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.
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.
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.
Published on 30 August 2022