and Malcolm Pope (Commodore) in particular, are very grateful for John Megoran’s contribution, who skippered her throughout August and many weekends in the season and he also continues to provide input into the vessel’s maintenance and operation. We are looking forward to receiving the Compton Castle engines and displaying them in an appropriate manner at Kingswear Station to maximise the educational and promotional opportunities.
Planned work over and above the normal refit are the installation of a new super quiet generator and restoring the forward derrick to assist with man overboard recovery situations.
Next year, she will operate a reduced service; she will be available for the Easter holidays, restart cruising at the end of May and then run until the end of September (plus some selected sailings dates in October).”
Attention turned to PSKCT matters. Stafford Ellerman had retired as Treasurer and a Trustee of the Trust after 30 years’ voluntary service and was presented with a certificate to mark this achievement. In reply, Stafford paid tribute to the dedication of his fellow trustees, in particular John Megoran.
Jeremy Gold stated that he was now Trust Treasurer and John Megoran had taken over as Chairman. John also supervised the charter and liaised with the Dart Company. John Megoran paid tribute to the Society for its support, in particular from the Wessex and Dart Branch.
In view of their supportive and helpful approach, Council had decided to make the Dart Company an Honorary Member of the Society. A certificate to mark this would be presented to Andrew Pooley in due course.
7. P.S. Waverley Report
In David Kells’s absence, John Megoran reported in his capacity as a director of the Waverley companies. He read and elaborated on David Kells’s report which was as follows:
“It goes without saying that running a business in this day and age is not without its difficulties and challenges. This is the same whether it is a FTSE 100, household name or a small family business.
Add to this, a sea-going paddle steamer reaching its 70th anniversary and then maybe the achievement of overcoming the many hurdles should not be underestimated.
We cannot change the past and the changing environment means we have to keep adapting. This may involve changes that do not suit everyone individually but will hopefully be in the best interests of keeping Waverley sailing.
2014-2015 has been a difficult year.
- The delayed return of Waverley to Scotland due to adverse weather. This resulted in the cancellation of the final weekend. We lost revenue but still carried costs.
- The boiler damage. This was due to issues with the fuel and required a lengthy repair plus a number of stronger insurance inspections.
- Dry Dock. The ship had to be towed to and from the dry dock as there were a number of outstanding areas to be completed in the winter maintenance programme. This should not be repeated as it added unbudgeted costs.
- This has been a problem throughout the year and the delayed repair plus other factors meant the ship did not leave for Liverpool on time. This has continued to be a problem and there were regular repairs necessary. The joystick steering was recommissioned, so we had back-up and a part was re-machined but this proved not to be the answer. A new mechanism is currently being assessed which will protect passengers, the ship and the revenue. A cost of £100k is likely and we will seek assistance in funding.
- The year started as last year’s ended with the Western Isles being cancelled due to the conditions. Visits to Llandudno also suffered and the visits to the Bristol Channel and the South Coast were also hit. The Thames had some alterations. It is always the aim to offer something and by and large this was achieved, although in today’s world, we did not satisfy everyone but the positives massively outweighed the negatives. Last minute coach transfers involve a lot of work as well as premium costs because of the timing. The disruption to passengers should not be underestimated.
- This will be an on-going problem as companies and councils try to save money. Ayr has not been dredged for years, Margate has requested more risk assessments, Bournemouth is becoming marginal as the sand builds up. Other calling points are giving preference to more financially beneficial clients.
Despite these in 2015, we will have sailed on 103 days but there have been 17 days of cancellations due to weather and mechanical issues. The last two years’ figures were:
We are not in a position to give a definitive financial performance at this stage, but we should have funds to see us through the winter. As soon as figures are available in November, we will make the PSPS officers aware of them.
As everyone is aware, we did not receive gift aid on our fare income in 2015 and although we believe there is very little hope, we are continuing the fight.
The money from the councils fell to £65,000 and in 2016, it will fall to £20,000 and then in 2017 there are no committed funds.
PSPS central support was £40,000 against specific projects, although there are still the final proceeds of the Ruby Appeal to be received, around £20,000 including gift aid. The Scottish Branch funded postcards and the Waverley Times which, if everything sells, will have added around £10,000 to the shop revenue, assuming it was additional spend.
The WSN Ruby Appeal raised £ 83,500 including Gift Aid. This could increase. The appeals were for specific items and allowed key items on the ship to be repainted, repaired or replaced.
We also received approximately £100,000 from bequests.
We should also thank the oil sheiks as fuel prices have compensated for the loss of gift aid.
As always is the case, there are a number of projects to be completed over the winter:
- Turning Gear to be fitted.
- New main mast to be fitted.
- Steering gear to be reviewed.
- 12 upper deck seats to be removed and re-varnished.
- New announcement system to be commissioned.
- More decking to be replaced.
These are in addition to the normal statutory and necessary works. A more detailed schedule is being put in place so there is increased clarity and sensible deadlines for completion.
We will, once again, hopefully receive external support from BAE Systems, City Building as well as local colleges. This support requires a coordinated professional approach if we are to take full advantage of it.
As you will all know by now, Captain Andy O’Brian is leaving us after over 9 years of loyal and committed service. We wish him all the best in his new role as a Clyde Pilot and we are sure that his abilities to sail Waverley safely and well will be missed by everyone. His many contacts, which saved WEL many thousands of pounds every year, will hopefully not be lost.
2016 will be another challenging year but one everyone is up for. Finances are always difficult but the repetition of previous threats of Waverley not sailing are not likely and we will look forward positively.
Thank you again for the PSPS for their continued support as well as that of the many others who travel on Waverley and give us money in kind.”
8. P.S. Maid of the Loch Report
John Beveridge, a member of the PSPS Council and a director of the Loch Lomond Steamship Company (owners of this paddler), reported that they had been awarded a First Stage Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £230,400 to enable complete plans and specifications for the project to be prepared. Successful completion of this stage would pave the way for a full grant of £3.8m but this would need £1.7m of matched funding.
Invitation to Tender documents had been issued to ten companies in the UK for marine consultancy services and it is hoped to award a contract by the end of November.
John reviewed the year with a series of slides, highlighting the various developments, including the creation of a Learning Suite, partially funded by the Scottish Branch; the Glengoyne Whisky sponsorship; the 24 coaches having Winnock Hotel Afternoon Tea Dances during the summer; Boat Party Nights; and the hosting of the VIP’s at the Great Scottish Swim.
Volunteers carried out their usual painting, varnishing, and repairing to keep the Maid looking her best. One PR feature was the discovery of one of the ship’s deck seats recovered from the loch and restored to its former glory.
He ended by thanking the Society for its support, and to continue to help so that Maid of the Loch can be operational again by 2018.
9. Other British Paddlers
Myra Allen drew attention to the Society’s policy towards other paddlers set out in Paddle Wheels 218. She reported on P.S. Monarch (in commercial service at Wareham), P.S. Tattershall Castle (in static use as a pub/restaurant on the Thames Embankment), P.S. Wingfield Castle (in static use as a museum café at Hartlepool), P.S. Medway Queen (partially restored at Gillingham), P.S. Ryde (in a parlous state at Island Harbour), P.T. John H Amos (awaiting restoration on a pontoon at Rochester) and P.S. Bluebell (Brian Water’s own new-built miniature diesel-hydraulic vessel on the River Medway).
10. M.V. Balmoral
Iain Dewar pointed out that the Balmoral is no longer a part of the PSPS Group but faced similar challenges and enjoyed a lot of supporters in common. He was very keen to ensure that PSPS and the supporters of Balmoral always maintained close and cordial relationships. It was a remarkable achievement to have restored Balmoral to service from a standing start and, although many were involved, he paid particular tribute to the tenacity and drive of David Bassett without whose efforts the project would never have taken off.
Richard Clammer then read a report by Richard Mills, a Director of M.V. Balmoral Fund Limited and White Funnel Limited, as follows:
“Balmoral’s purchase by MV Balmoral Fund Ltd from Waverley Steam Navigation was completed on 2 April 2015. A wholly owned subsidiary of the Fund, White Funnel Limited, was established in March following the award of a Coastal Communities Fund grant. Commissioning costs substantially exceeded SeaSpan estimates, partly through additional MCA requirements, and a supplementary funding bid and further appeal have been launched to enable recommissioning the ship for 2016.
In May, Balmoral was chartered to White Funnel Ltd until 2019 and she returned to service on the Bristol Channel on 18 June. Her season was been spent on the Bristol Channel, the North West and North Wales, and ended on Sunday 20 September. She is now again laid up outside M Shed in Bristol.
Sailings were badly affected by the weather. Some 25% of sailing days were lost and others disrupted, requiring unplanned coach transfers. After a slow start, bookings from the beginning of August were strong and particularly encouraging in the fine weather in the North West at the beginning of September.
Notably well supported have been sailings from Swansea; to Ilfracombe at weekends; the two up-river classics covering the Avon, Severn and Wye which attracted 550 and 470 respectively, and her final trip to Ilfracombe on 19 September which carried 492 down Channel. In the North West, the 3 round-Anglesey sailings carried 300 in July and 380 and 470 on consecutive days in September. In Liverpool we were indebted to the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company for their unstinting support, while the goodwill shown by port authorities has been most encouraging and augurs well for the future. Customer feedback has been strongly positive.
SeaSpan Shipping has been retained as technical managers. Following a successful MCA audit in Avonmouth in September a full Document of Compliance has been issued to replace the interim one issued in June.
The Bristol office will continue to be staffed during the winter in accordance with the terms of the Coastal Communities Fund grant and is already developing plans for 2016, with a slightly extended sailing season to include the Thames and South Coast, as well as promoting and organising off-season cultural, educational and social events alongside in Bristol.
Volunteer-led pier hosting, publicity and on-board sales have been most effective in both North Wales and the Bristol Channel, with support coming from around the UK. More would be most welcome, especially as our trading area is set to broaden next year.
It’s been a challenging, at times intensely frustrating but also uplifting experience and we are so conscious of just how many have pulled together to bring it about – volunteers, paid staff, officers, crew, port authorities and agencies. The goodwill has been palpable. Trading wasn’t brilliant, but not disastrous either, for a first season. It’s the commissioning debt that poses the problem and if we can overcome that, and with kinder weather, we can look forward with hope and some confidence to 2016.”
David Bassett thanked the Society for their support of the project.
David Green reported, in his capacity as the Society’s Archive Trustee, that a voluntary sub-committee of Richard Clammer, Richard Engert and himself had taken over from the Society’s previous contractor in August 2014. There was now a 5 year budget and work plan funded from the General Fund and the Streatfield Bequest. The collection had been housed in a cellar at the Chatham Historic Dockyard but the premises formerly used by PSKCT had been taken over by the Society from May 2015. This offered better conditions for document storage and work on the collection.
He illustrated his report with pictures of the premises and thanked the Scottish Branch for their contribution to the cost of new equipment. At present a team of 11 volunteers were undertaking a box sort to verify the location of every item. So far about 80% of the 34,000 items had been processed.
12. Elections to Council of Management
The meeting noted that John Anderson and David Haddleton had been re-elected unopposed.
13. Appointment of Reporting Accountants
The meeting resolved to appoint Adey, Fitzgerald and Walker as Reporting Accountants to the Society for the ensuing year and to authorise the Council of Management to fix their remuneration.
14. Any Other Business
No formal business had been notified by the due date.
Iain Dewar recalled the recent deaths of our members Jennifer Leech, Don Anderson, Laurie Beal and June Bushell, all of whom had made a significant contribution to the Society’s progress.
Geoffrey Ryder reminded members about the Wessex Christmas Dinner in Bournemouth on 5 December 2015.
Iain Dewar reminded members about the Waverley Ruby Anniversary Dinner in London on 27 February 2016.
Iain Dewar expressed his thanks to the Officers and all members of Council for their support throughout the year. On behalf of the Society he also expressed appreciation to the Wessex Branch and in particular Chris Phillips and local member, Tom Shell, for making such splendid AGM arrangements.
The formal meeting closed at 15.46 and was followed by the Grand Draw 2015, the winning tickets being drawn by the Founder, Professor Alan Robinson, and an Open Forum at which previous speakers made themselves available to answer questions on their areas of expertise. This included some discussion of the customer experience on our ships.