‘One of the most enjoyable sails we’ve ever had’

An estimated 85 CRSC members joined Waverley’s end-of-season cruise to Ardnagal Pier, opposite Arrochar at the head of Loch Long, and the majority are pictured in this celebratory group photo — including Captain Dominic McCall (far left) and WEL general manager Paul Semple (next but one to the right). In the words of Walter Bowie (in red anorak, front row towards the right of picture), who first served as assistant purser on Waverley 57 years ago, ‘The day was just perfect in so many ways. There were so many people mixing and the CRSC anniversary showed the true object of the Club.’ The excursion attracted a good number of members from far afield, including at least three from the south of England and several from Yorkshire and the Lake District. It was also good to see Fiona Stromier and Roddy MacLeod, respectively daughter and grandson of CRSC founder member George Stromier. Allan Smith (on bridge wing) took some spectacular drone footage of Waverley in Loch Long, which can be seen on the CRSC Photos/News Facebook page. CRSC’s 90th birthday celebrations continue with a special anniversary dinner in Glasgow on Friday 14 October, to which all are invited — online bookings can be made through the Club Shop at the top of this page. Click on image to enlarge

On Sunday 28 August Waverley gave an end-of-season cruise to the head of Loch Long, where she began her career 75 years ago. CRSC also has an anniversary to celebrate — our 90th birthday — and so we took this opportunity to invite members and friends on a ‘nominated excursion’. Stuart Craig gives his personal view of the day.

Many of those on board Waverley for this ‘nominated excursion’ in celebration of CRSC’s 90th birthday will have sailed on her many times before. I certainly have, although I’m far too young to remember her regular, timetabled runs to Arrochar. But I’m sure many of Sunday’s excursionists would agree this this was one of the finest, most enjoyable sails we’ve ever had on her. Everything came together in a positive way: the sun was out, it was warm, there was a good crowd aboard, the steamer was handled expertly and the scenery was astonishing.

Perfect conditions: Waverley passes the mouth of Loch Goil as she heads towards Ardnagal at the head of Loch Long. Click on image to enlarge

The fiord that is Loch Long is without doubt a contender for the most beautiful loch on the Clyde. On our passage up and down, hugging closely the western side, the air was so clear that the forested and grassy slopes around us looked as vivid as if drawn in a cartoon. In the sanctuary of deep water, at times we seemed to be almost at touching distance from the rocky shore. Add the rhythmic splash of the paddles, a very convivial onboard atmosphere — and the result was an exquisite occasion.

The paddler had left Glasgow at 1000 and I joined her at Greenock an hour and a half later. She then crossed to Dunoon, turned the corner into Blairmore and sailed to the head of Loch Long to berth at Ardnagal Pier, a former Admiralty base for servicing the nearby torpedo station. At least half of the ship’s 617 complement disembarked here for a brief stroll and a chance to take a photo of the steamer. The family group of picnickers sitting on the little beach at the head of the pier must have wondered what was happening when the steamer tied up and hundreds of people streamed off. We did not disturb their Sunday lunch for long.

Boosted by two ‘new’ passengers that had somehow got to Ardnagal to join us, Waverley  paddled off again and continued up to the skeletal remains of the original Arrochar Pier, where calls ceased after the 1972 season, and gave three mighty blasts on the whistle in salute of her own history with the pier.

Billed as a CRSC ‘nominated excursion’ (for which Waverley Excursions Ltd offered us reduced-price tickets), the cruise attracted around 85 members – the biggest face-to-face gathering for some years. Among them were no fewer than 12 past presidents of the Club.

A steady anchor: Tomasz Kowalczyk will be much missed

The youngest member aboard had to be little Erin, a mere 30 days old. Her great grandfather had been a CalMac captain in the 1970s – Captain Duncan Munro. So a family tradition is being continued. Who the oldest passenger was I couldn’t say – but there were a few contenders.

Back at Greenock a fishing line was cast in the direction of the starboard sponson and nearly hooked the day’s acting purser, Paul Semple. Waverley would certainly be a big fish to catch!

A huge thank you is due to everyone who made this trip such an enjoyable experience, not least Captain Dominic McCall and Chief Officer Gary Stevenson. As I watched the ship sail away from Greenock there were two poignant moments for me. It was the last sailing of the summer by Waverley, and the last time we are likely to see Tomasz Kowalczyk taking the ropes. He has been a steady anchor for the ship these last dozen years, but is now retiring. He will be missed.

Part of our Loch Long transit was filmed by Allan Smith – the paddler having briefly stopped en route to Ardnagal to allow him to set up his drone. I would recommend having a look at this on the CRSC Facebook page, as it perfectly captures the beauty of the ship and the surrounding scenery.

Waverley ended her Clyde summer season on a high. She has now headed south to the Solent and the Thames: we wish her well and look forward to her return for her final weekend of sailings in October.

Please be with us at CRSC’s 90th anniversary dinner in Glasgow on Friday 14 October, when WEL general manager Paul Semple will give the toast. For tickets and further details, click here.

Heading up Loch Long past Ardentinny — a photo taken by CRSC member Mark Nicolson, who celebrated his birthday on board on Sunday, having travelled from his home on Lewis specially to join the CRSC excursion

A view from the shore: Waverley lies at Ardnagal Pier, with Loch Long stretching out towards the open sea in the background

View from the opposite shore: Eric Schofield captured Waverley at Ardnagal from the site of the old Arrochar pier on the east side of the loch

Captain Dominic McCall and Chief Officer Gary Stevenson have served Waverley and her public wonderfully well all season

Viewed from Ardnagal Pier, Waverley heads back towards the open sea, passing the remains of the old steamer pier at Arrochar (right), where she called on her maiden voyage in 1947

Less than 24 hours after completing her trip to Ardnagal, Waverley set off on her long journey to the south coast, passing the Cloch Lighthouse on the way. She made a fuelling stop at Campbeltown and will begin her Solent sailings from Southampton, Portsmouth and Yarmouth on Friday 2 September

See also:

Waverley’s 75th anniversary season makes a confident start

CRSC announces exciting 90th anniversary programme

Published on 30 August 2022