Many a summer evening along the Thames is enlivened by the sight of a steam powered paddle-steamer passing through Tower Bridge.
But not this year.
The paddle steamer Waverley, the last sea-going paddle steamer in the world, is currently unable to generate steam. Her boilers have given out, and will be unable to sail anywhere until they are replaced.
Waverley’s planned 2019 season was cancelled in May, following the discovery of major problems with the ship’s 20-year old boilers. Since then, individuals have started to respond with over £100,000 already donated.
They need to raise £2.3 million though to complete the repairs.
She was built in 1946 as a replacement for an earlier PS Waverley of 1899 that took part in the WWII war effort as a minesweeper and was sunk in 1940 while helping with the evacuation of troops from Dunkirk. Curiously, although built to sail on a Firth of Clyde steamer route, the boat was owned by the London and North Eastern Railway, so there is a direct link with London — albeit a long distance one — in her heritage.
The Waverley is currently in dry dock on the River Clyde waiting for the funding to replace the two boilers.
The scale of what is required has been likened to a kind of marine ‘open heart surgery’. The iconic red, white and black twin funnels will be lifted off, and large sections of decking removed to allow the boilers and other equipment to be lifted out. The replacements are expected to extend Waverley’s operational life by a further 20 to 25 years.
Rather cunningly, and not unlike a number of boats on the Thames, she has a totally pointless tall mast on the boat – which just coincidentally happens to be too tall to fit under Tower Bridge, and thus forces the bridge to open every time she passes through.
Unless they can replace the boilers though, then the sight of Tower Bridge opening for the last sea-going paddle steamer wont happen again.
Donations to support the Waverly can be made here.