After a superb three hour drive from Glasgow along the spectacular shorelines of Lochs Lomond, Long, Fyne, Shira, Gilp, Tarbert and the glorious ‘West Loch’ we arrived in Campbeltown just after 8pm on midsummer’s day. At first it appeared that the Waverley had not yet arrived from her successful visit to Merseyside but a closer inspection revealed that she was back in home waters after all, lying at anchor some way down the south side of Campbeltown Loch, near the old Trench Point shipyard. The rare occurrence of a Clyde steamer anchored overnight in whisky loch prompted a before bed bout of photo taking.
Waverley came in to her normal berth at the pier about 8am on Friday 22nd June. As I boarded with the crew’s mail and a few stores for the shop (one of which is the excellent new PSPS Scottish Branch publication ‘More Clyde Steamers Remembered’ by Branch Treasurer Iain MacLeod drawing on the bequeathed collections of Ian Shannon and Montague Smith and others, it is a magnificent collection of Clyde steamer scenes from the last 50-60 years – many in colour), ‘Chief’ Ken Henderson was bunkering the ship from a road tanker and the rest of the crew were busy as ever.
At 10am Waverley left Campbeltown with over 200 aboard and made good time on her way across the flat calm North Channel. The early morning glorious sunshine of Campbeltown deserted us temporarily as Waverley approached the coast of County Antrim to berth for the first time ever at the little stone quay of Red Bay. 180 of the Campbeltown contingent left us here – half of them for a trip to the Giant’s Causeway and the Bushmill’s Distillery and many others renewing old friendships on the quay – reinforcing the old links between Scotland and Northern Ireland.
At about 1pm, with an almost equal complement of Irish folk aboard, Waverley embarked on her first sailing along the Antrim coast for 10 years. It was great to have aboard Waverley’s (and Balmoral’s) champion in Northern Ireland, the redoubtable Willie Coates from Belfast – a great friend and loyal supporter of these vessels for many years – who treated us to a marvellous commentary in his distinctive voice. Breaking away from the mainland coast Waverley was soon rounding the island of Rathlin with its three distinctive lighthouses – the most unusual being the west light where the lantern compartment sits directly on the cliff top at the foot of the white tower – now, there is a reason for this apparently bizarre arrangement but you have to go on Waverley’s next round Rathlin trip so that Willie Coates can tell you what it is.
The glorious sunshine returned as Waverley completed her circumnavigation of with a wide sweep of Church Bay, principal settlement of the island (where her fleet mate called a few years back) then headed over to the mainland of Ireland where Capt Graeme Gellatly performed an almost complete approach to the berth at Ballycastle – the mighty paddler drawing astern when she was only a hundred yards or so from the berth – watch this space.
Arriving back at Red Bay slightly early, this gave an hour to go ashore and photograph Waverley, by then bathed in early evening sunshine at her new port of call. At 5.45pm Waverley withdrew from Red Bay with 3 long blasts on her whistle and a wave from Willie Coates. Another fast run back to Campbeltown in perfect conditions and the paddler was soon off for Ayr Harbour where she commenced her 2001 Clyde Main season with a sailing to Girvan and round Ailsa Craig on 23rd June.
This article was first published on Martin Longhurst’s Waverley – The Unofficial Site.