There is sad news from Lake Geneva. Vevey was withdrawn from service at the end of September and, as yet, finance for her proposed refurbishment and re-engining has not been approved.
And if that is not bad enough, it has also been announced that the Rhone will not sail on the lake in 2011 as an economy measure with her 2010 schedule passing to either the Henry Dunant or the General Guisan both of which have smaller crews and fuel bills and both of which are not paddlers.
It is a difficult time for Lake Geneva and a huge contrast with the late 1990s when there was much optimism that all four of the Diesel-electric paddlers would be re-built and equipped with new steam engines. This happened to only the first of the four, Montreux. Her re-build and brand new, bridge controlled steam engine proved much more expensive than anticipated and, as a result, when their safety certificates ran out, first Helvetie and then Italie were withdrawn and laid up in the harbour at Lausanne.
Now the same fate has befallen Vevey and de-stored, boarded up and with all her equipment including the saloon panelling removed, she is now laid up in Geneva.
Worse still, there is talk of dividing the CGN company in two with the excursions on the lake becoming a quite separate entity from the transport ferries between Lausanne, Evian and Thonon and Nyon, Yvoire and Chens.
As paddlers go, Vevey was a very economic member of the fleet and often saw service throughout the year regularly taking the winter Sunday service from Lausanne to Chateau Chillon and filling in on the Lausanne Evian ferry as necessary. Indeed it is somewhat ironic that on occasions when the usual Lausanne Evian ferry Leman has been out of service for refit and when it has been too windy for smaller vessels to run or for the giant Lausanne to enter Evian Harbour, it has fallen to the Vevey to step into the breach. There is no other operational vessel of her size and capacity to do that now.
Approaching the tiny pier at Chateau Chillon, Vevey’s wheelhouse with, from left to right, the bridge control for her engine, her compass, helm indicator, GPS and radar.
A UK paddle steamer captain aboard Vevey on a day out.
So for 2011, there will be just four out of eight paddle steamers available to run on Lake Geneva, La Suisse, Savoie, Montreux and Simplon, It is a sad and sorry state of affairs.