The paddle steamer Waverley has been under the media spotlight this week after it emerged that 2011 could be her last season of operation - if major additional funding is not secured by this summer.
The world’s last sea-going paddle steamer has been indelibly linked with the Clyde and with Rothesay, ferrying passengers ‘doon the watter’.
But falling passenger numbers, caused by bad weather in recent summers, along with increases in fuel costs, have hit hard, and Waverley Excursions, which operates the 1946-built vessel, is making a public appeal for help.
Rothesay Pavilion manager James McMillan is also a director of Waverley Excursions Ltd. He told us: “The last three summers have been very poor, weather-wise, and the company has had to use up its reserves. Couple that with an increase in fuel prices, and we’ve been put in a very difficult position.
“This sumer is cruicial to ensure she surives, and that’s why we’ve gone forward with a public appeal to ask for help, in whatever form that may take.
“There’s a real chance that this summer could be her last season, but we’re not despondent - we’re letting the public know the position we’re in, and we’re hopeful for a positive outcome.”
The Waverley receives an annual grant from Glasgow City Council, and Argyll and Bute Council allows her to berth for no cost at Rothesay Pier, but the main source of income is from passengers, both in tickets and on-board spending, and the changeable weather has seen this fall dramatically over the last few years.
The news of the possible loss of the Waverley will no doubt be of concern to islanders, especially business owners in the town who receive a great deal of custom from those who disembark from the steamer.
“We should know during the course of this season whether the Waverley will be saved, probably around July or August, based on passenger figures etc,” Mr McMillan added.
If you’d like to help save the Waverley, please go to www.waverleyexcursions.co.uk, where you can offer a donation to help save the world’s last sea-going paddle steamer.