The operators of the paddle steamer Waverley have reduced the length of the historic ship’s high summer Clyde cruising timetable for 2014 in an effort to cut costs.
The world-famous vessel, plagued by doubts in recent years over her long-term future in the face of rising fuel prices and ever-increasing leisure competition, will finish her high summer Clyde season on Sunday, August 24 - the day after the Bute Highland Games, and a week earlier than in previous years.
However, the summer change is offset by a Bank Holiday weekend of cruises on the Firth at the end of May, meaning that the overall number of sailings on next year’s timetable will be the same as in 2013.
The change - which means the Waverley will not serve next year’s Cowal Highland Gathering in Dunoon - has been made to allow the ship to undertake her annual programme of cruises around the south of England and the Bristol Channel in a single visit, rather than on two separate trips as in the past.
Kathleen O’Neill from Waverley Excursions told The Buteman: “Our charity has faced some challenges in operating the paddle steamer Waverley in the past couple of years. We have taken a number of decisions which will help secure the future of her service to the communities of the west coast of Scotland.
“One of the changes in 2014 is that Waverley will make the journey to undertake her southern sailings only once. This results in a saving of around £25,000 in fuel costs.
“In trying to fulfill the charitable objective to ensure that as many people as possible have access to this heritage asset, we have taken the decision to leave the Clyde a week earlier than normal this year.
“The news that 2013 would signal the final major competition at the Cowal Games made this decision a little easier.
“We look forward to welcoming our regular passengers from Bute onboard Waverley, and as ever, to bringing lots of visitors to the island.”
The Waverley’s 67th season of Clyde cruising is due to begin with a Bank Holiday weekend on the Firth at the end of May, to be immediately followed by a week of cruises in the West Highlands, with her high summer Clyde season beginning on June 22.
After her English sojourn, her 2014 season will conclude with a further weekend on the Clyde in mid-October.
The advance timetable contains a note advising that “sailings from July 23 until Aug 3 are subject to change due to Commonwealth Games”, and stating that a final 2014 timetable will be issued in the new year.