Autumn 1977

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

Autumn 1977

Waverley returns after repairsWaverley returned to service at the end of August after more than three weeks of shipyard attention to repair damage resulting from grounding on the Gantocks Reef off Dunoon on Friday 15th July. The steamer was holed in four places near the stern and the aftermost 40ft of the keel was lifted and twisted. The grounding occurred as the result of a navigational error. There were no injuries to the 650 passengers and all were ferried ashore within 45 minutes. WSN acted quickly to find a substitute vessel, chartering the MV Queen of Scots. Repainted in WSN colours, the veteran from Scarborough as Coronia, and Bournemouth as Bournemouth Queen commenced excursion work on July 23rd. Queen of Scots performed reliably on the amended timetable and capacity loadings were recorded on several occasions.

An appeal for funds was launched immediately as WSN could face a deficit of £40,000 without the July and August profits which could have been expected to secure Waverley’s winter overhaul costs. Until the grounding all those who have worked tirelessly to maintain the ship in operational service were seeing their efforts rewarded in full. Waverley was running superbly with standards in every department higher than previously. Waverley’s season has been extended to the end of September to take in the Glasgow holiday weekend and seven September charters have been arranged.

Kingswear Castle reportKingswear Castle was slipped on May 4th. The keel is supported by 17 wooden blocks fastened to the slipway by special hooks, and eyes which were grouted into the slipway. They were made by volunteer members during the previous weeks. The blocks were hauled down on to the slipway the previous weekend, giving 5 inches under the forefoot and 24 inches under the stern. Speed and precision were essential on the chosen day, with less than half an hour available for the manoeuvre before the peak height of the spring tide. Would the tide make the necessary height to float KC into position? When the critical moment came, the planning was shown to pay off. At the top of the tide KC’s bow just grounded on the top block, and the tug waiting astern just in case was dispatched.

Low tide – Lawrie Beal supervises the positioning of the slipway blocks.

High Spring Tide – Kingswear Castle is carefully positioned on to the blocks.

With much more room to work beneath, examination of the bottom and bilge plates showed them to be in good condition – the loan of a pressure washer and two days work knocked the muck off. Both paddle wheels have been cut away and the starboard box has been stripped out to reveal badly wasted steel framing.

Secret sailing to Goole – The charter of PS Lincoln Castle on July 10th went unnoticed by many members probably because of delayed distribution of booking forms. Fortunately there is good support on Humberside and over 400 sailed to Goole. Lincoln Castle anchored off Ocean Lock to swing in the River Ouse before retracing her route.


Compiler’s note (from 2002)

1977 was a momentous year. The fast recovery of the Waverley operation following the grounding proved the determination of all concerned. On a lesser scale, and relying solely on volunteer resource, Kingswear Castle was lifted from the mud and structural work commenced. For Kingswear Castle, a tribute is due to Project Leader Lawrie Beal. Looking at the somewhat derelict sight on the slipway, with no prospect of the ship earning any revenue, it could have been easy to become pessimistic, and he never was. His dedication at this stage where at least the vital jobs could be assessed and tackled, was invaluable. It turned out that there was still a long way to go…