A public appeal has been launched to “urgently” raise funds to enable the historic Paddle Steamer Waverley to afford dry dock fees and re-commissioning costs, and sail in 2023 on a schedule which includes a planned visit to Minehead.

In 2022 Waverley operated in several areas around the UK coast following the easing of pandemic restrictions, but operating costs soared which has resulted in a lack of funds to survive the winter maintenance period. Despite carrying over 100,000 passengers with sailings in Scotland, on the South Coast and up the River Thames to London there is a cash shortfall.

Paul Semple, Waverley’s General Manager, explained “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.

Waverley leaving Largs on the Firth of Clyde
Waverley leaving Largs on the Firth of Clyde (Waverley Excursions Ltd)

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 over £35,000 already raised. Those who donate by 1st March 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.

Paul added: “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 outline sailing programme for 2023 has been published with the ship scheduled to start operating in May on the Firth of Clyde. Waverley is also due to visit Oban and the Inner Hebrides, the Bristol Channel, South Coast and London. Sailings from Liverpool and Llandudno are dependent on pier repairs being completed at the North Wales resort.

Donations to the Dry Dock 2023 Appeal can be made online at waverleyexcursions.co.uk or by calling 0141 243 2224. Those donating online can opt to be included on a Virtual Donor Wall.

Waverley was built in Glasgow for the London and North Eastern Railway, launched on October 2, 1946, and entered service in on June 16,1947. This year marks the 75th anniversary of her maiden voyage. She is the World’s last seagoing paddle steamer and was gifted to the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society in 1974 for £1.

Since 1975 she has operated in preservation carrying over 6 million passengers, visiting many areas of the UK offering a variety of day, afternoon, and evening cruises. In 2022 the average daily operating costs were over £16,000 with fuel accounting for around 50% of daily costs.

Paddle Steamer Waverley is operated on a ‘not-for-profit’ basis and owned by Waverley Steam Navigation Co. Ltd, a Registered Charity (SC005832). She was nominated by the Sunday Times as “Top 3 nostalgic journey in the world” and has a 4-star Scottish Tourist Board Tour Award.

Following a major £7 million Heritage Rebuild in 2003, Waverley was fully restored to her original 1940s style. In 2020 she underwent a £2.3m refit thanks to a successful appeal with over £1m being raised through public donations.