A day on Waverley

After weeks of wind and rain, blighting her early-season schedule, Waverley enjoyed a day of sunshine and satisfaction on Sunday 19 July — a 14-hour sail from Glasgow via Largs to Lochranza and Campbeltown and back. It was the only occasion this summer when she was due to do this trip, and the ship acquitted herself superbly. Call it a classic day on the Firth — the sort of occasion when itinerary, on-board atmosphere, weather and scenery unite to create an experience to remember.

Largs pier 15 minutes before Waverley’s scheduled arrival Largs pier 15 minutes after Waverley’s scheduled arrival 
Garroch Head
Cock of Arran 

In defiance of gloomy morning cloud, about 240 joined the ship for her 9am departure from Glasgow. It wasn’t until she rounded the corner into Largs Bay, two and a half hours later, that blue sky appeared. From then on, the day was set fair. Another 140 boarded at Largs, where Loch Shira’s coming-and-going added to the bustle, and soon we were steaming past Keppel and through the Tan towards Garroch Head, against a strong but mild westerly breeze. Wraiths of cloud lingered over the mountain peaks of Arran, while Holy Isle and Glen Sannox basked in the sun. On deck, new acquaintances were made, old friendships renewed: the mood recalled the CRSC’s ‘nominated excursions’ of yesteryear, with a good number of Club members congregating between the funnels.

Approach to Lochranza  Lochranza pier   Heaving line CalMac friends 

CalMac’s Loch Tarbert led us into Lochranza where — unlike the old days when turbines and paddlers would sweep round the bay before berthing bow-out — the shape and angle of the ‘new’ concrete pier oblige Waverley to berth bow-in. In a flawless manoeuvre, Captain Andy O’Brian brought the paddler to a stop exactly opposite the narrow pier-end. Another 40 or so boarded for the trip down Kilbrannan Sound, which began with Loch Tarbert escorting us out of the bay on her crossing to Claonaig. For many it was now time to partake of the chief steward’s popular Sunday roast in the restaurant. Others contented themselves with sandwiches on deck, though the bar in the Jeanie Deans lounge also did good business. All the while, Waverley’s gleaming engines, their three cranks relentlessly pounding at over 40 revolutions per minute, continued to inspire fascinated gazes.

Setting off together  Loch Tarbert   Kilbrannan Sound Jeanie Deans lounge, looking aft 

In true enthusiast style, some Club members had opted for a ‘double-decker’ — outward on Waverley to Campbeltown and return to Ardrossan on CalMac car ferry Isle of Arran (or vice versa), this being the only day in 2015 that such a combination was possible. But it was CRSC honorary secretary Eric Schofield who plotted the most adventurous itinerary — a ‘triple-decker’ that took him on Caledonian Isles’ 9.45am sailing to Brodick, bus to Lochranza, Waverley to Campbeltown and then back to Ardrossan on Isle of Arran. Of course, this wasn’t just a day for enthusiasts. Glasgow grannies — that intrepid breed — sat absorbing the sea air. Young families enjoyed the novelty of open decks. Small groups of all ages chatted and watched and relaxed.

 Leaving Arran behind  Campbeltown’s new harbour front  Captain Andy O’Brian on the bridge Cruise to Sanda 

If Campbeltown was reached half an hour late, few noticed. Seals cavorted next to tied-up trawlers. Swedish sail training ship Atlantica hovered in the bay. There was barely a cloud in the sky as Waverley berthed alongside the new harbour front, to the delight of an expectant crowd. Around 300 (including 100 from Campbeltown) took the cruise to the island of Sanda. For those choosing to spend two hours ashore in the Kintyre town, quiet Sunday pleasures beckoned — a walk along the front, an ice cream in a deserted main street, the sight of CalMac’s Isle of Arran arriving stern-in.

Atlantica and Isle of Arran   Palmy weather Campbeltown Loch at 5pm  Return to Lochranza 

No sooner had she departed for Ardrossan than Waverley hove into view for her return voyage, and soon we were steaming back along Kilbrannan Sound, the westerly winds now more gentle and the ship’s decks positively oozing contentment. Amid talk of the CalMac ferry scene, at least one group of enthusiasts could be heard reminiscing about the early 1960s, when a 15-year old Waverley would relieve the Gourock-based turbines on late-season sailings to Lochranza and Campbeltown, struggling to maintain their schedule. Today’s 68-year old paddler was nowhere near maintaining her own schedule. After a glorious sail back from Lochranza with a following wind, she arrived at Largs a good 50 minutes late.

 Homeward bound Ian Hall behind the counter  Chief engineer Alex Snedden  Evening sun 

As the sun started its descent to the west and Waverley headed up-river, time as measured by the clock didn’t seem to matter. More than 400 souls could reflect on a day that had more than fulfilled their hopes — reviving feelings of pride in the Clyde and gratitude that we still have our own very dear pleasure steamer.
Andrew Clark
Some Club members and friends

 Cameron Marshall and
Charles McCrossan
 Davie Wright, Roy Paterson,
Kenny Morrison, Ann Laing
Ian Wilson and George Boswell 
Eric Schofield and John Russell 
 Robert Marshall and Margaret Skee 
Colin Smith (centre) with
Hamish and Walter Bowie 
Rob Beale and Ron Walker — plus one of Waverley’s new lifebelts 
Ian Milne and Craig Osborne
 Waverley at Lochranza in 1956   Waverley at Campbeltown in 1962 
In addition to the photographs provided by Andrew, the selection below shows some other aspects of the day from the perspective of out by Waverley from Glasgow and return by Isle of Arran to Ardrossan.  Photographs:  Charles McCrossan

Fairly large bulker, Golden Eclipse,
unloading at Shieldhall
Coaster, Raba, loading logs in the Great Harbour, Greenock 
Palletised cargo ship, Skog,
at Greenock Ocean Terminal
Western Ferries, Sound of Seil 
Loch Riddon taking the
long way around to
pass astern of Waverley –
seen here off
Aubrey Pond, Largs 
Probably the nearest you
can get to a “race for the pier”
these days – Waverley
follows behind Loch Tarbert
as both vessels make for their respective berths (slip)
at Lochranza
Loch Tarbert heads
back to Claonaig 
 Cable layer. Nexans Skagerrak,
seen off the Argyllshire coast
Coaster, Eems Star,
at Campbeltown
Waverley setting out on
her Sanda cruise
Waverley setting out on
her Sanda cruise
Lady McCartney Memorial Garden, Campbeltown
Isle of Arran
arriving at Campbeltown
Isle of Arran
arriving at Campbeltown
returning to Campbeltown
Coaster, Raba, seen earlier loading logs in Greenock now passing south end of Arran