Maid of the Loch’s future in doubt – Maid of the Loch has been withdrawn and offered for sale from January 14th. CalMac announced that they would not be operating in the coming summer because the local authorities could no longer afford to subsidise the services, a leading Scottish tourist attraction. Although there was a 20% increase in passengers last year MOTL incurred a deficit of more than £212,000. Strathclyde’s contribution was £108,000 and in the same period £140,000 was spent on improvements to the piers at Rowardennan and Inversnaid and the re-opening of Luss Pier for the first time since the MOTL’s introduction in 1953. It was reported that negotiations have commenced for an operation by smaller craft to give a service to the piers. Not included in the sale is Balloch Pier and terminal, or the nearby slipway. Prospects for any form of service this year now looks gloomy and it remains to be seen whether British Rail will retain the link to Balloch Pier.
Surviving the winter – Passengers who complain about the remoteness of Stobcross Quay, Waverley’s Glasgow berth, should visit the place in the depths of winter! There are days on end when the HQ is cut off from the civilised world by dense freezing fog. This winter, in the coldest temperatures recorded for 113 years the Clyde was frozen over completely. WSN has spent money to improve facilities for the small permanent staff including showers and a mess room. The work necessary for renewal of Waverley’s 5 year certificate is well under way. Virtually the whole of the port side of the Jeanie Deans lounge has been replaced. With the old plating cut away and the lounge open to the elements it was possible to imagine what it was like to sail on the first Waverley and her contemporaries, many of which went to sea in that condition.Kingswear Castle report – Following the arrival at the ship of the components for the new wheels one of the first problems to be resolved was how to lift the two shaft/hub assemblies into position. Each assembly weighing about 6 cwt had to be transported across the mud (or water, depending on the state of the tide). The shaft then had to be positioned on its bearing bracket with the inboard end guided through the hull aperture. The Royal Engineers from Chattenden Barracks assisted by floating the shafts round at high tide and lifting with special tackle erected on each paddle box. With the paddle wheels back, KC takes the appearance of a real paddle steamer once again. At the forward end the well deck has now been completely replaced. The enthusiasm of working parties has been such that full Saturday and Sunday working has continued right into December. Special lighting has been erected so that time is not lost after dark. The cash situation is precarious and purchases of timber have had to be halted. The total deck timber replacement requirement is in the region if 7,000ft, so now is your opportunity to buy some timber for KC!
Finland’s lakes – Alastair Deayton writes, “I found the strangest paddle steamer I have ever seen. The wheels were completely unprotected and a tall black funnel rose up amidships with a mast and crosstrees immediately forward. Her name Lahtis was painted on. Research showed that Lahtis was built 110 years ago in the Waha-Ainio boatyard north of Lahti – a side wheel passenger steamer. In 1900 she was refitted, but next year she went down near Sysma. After this she was raised and repaired in Jyvaskyla. Later her name was changed to Lahti, the paddle wheels removed and she was fitted with screws. In the 1918 civil war she sank in Heinola, was raised and sold. Toivo Manni bought the boat and made a freight steamer of her. She went down again, but naturally was raised once more. She was sold to the Iloniemi sawmill where she became a barge. She came to Jyvaskyla where Risto Hoyla bought her and began to refit her as the passenger steamer Lahtis. She will again be a sidewheeler. In the summer of 1975 the steam engines were re-installed. It will take time for the boat to be ready but after some more years we will be able to see the passenger steamer Lahtis on Lake Paijanne, just like 110 years ago.”