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"Doon the Watter" with the CILT Scottish Region - Trip on the PS Waverley: 14 October 2013

The penultimate sailing of the season provided a well-filled outing from Glasgow to Loch Long and back aboard the Paddle Steamer Waverley, last sea-going vessel of its kind in the world.

The paddle steamer Waverley heading down the river Clyded

The paddle steamer Waverley heading down the river Clyde.

© John Fender.

The paddle steamer was invented in 1812 by Henry Bell, whose memorial we passed near Bowling. Through the nineteenth century both coastal and intercontinental versions were developed, displacing the sailing ship and in due course being joined by turbine vessels.

In the twentieth century travel patterns changed as coastal shipping gave way to road services and the car ferry came on the scene. Ordered by the London and North Eastern Railway as a replacement for a predecessor lost at Dunkerque, the Waverley would see only a quarter-century's service before being sold for just £1 into preservation. Now having been reboilered but retaining her original triple expansion 2100 hp steam engine, she provides a vigorous programme of Scottish excursions between May and August before heading south to delight English customers as the "Flying Scotsman of the seas", returning in October for a final weekend on the Clyde.

Departing from Glasgow at 10 am on a bright but chilly Saturday morning, those taking part were able to see the preparations for the new footbridge being built linking Govan with Riverside Museum, which stands on the site of the A&J Inglis shipyard that built the Waverley.

The floating sheerleg crane Hebo-10 was tied up at the quayside ready to lift the bridge span into place.

Proceeding further down the river, at the old Fairfield shipyard BAe Systems are building HMS Cardiff, second of the new Type 26 frigates being built for the Royal Navy was seen at and a few minutes later, passing BAE's Scotstoun yard, HMS Glasgow, the first of these ships could be seen in the fitting out dry-dock.

The very last of eleven ferries that once crossed the Clyde downstream from the city to Erskine will soon be replaced by a new bridge with a moving span being built by the Glasgow City Deal to link Yoker with Renfrew. Clydebank was the next point of interest, where the site of John Brown's shipyard, now occupied by Clydebank college and being regenerated with housing was passed, along with the preserved Titan crane.

After passing under the Erskine Bridge, next was Bowling and the Waverley passed the "Fugro Galaxy" a geophysical survey vessel that had departed from Glasgow ahead of the Waverley. Next, the Dutch tug "Elisa" was seen heading up to Glasgow towing the barge with the main span of the new Govan footbridge, accompanied by the local tug "CMS Wrestler". Dumbarton Castle was also passed as the paddle steamer headed for Greenock.

At Port Glasgow the much-delayed ferries Glen Sannox and Glen Rosa being built for Caledonian MacBrayne could be seen making slow progress at Ferguson Marine.

After calling at Greenock, the Waverley headed over to Kilcreggan, passing the anchored Royal Navy patrol ship "HMS Tyne" and a nuclear submarine made an appearance as we headed for Kilcreggan before heading to Dunoon. After calling at Dunoon, the Waverley then cruised Loch Long ans at Coulport we passed the base where the missiles are kept for the nuclear submarines.

We then passed the Finart oil terminal from where oil is pumped across the middle of Scotland to the refinery at Grangemouth. The crude oil tanker "Australis" was seen tied up having arrived from Ghana. Our destination at the Head of Loch Long was Ardnagal Pier at Arrochar, where we could see the tracks that once enabled operation of a torpedo range.

The Waverley then headed to Loch Goil and Holy Loch. Returning to Dunoon, the Waverley then proceeded back to Glasgow calling at Kilcreggan and Greenock on the way. The weather throughout was gloriously sunny although rather "fresh" making it a very enjoyable trip.

The Waverley will resume sailing in May 2024. Full details of her programme can be obtained at

Report by John Yellowlees and John Fender. Photograph by John Fender.


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