By Lucy Ashton
The captain in charge of the world’s last seagoing paddle steamer The Waverley will be making a return to his home town when the ship docks in Portishead for the first time in two decades.
Captain Dominic McCall will be back in Portishead on Friday, June 2, when the ship picks up passengers there for the first time since 2001.
This iconic vessel has not been seen in the Bristol Channel for five years, but thanks to a multi-million-pound refurbishment with new steam boilers installed, she will be offering a wide variety of cruises up to Sunday, June 18, including sailings from Clevedon and Weston-super-Mare. Captain McCall, who hails from Portishead, said: “All at Waverley are delighted to be bringing her back to the Bristol Channel this June and hope the wonderful selection of cruises on offer will appeal to locals and visitors alike.
“We are looking forward to welcoming back our loyal Bristol Channel supporters who haven’t had the opportunity to sail on the ship since 2018. I am particularly looking forward to bringing the ship to Portishead and hope many people will come for a trip.”
A special evening fund-raising cruise from Clevedon, as Britain celebrates the Year of the Pier, will take place on June 11. Clevedon’s Victorian landmark, opened in 1869 and described by Poet Laureate, the late Sir John Betjeman, as the most beautiful in England, will welcome passengers to a cruise round the Holm Islands with a Fizz & Chips Pre-Sailing Reception in its Glass Box Restaurant.
The Waverley first visited the Bristol Channel back in 1979, sailing in the wake of the famous White Funnel Fleet of pleasure steamers, which operated until the 1960s. But until the much-loved cruiser, the MV Balmoral, can return to sailing from its base in the Bristol Harbour, the Waverley will be the only vessel offering pleasure steamer trips to the popular North Devon resort of Ilfracombe, around the Holm Islands and along the Welsh Heritage Coast.
The Waverley’s general manager, Paul Semple, said: “The ship offers a truly unique experience and I know many will welcome the sight of her famous red, white and black funnels and the distinct sound of her paddles beating.”
The Waverley will offer the traditional pleasure trips from Clevedon, Portishead, Weston and Minehead to visit Ilfracombe, giving passengers several hours ashore to explore, and a special sailing on Sunday, June 4, will allow passengers from Clevedon to visit Lundy Island.
To relaunch her sailings, there are several special offers – children’s fares starting from £1, over 60s can “Bring a Friend Free’ on Tuesday, June 13, and NHS workers can claim a 15% discount when booking in advance online at http://www.waverleyexcursions.co.uk. Tickets for all sailings can also be booked by calling 0141-243-2224.
The Waverley on its travels Doon the Watter and elsewhere.