The PSPS Waverley charter on Thursday 5th July succeeded in attracting a large number of passengers with over 700 aboard for the annual fundraising cruise arranged by the Scottish Branch.
Waverley's cruise to Arran earlier in the day had terminated at Largs at 5:20pm and she then made her way at an impressive 15 knots to Blairmore completing the light run (with a couple of passengers - thanks to Waverley Excursions) in just under 1 hour. A crowd of over 200 were awaiting her arrival complete with a piper at the small traditional Clyde pier. The unusual cruise had certainly caught the attention of the locals and the Blairmore Village Trust had decided to join in and arrange an outing.
All passengers were quickly boarded and Waverley set off for Greenock where a further crowd of over 300 were awaiting her arrival. With the sunlight catching her L.N.E.R. colours coupled with the high tide Waverley looked magnificent as she arrived at Custom House Quay. Fortunately on this occasion two gangways were able to be arranged and everyone was aboard by the scheduled departure time of 7:15pm.
On departure from Greenock Waverley first headed slightly up river to turn at the Garvel bend before making her way across to the north bank to berth at Helensburgh pier. Once again the evening light provided a great photo opportunity.
Once all passengers were aboard came the only slight disappointment that unfortunately the Gare Loch was closed to navigation since a Nuclear Submarine was moving out from Faslane. Her Majesty's Navel Base (HMNB Clyde) is one of three in the U.K. with the other two being at Portsmouth and Devonport. The base at Faslane is home to Britain's nuclear weapons with the nuclear submarines which have Trident missiles. With this in mind it is understandable that access to the Gare Loch is by permission of the Queen's Harbour Master and on this occasion permission could not be given to allow Waverley to make a unique appearance in the Gare Loch.
Captain John Simm made an announcement to inform all passengers that there was no option but to alter the cruise and therefore Waverley made way for Long Long. She sailed towards the mouth of Loch Goil before returning to Blairmore for 9:30pm.
As the Blairmore passengers disembarked there was a collection on the pier for funds for the Blairmore Gardens which raised £132. Pat Lynn from the Blairmore Village Trust reports that the Beautiful Scotland judges will visit the village during the summer. Pat also reported back that Waverley's cruise was a great way to bring the community together.During the cruise PSPS members were seen going round the decks selling a specially produced Souvenir Raffle Brochure. The brochure was focused on the Gare Loch and in particular Paddle Steamer Lucy Ashton which served the loch. Each brochure had a unique raffle number on the inside cover and the raffle was drawn before Waverley returned to Blairmore with a few of the prizes being donated to the PSPS. Waverley Excursions are to be thanked for providing a family ticket for Waverley as one of the prizes. PSPS member Geoff Worrell from Rothesay provided a framed picture of Waverley as one of the prizes and that was spotted getting carried down the gangway at Blairmore with the lucky winner. By the time Waverley reached Helensburgh the sun was setting and the air temperature was dropping. All too soon the steamer was back at Greenock with passengers disembarking before she headed up river to Glasgow for the night. As Captain Simm said to everyone as they left the ship - "I would like to thank everyone for sailing on Waverley this evening and we hope to see you back aboard on another cruise". The Scottish Branch committee would also like to thank everyone who supported the sailing and helped the Society to raise funds.
The success of recent Waverley charters has allowed the Scottish Branch to support several projects over recent winters. During the 2017-2018 winter the Branch provided £6,000 to fund improvement works on the galley fire system. During the previous two winters the Scottish Branch has provided funds to replace most of the ship's sixteen paddle floats.
A video has been uploaded to the PSPS YouTube channel showing Waverley departing Greenock on her way to Glasgow and then passing Erskine - this is worth watching and listening to (turn up the volume) as the sound of her paddles carries well on the upper river at Erskine on a calm evening.