After a long drive into Glasgow yesterday, a short trip to Tarbert was the plan to catch the Waverley on one of her summer Clyde cruises. In the season, she calls into Tarbert on Tuesdays and takes a short turn up Loch Fyne before returning to the Clyde. We made it to Tarbert in good time for her 1445 sailing, only to find that she’d never yet docked at the East Pier before 1505 – apparently due to a conflict over berthing at Rothesay with the CalMac ferry.
It was blowing half a gale when she eventually appeared in sight, making the pier only ten minutes after coming into view. Although we’d seen her sailing down the Clyde the previous day en route to the Burrell Collection, seeing her coming up Loch Fyne was like standing back one hundred years to the hey-day of the Clyde steamers. She was a visual anachronism, moving at a speed that would shame a modern ferry.
Because she was late and the trip up Loch Fyne was truncated, we paid a lesser fare than advertised, so I spent the savings in the bar.
The Waverley is a fantastic survivor, even if only 60 years old, she represents an older age and one deep-rooted in the traditions and folk-memories of the Glaswegians. And it’s no struggle to see why: this vessel is a constant visual delight and very comfortable. With her wide beam to accommodate the paddles she is very stable even in a gale. It’s possible to walk right around the huge cranks of the engines as they drive the shaft – she can go as fast astern as she can forward – and small viewports permit a glimpse of the paddles through the frothing water.