A PUBLIC appeal has been launched in a bid to “urgently” raise funds to enable a historic steamer to afford dry dock fees and re-commissioning costs.
In 2022, Paddle Steamer Waverley operated in several areas around the UK coast after the easing of pandemic restrictions.
However, operating costs soared which has resulted in a lack of funds to survive the winter maintenance period.
Despite carrying 100,000 passengers with sailings in Scotland, the south coast and up the River Thames in London, there is nonetheless a cash shortfall.
Waverley’s general manager Paul Semple said: “Waverley must be taken out of the water and dry docked annually before her sailing season begins.
“She is now booked to dry dock in late-March and then re-enter service in May. Due to increased operating costs last season we don’t have enough money to afford this year’s dry dock and the numerous other costs we incur in the weeks before Waverley starts sailing.
“Last year our fuel costs increased by over 60% or in real terms by over £300,000. This is a cost which the owning charity hasn’t been able to withstand.
“We urgently need to raise funds or we simply can’t afford the start up costs for this coming summer season.”
The Dry Dock 2023 Appeal has a target of £180,000 with more than £35,000 already raised.
Those who donate by March 1 will be entered into a draw to be selected for the unique opportunity to visit Waverley and see her out of the water in dry dock in May on the Firth of Clyde.
The ship was built in Glasgow for the London and North Eastern Railway, launched on October 2 1946 and entered service on June 16 1947.
It is the world’s last seagoing paddle steamer and was gifted to the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society in 1974 for £1.
Semple continued: “Operating a historic steamship like Waverley is inherently expensive.
“We are now spending over £600,000 a year just to maintain her in operating condition. Spare parts for a paddle steamer are rarely ‘off the shelf’ and come at considerable cost.
“Dry docking the ship is the single largest expense of the winter maintenance work and as things are we can’t afford to dock her.
“We are asking for help from anyone who wishes to see Waverley sail again this summer to support our appeal.”
Waverley’s outgoing sailing programme for 2023 has already been published with the ship scheduled to start operating in May on the Firth of Clyde before it is due to visit Oban and the Inner Hebrides, the Bristol Channel and London.