On Monday 9th August 1965 Waverley ran aground in Ardrossan Harbour while covering the 07.05 ferry service inward bound from Brodick.
This trip was included in Waverley’s weekly roster from Monday 26th July through to Monday 30th August in 1965 as management felt that it needed a ship with her large passenger capacity to cover the amount of inbound traffic presenting from the Isle of Arran back to the mainland first thing on Monday mornings in these peak holiday weeks. Accordingly when she had finished her Sunday excursion programme at Craigendoran on these dates she sailed light ship for Brodick to be in place for the ferry run first thing on the Monday morning.
Waverley had something of a reputation amongst experienced Clyde masters after the war as not being the easiest of paddle steamers to handle particularly in awkward harbours like Ardrossan and Ayr. Her small rudder didn’t help giving her a marked tendency to wander when going astern so to try to improve her performance the rudder was enlarged during her early Clyde career. However that came with a stipulation from the Board of Trade that the helm should not be put hard over at full speed which is not ideal for a paddle steamer.
Waverley floated off after her grounding at Ardrossan around lunchtime and made her way back to Craigendoran under her own steam but was too late to pick up her own afternoon excursion Round Bute which had been taken by Talisman which had moved from her usual Largs to Millport roster to provide cover.
The previous week there had been more excitement when Waverley had to be fired up at short notice in the early hours of the morning of Monday 2nd August to make an unscheduled departure from Brodick at 2am to take a sick man requiring hospital treatment across to be put in an ambulance on the mainland at Largs.
A press report of the incident claims that Waverley made the crossing in little more than 40 minutes which would have required her to be travelling the 16 nautical mile distance between Brodick and Largs at something like 20 knots over the ground which on the face of it doesn’t seem very likely. I haven’t got a set of Clyde tide tables for that date here with me but if she had a fair 2 or 3 knot tide and a fresh breeze behind her that night, and she was pushing on at 17 knots through the water, then it might just about have been possible.
I wonder though if the ambulance had been waiting on Fairlie Pier on the outskirts of Largs rather than at the jetty at Largs itself. This would have shortened the distance by 2 nautical miles making the 40 minute crossing time seem a bit more likely. And if I had been captain of Waverley that night I would have wanted to travel the shortest distance to get the man ashore as quickly as possible so, if Fairlie Pier had been available, I would have gone for that and told the ambulance to meet me there rather than extending the journey on to Largs itself.
Kingswear Castle returned to service in 2023 after the first part of a major rebuild which is designed to set her up for the next 25 years running on the River Dart. The Paddle Steamer Kingswear Castle Trust is now fund raising for the second phase of the rebuild. You can read more about the rebuilds and how you can help if you can here.
This article was first published on 9th August 2021.