Historic paddle steamer Waverley to resume Clyde sailings within weeks

The world’s last sea-going paddle steamer is preparing to return to service following the lifting of Covid restrictions and repairs after crashing into Brodick pier on Arran last year.

Operator Waverley Excursions said it was planning to welcome back passengers in the week of June 21, which will be confirmed with the publication of its timetable.

The firm and the 74-year-old vessel’s many fans will be desperate for a successful 2021 season after last summer’s was reduced to just two weeks because of the pandemic and the pier incident in September.

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The setbacks came as a major blow after Waverley was unable to operate in 2019 for only the second season in her history while she underwent a £2.3 million life-saving boiler replacement.

Waverley refloated after bow repairs in dry dock. Picture: Waverley Excursions

However, distancing restrictions means the vessel will be permitted to carry only one third of her normal passengers.

The ship is now being prepared for service after returning to her home beside Glasgow Science Centre following completion of repairs to her bow two weeks ago.

The UK Department for Transport’s marine accident investigation branch said it had completed its investigation into the Brodick incident, in which 24 of the 239 passengers and crew were injured, and its report will be published.

Last month, it was announced a male victim had received a five-figure payout after suffering a broken arm, among three out of court settlements.

Waverley returning to Glasgow after her bow repairs two weeks ago. Picture: Waverley Excursions

An undisclosed number of other cases are still being pursued.

Waverley Excursions general manager Paul Semple told Scotland on Sunday: “We haven’t published the timetable yet but are in the process of confirming dates and times with all the Clyde piers.

"We are currently working towards starting passenger sailings during the week of June 21.

“Given the current Scottish Government guidance on physical distancing, we will be operating at a reduced capacity of 35 per cent.

Waverley reaching her home beside Glasgow Science Centre. Picture: Waverley Excursions

"We will initially publish a sailing programme for the Clyde and take a decision later on whether Waverley can go south this year towards the end of August.

“Waverley returned to Glasgow on May 13 after dry docking and the bow repair.

"We are carrying out further maintenance works ahead of crewing her for the season.

"We are currently recruiting crew.”

The paddle steamer has cruised the Clyde since 1947. Picture: Waverley Excursions

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The vessel was launched in 1946 and made her maiden voyage the following year to Arrochar on Loch Long.

She has since regularly toured the UK, with her Clyde sailings continuing a 200-year-old steamer tradition begun with the Comet in 1812.

Tourism agency VisitScotland praised Waverley as a “powerful and emotive” symbol.

Regional director for Argyll and East and West Dunbartonshire David Adams McGilp said: “It is fitting visitors can enjoy the Waverley once again, as we continue our celebration of Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters and in the 75th anniversary year of the Waverley’s launch.

“The last sea-going paddle steamer is a powerful and emotive part of the story of innovation on the Clyde, with a special place in Scottish maritime history.

"The Waverly brings visitors and revenue into communities she berths at, and for individuals enjoying our coastline from the open water, is a relaxing and calming way to experience travel.

"Tourism is a force for good – creating economic and social value in every corner of Scotland and enhancing the well-being of everyone who experiences it.”

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