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Racing To Rothesay (Stuart Cameron)


The CalMac car ferry 'Pioneer' and 'Waverly' the elderly Clyde Peddler's fun times on the Clyde are remembered by Stuart Cameron...

I remember several Waverley / Pioneer races into Rothesay. Pre-2000, it was touch and go who would win (they wen't real races you realise - just in case we alarm the man from ' the Board of Trade' as Para Handy would have said. However, since 2000 after the re-alignment of Waverley's engine she has had the reserve to get back to something like her original trials speed - although she doesn't do it too often because it has a marked effect on fuel consumption. I did experience a run from Largs to Helensburgh direct last Easter (2001) when berthing problem due to wind at Largs made the paddler about half an hour late. The passage to Helensburgh, with the engine running smoothly at 54-55 rpm (it ran at just over 56 rpm on the trials trip in 1947) was remarkable. I used to watch the same engine struggle to get above the mid 30s rpm in the early 1970s and never though I'd see it do the mid 50s rpm over 30 years later. The effect was that Largs - Helensburgh was done in little over half an hour - and that from an south knuckle berthing at Largs. By the time she left Helensburgh she was back on schedule - not bad for a fifty year old.
So the friendly tussles with Pioneer are less common these days but we will miss her when she goes. I sailed on Pioneer on her very first passenger sailing from the old West Loch Pier (pre Kennacraig) to Port Ellen on a wet horrible day in August 1974. Being a poor schoolboy in those days I caught the bus from Anderston Bus Station early that morning and back again late in the evening - but I was even dafter in those carefree days. Ever since Pioneer has been a favourite and its a bit of a shock to realise that 28 years have passed and the vessel is now approaching the other end of a very long and successful career on the West Coast.

Feature Updated:

22 June 2020

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