International Callsign: Golf-Romeo-Papa-Mike
PS Waverley is the last seagoing passenger-carrying paddle steamer in the world. Built in 1946, she sailed from Craigendoran on the Firth of Clyde to Arrochar on Loch Long until 1973. Bought by the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society (PSPS), she has been restored to her 1947 appearance and now operates passenger excursions around the British coast.
Since 2003 Waverley has been listed in the National Historic Fleet by National Historic Ships UK as "a vessel of pre-eminent national importance". She appeared in the 2011 film Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.
PS Waverley is named after Sir Walter Scott's first novel. She was built in 1946 to replace a PS Waverley that was built in 1899, served in the Second World War as a minesweeper and was sunk in 1940 while helping to evacuate troops from Dunkirk. Shipbuilders A. & J. Inglis of Glasgow launched the new 693 tonne steamer in October 1946. She entered service with the London and North Eastern Railway in June 1947, working the LNER's Firth of Clyde steamer route from Craigendoran Pier, near Helensburgh, up Loch Long to Arrochar. In her first year in service she wore that company's red, white and black funnel colours. The 1948 nationalisation of Britain's railways brought their Scottish steamers into the Caledonian Steam Packet Company (CSP), a subsidiary of the Railway Executive, and the funnels were repainted yellow with a black top. In 1965 a Scottish red lion rampant was fixed to each side of both funnels. Waverley's hull was painted monastral blue until 1970.
After a revival of fortunes in the 1950s, the 1960s saw a gradual change in holiday habits that led to a decline in passenger numbers and the closure of many of the small piers. Since 1969 and the formation of the Scottish Transport Group, the CSP had been gradually merging with the West Highland shipping and ferry company David MacBrayne Ltd. In 1973 the company became Caledonian MacBrayne Ltd (CalMac).
CalMac withdrew Waverley after the 1973 season as she was too costly to operate and needed significant expenditure. By then the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society had been set up as a registered UK charity, and had bought the near-derelict small River Dart paddler PS Kingswear Castle. CalMac, keen to ensure that the ship was preserved, sold Waverley to the PSPS for the token sum of one pound. Neither side really believed that the vessel would return to steam but, just in case, Caledonian MacBrayne stipulated that she should not sail in competition with their remaining cruise vessel, TS Queen Mary.
A public appeal was launched to secure funding for the return of the Waverley to service and the fund-raising operation was successful. The PSPS found itself running a cruise ship operation, "Waverley Excursions". Since then Waverley has been joined in the PSPS fleet by PS Kingswear Castle and MV Balmoral, and has had a series of extensive refits and much restoration work, including a new boiler and improvements to meet modern safety standards. She has circumnavigated Great Britain and every year makes extensive sailings around the country.
Listed as part of the National Historic Fleet, between 2000 and 2003 the ship underwent a substantial rebuild and reboilering at the shipyard of George Prior at Great Yarmouth, funded principally by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The work was done in two stages, has added many 21st century safety and technological improvements and returned the ship to her original 1947 livery.
In 2009 the ship was affiliated with HMS Defender, having hosted the official dignitary party at Defender's launch on the River Clyde. And in 2011 the ship was awarded the Institution of Mechanical Engineers 65th Engineering Heritage Award.