Cash-strapped Waverley counting the cost of the pandemic

The iconic paddle steamer is facing a cash crisis after the coronavirus pandemic took a toll on takings.

The Waverley paddle steamer is preparing to take the down season off, berthed on the banks of the Clyde. 

The past year has taken its toll in every way, with cancellations, crashes and a cash crisis. 

Earlier this year, £2.3m was raised to make the vessel operational again, but restrictions delayed work to replace the boilers and funnels. 

This year’s season only lasted for two weeks, meaning its owners can’t afford the annual maintenance costs of £500,000.

Paul Semple, from Waverley Excursions, said: “In a normal season, Waverley will carry 100,000 passengers. This year we were less than 6,000.

‘That was how much [the coronavirus pandemic] reduced our business and therefore reduced our opportunity to earn sufficient funds to maintain Waverley through this current winter. 

“We’re into our normal winter refit period, where there’s routine maintenance but that is highly costly and we need to raise £500,000 in total.”

In September, the paddle steamer collided with Brodick pier on the Isle of Arran, with 24 people injured in the incident.

As a result, the ship now needs major repairs, however the cost has been covered.

“Waverley will receive a new bow when she’s dry docked and the cost of that will be met by insurance, it is not part of the appeal monies to fund the bow repair,” Paul added.

If the money isn’t found to cover the annual maintenance works, then the vessel will miss its dry dock timetable and next year’s season could be cancelled.

Author and historian Iain Quinn believes the Waverley should be saved, especially as next year marks 75 years since the ship was launched. 

“The Waverley is a priceless, tourist gem, she’s a real piece of gold and I firmly believe she should never be destroyed,” he said.

“Once you lose this, there will never be another opportunity. That’s it gone. 

“It will be assigned to a quay wall somewhere and it won’t be the same.”

If the cash is raised in time, owners hope it will mean the Waverley can survive under her own steam once more.

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