THE iconic paddle steamer Waverley is set to return to Minehead harbour in June for the first time in five years, a spokesman for Waverley Excursions, the ship’s operators, has said. The Waverley, built in 1946 and now the world’s only seagoing paddle steamer, last sailed into Minehead in 2018. Since then, a boiler refit in 2019 and the Covid pandemic saw all sailings cancelled.
The boat re-entered service in the autumn of 2020, only to be damaged following a multi-million pound refit after it crashed into Brodick Pier on the Isle of Arran. Dates are still to be finalised but the Waverley will be making Bristol Channel cruises from June 2-18. The ship will visit Minehead, Clevedon, Ilfracombe, Penarth, Porthcawl and Swansea.
The spokesman added: “We are currently working with ports and piers to establish a Bristol Channel time-table. “We would like to include Minehead on a few down-channel trips to Ilfracombe. We are also looking at bringing people to Minehead from Penarth and offering a trip on the West Somerset Railway to build a steam-day out option.”
Meanwhile the operator has launched a fundraising appeal to cover the costs of work that needs to be carried out in dry docks before the ship can be recommissioned to start its 2023 season. You can read more about that in our story here.
The Wavereley’s return to Minehead this summer was welcomed by the town’s BID chairman, Graham Sizer, who said visits by the ship’s passengers were always welcome. “We have missed seeing this fine old ship and this is really good news,” he said.
A total 24 people were treated for injuries caused as a result of the Isle of Arran incident, with passengers flown by helicopter to a hospital on the mainland.
The Waverley did go back into service last year as Covid restrictions eased with 100,000 passenger journeys on sailings in Scotland, the south coast and the Thames. Many sailings were sold out.
Waverley Excursions said: “Maintaining a historic steamship is a never-ending task with so many pieces of machinery, fixtures and fittings to take care of.
“There is a lot of work to be tackled before Waverley will be ready to steam to dry dock for her annual docking.”
For further information visit waverleyexcursions.co.uk or for Minehead sailings, call 01643 702624.