Willing Volunteers – Chairman’s Blog No. 7

Supporting the preservation and operation of paddle steamers Waverley and Kingswear Castle

Willing Volunteers – Chairman’s Blog No. 7

(Words Stuart Mears, Pics John MacFarlane & Chris Hendry)

Gavin, my Jiminy Cricket for writing articles for the Blog has been pestering… err… motivating me to write a wee article on winter work parties on Waverley, specifically the first party of the season which was last Saturday.

My first thought was “How would I know what went on? I spent my time inside one of the boilers!” however, here goes.

It’s a strange fact of life that whilst most people see less of their fellow Waverley nutters during the winter season, those of us who attend the winter work parties sometimes see less of each other during the summer. So, as I got out of my car at the science centre in Glasgow on a fairly dreich (look it up if you don’t know!) Saturday morning at it was good to bump into Frank and Jim who had also just arrived and I hadn’t seen since the previous winter. On making our way up the gangway onto an apparently deserted ship, after a couple of abortive attempts we found the unlocked door and made our way below decks where we could here chatter from the dining saloon. The ship was decidedly chilly as both boilers are currently shut down and opened up for survey. Sadly the noise we could hear in the distance was not that of an industrial heater but rather, an industrial vacuum being used by the team from Merkland Tank who were already beavering away in the boiler room.

A quick coffee in the dining saloon ensued whilst we all caught up and wished each other happy new year. Gordon Reid, our Chief Engineer and work party project manager then began to dole out the first jobs.

At the mention of removing some blowdown pipework from within the starboard boiler I must unconsciously have registered some degree of interest as I soon found myself cursing those Christmas Mince Pies as I lowered myself through the access point into the boiler.

Shelagh Holt soon followed and as I hammered and clanged away at one end of the Boiler, Shelagh began preparing the internal welds on the boiler shell for forthcoming Non Destructive Testing. For those of you with more sense than to have clambered into a boiler, it’s quite a strange experience. Despite being completely surrounded by the thick boiler shell plating, voices still occasionally waft their way in from outside in decidedly ghost like manner, and any hammer work results in echoing reverberations round the boiler like some strange Tibetan gong or the start of Rank Movie gone horribly wrong! And as Shelagh will testify, masks or not, the dust still gets up your nose!

Elsewhere on the ship, jobs of all shapes and sizes were getting underway. There really is always something for everyone. Feed pump valves were being lapped, furnace refractory lining was being cleaned up, doors being attended to by our volunteer carpenter, dining saloon windows being refurbished, etc etc etc etc whilst Gordon kept a watchful eye on us all.

At lunchtime we all convened in the crew mess with our various versions of a packed lunch. As is rapidly becoming a tradition, Jim brought one of his home made chocolate creations. Estimates are that it packs about 1,000 calories per square inch, but very very tasty at that. Strangely, it seemed even more difficult to get back into the boiler after sampling the above noted creation!

After a quick work party photograph we were back at it. Well, most of us because I had to leave in the afternoon, but I can assure you as I made my way down the gangway I could still hear the noise of volunteer industriousness, saving the company pounds by the minute.

Make no mistake about it, this year more than ever, the cost savings realised by volunteer effort are more vital than ever. At the end of the day, it’s enjoyable, rewarding, good fun in good company. So, come along and help why don’t you? You will also have the benefit of seeing some part of the ship during the summer that you worked on and quietly thinking to yourself, “I did that!” I promise you that even after nearly thirty years of doing this, that’s one particular reward that has yet to wear thin for me.

[signature name=”Stuart Mears”]