Pictorial blethers

By blethers

"A great day out..."

That's one of the slogans used by the company that now runs the oldest* sea-going paddle steamer in the world, PS Waverley. They don't exaggerate. That's what we were enjoying yesterday, a day that left me so tired that I'm only now catching up on myself at lunchtime on Friday. For those elsewhere, I should first point out that Waverley has been missing from the Clyde for the best part of two years because of needing a new boiler. This summer was to have seen her triumphant return - and now, just before the end of the season, there's this wee window of what certain Scots delight to call opporchancity ...

The weather, of course, was pretty typical. There was little wind, happily, but it rained a good bit, and there was much low cloud on the hills. But such is the magic of Waverley that the nine hours we spent on board passed in a flash. Why was this?

For a start, we joined our #1 son for the cruise - he's a huge fan, right from when his godfather took him on cruises when he was a small boy. This meant a chance to talk without the utterly delightful but ultimately distracting input from grandchildren. Then there was the customary recognition of regulars - in this case a man who was in my class in school right through from Primary 1, and someone else with whom we've sung over the years since university days. There is the matter of refreshment - in our case, food in the dining saloon and a wee something mid-afternoon in the Jeanie Deans lounge. (Think malt, or Guinness). The hours vanish in a comfortable haze of socially-distanced drink ...

But the best has to be the subject of my main photo: the engines. Watching these huge pistons and shining bits (you can tell I'm no engineer) thundering with what seems reckless power as the ship steams down towards Arran (when I took the photo) is a hypnotic experience, enhanced by the smell of oil and steam and the heat rising all around us. And the sound - not just the rhythmic pounding, but a sort of sighing that makes the whole thing seem alive: I wish I could post a video here. There's a man with an oily rag, doing the things people do to this kind of engine. And just look at these gleaming copper things!

Our day ended with a Scotch pie and chips, washed down by a bottle of perfectly pleasant Merlot. (Costs the earth, but definitely worth it.) Thus fortified, we spent the last half hour on deck. I've tried to convey a little of that experience in my extra photo, taken at a silly angle to get in the funnels and the rain-washed deck as we passed Dunoon on our way back to Custom House Quay in Greenock. 

Some of the people I know on Blip are familiar with this experience. If you're not, I should perhaps tell you that in less plague-ridden times she does sails on the Thames (done that, twice) and the Bristol Channel. But it won't be the same without the view (second extra) of the cloud-swathed peaks of Arran ...

*Built 1947 to replace ship of same name that was sunk at Dunkirk.

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