After a three and a half month lay up during which some finishing work has been applied to last winter’s rebuild work, Waverley raised steam and paddled down her native Clyde waters on Tuesday 10th April 2001 for a series of trials and compass adjustments at the Tail of the Bank. She was back in her berth by late afternoon and her crew continued their busy task of preparing the ship for service. As usual everything seemed to be happening at once and there did not appear to be enough time to get everything in place for the first cruise at 1000 on Easter Friday. However Captain Graeme Gellatly and Chief Engineer Ken Henderson had ‘seen it all before’. Captain Ian Jamieson was there to assist Graeme in the task of getting the ship ready and training the new members of the crew in all the procedures they require to learn.
It was good to see Waverley Rebuild Project Manager Gordon Reid back in the fold after his winter serving in the South Atlantic passenger and cargo ship St Helena where he has been getting in time for his motor ticket. After four months sailing to St Helena and Cape Town Gordon had only a brief skiing holiday before returning to the Waverley in March to assist in getting the ship seaworthy. Despite his busy schedule Gordon took time off getting the ship’s windlass in order to give a brief Rebuild talk and tour of the ship to the Royal Institution of Naval Architects on the evening of Wednesday 11th April.
During the show there was intense activity in all Departments – Craig Peacock and Paul Semple were organising stores and training the new catering staff who we will come to know over the next few weeks. Gordon had to compete briefly with the noise from one of the ship’s lifeboat engines as it was ‘launched’ into the Clyde and headed off down river for life saving training.
The engineers had installed new bearings on the port paddleshaft replacing those fitted at Great Yarmouth last year as they had been subject to some overheating and special cooling provision has been made in the new bearings. The engine room temperature is a lot more tolerable than it was in the autumn of 2000 as a new skylight has been installed on the promenade deck in front of the Purser’s Office to promote cool air circulation through the machinery space – as a result of this passengers can now look down onto the engine from the promenade deck and the heat coming up from the engine through the hatch mitigates, to some extent the loss of ‘hot funnels’ as provider of central heating on deck.
I noticed a few other changes including a new clock over the main companionway in the after deck shelter which carries the suitable legend ‘Waverley LNER’ on its face and the welcome return of the ship’s destination (fan) boards atop the Pursers Office. Talking of Pursers, I found Waverley’s stalwart Purser Jim McFadzean perched up a ladder carrying out some last minute painting and varnishing. Another Waverley stalwart, WEL Director Dr Joe McKendrick was busy getting the ships important souvenir emporium into shape with a good stock of confectionary for the kids and steamer books for the enthusiast – look out for the two new postcards of post rebuild Waverley. In the boiler room Hamworthy engineers were busy optimising the operation of the combustion systems in the ship’s two boilers.
Friday 13th but Waverley is Ready
Good Friday was the 13th April. Unlucky for some, but not Waverley. After a short 10 minute delay she left Anderston Quay. She headed off downriver through Bell’s Bridge and past the new Glasgow Science Centre and Imax Cinema which is nearing completion on the site of the old Plantation Quay and Princes Dock from where ships of the Donaldson Line had left for South America and a multitude of other vessels served the Orient and Antipodes when Glasgow was a major port. Waverley had a good loading despite the rather dull chilly weather (typical -it had been balmy and sunny on Wednesday). Still the heat from the new engine room hatch was proving very handy to take the chill out of windswept fingers.
Around the decks Gordon Reid was busy restoring the ship’s brass plaques to their time honoured positions and two impressive new wood and glass fronted display boards in the engine alleyways just forward of the paddle shaft were installed. Waverley had a successful first day sailing on to Kilcreggan, Dunoon and Rothesay and returning on time to operate an evening cruise from Glasgow to the Tail of the Bank.
Easter Saturday and an Unexpected Diversion
Over 300 passengers left Glasgow on Easter Saturday and another 200 joined and left the ship at various calling points along the way.
At the new Braehead shopping centre near Renfrew passengers were able to inspect the latest addition to the Clyde’s passenger vessel fleet, an ex Amsterdam canal waterbus which has been renamed The Pride O’ The Clyde. Following issue of passenger certificates later this month, she is due to commence a waterbus service between Glasgow’s historic Broomielaw quay and the Clyde-built Maritime Museum pontoon at Braehead.
Continuing past Renfrew we noted the former Renfrew/Erskine steam chain ferry in a very sorry state, half sunken in the Pudzeoch Basin with the former Western Ferry Sound of Scarba, now named Soond, awaiting the start of her new role as a workboat. Later, at Port Glasgow we noted her replacement being outfitted at the prosperous Ferguson Shipbuilders yard. Waverley had a good pick up on her first call of the year at Greenock’s historic Customhouse Quay then continued on past the Ocean Terminal. There were no ships at the berth at the time but the terminal is due to receive upwards of 30 passenger liner calls this year so there should be a lot of interest for future Waverley passengers. Over at Helensburgh a stiffening northerly wind made berthing difficult but Captain Gellatly manoeuvred the ship alongside the east knuckle of the pier and warped her round onto the face of the pier to commence loading of a fairly large contingent of passengers.
The sail over to Dunoon and down the Cowal coast to Rothesay was quite sheltered from the wind so passengers enjoyed time on deck. After Rothesay the ship continued on into the Kyles of Bute, her passengers looking forward to the first visit of the year to Suzy’s tearoom and the other attractions of Tighnabruaich. However, that was not to be. As Waverley approached the world famous Narrows of the Kyles the traditional playing of George Frederick Handel’s Arrival of the Queen of Sheeba was started but, as the ship entered the narrowest part of the channel, attention was diverted from the music and the spectacular scenery as it was realised that the four new buoys in the channel had been positioned much closer together than had been previously the case and very considerable skill had to be exercised to make the passage without colliding with them – it being estimated that only about one foot of clearance being available on either side.
As Waverley approached Tighnabruaich, Purser Jim McFadzean announced that the call there would have to be abandoned as Captain Gellatly had decided that the return passage through the Narrows would not be made due very narrow clearance and more awkward approach conditions in the west to east direction. As a result, Waverley would have to return to Rothesay the long way round via Garroch Head and the east side of Bute. Although passengers were disappointed at not being able to go ashore at Tighnabruaich, they fully appreciated the Master’s decision to avoid any risk of damage to the vessel or to its safety.
Waverley arrived back at Rothesay on time to take up her advertised return schedule, which was completed with a ‘flying cant’ at Glasgow Anderston Quay just after 8pm.
This article was first published on Martin Longhurst’s Waverley – The Unofficial Site.