By VOS Volunteer Kevin R.
When they say ‘we run a tight ship’ it was never meant to mean a thousand people ensconced aboard a medium sized Loch Steamer, but that’s what the sunny weather brought to Portsmouth on a glorious Solent Saturday,
The iconic PS Waverley was in port for its short south coast summer season, and extremely popular she was too. With fifteen eager Veterans Outreach Support (VOS) members carefully slotted within a swarm of tourists, a day at sea was enjoyed on the somewhat cramped but nonetheless very enjoyable voyage aboard the last sea going steam paddle ship in the world.
Some background on the PS Waverley:
Almost all of Waverley’s machinery including the steering and all the main pumps are powered by steam from her two massive oil-fired boilers.
She was built to replace the 1899 Waverley which was sunk by enemy action on May 29, 1940 at Dunkirk.
PS Waverley’s keel was laid in December 1945 but due to material shortages after the war, she was not ready for launch until June 1947.
In 1974, at the end of her working life, she was famously gifted for £1 to the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society and now she runs as good as new.
You can see it in action in this video we shared to social media, or from our attendees’ perspectives in the images below.
Magnificent Scenery on the Solent
We were lucky enough to climb aboard for a day-long trip round the Isle of Wight. During the circumnavigation, great numbers of Solent vessels caught her wake to get a close up of this Victorian era boat.
Coffee’d and chipped out, the guests from VOS were treated to magnificent scenery, including a vivid description of the various geographic strata of the Island…none so dramatic as when the ship turned to Port past the towering cliffs of Alum bay and the Needles.
Stepping Back in Time, In Great Company
A commentary supplied information on the various large properties enjoying vast panoramic views of the channel, literally glowing a mysterious green in the Indian summer heatwave. Perhaps eight hours travelling at 17 knots in a light wind wasn’t for everyone on board, but the VOS contingency took it all in their stride, ever grateful to be the beneficiaries of such companionship and shared experience that the charity so warmly permits.
As one VOS service user put it while sharing pictures of the trip on Facebook, “What a day, challenging both physically and mentally but I did it. My bottom lip was out when it came to an end. But I am so happy to have shared a great experience with amazing people.”
“A wonderful day on board with old and new found friends,” added another, with others agreeing “we had a fabulous day.”
Waverley is unique in many ways: it retains a bygone charm with its history of Scottish domestic rural service and its famous heritage as a ‘Dunkirk small ship.’ Gleaming brass, polished oak and a fascinating blend of salt air and oily steam all orchestrated to the reggae rhythm of the paddles and pistons. Perhaps too flowery a description for an industrial powered transport, but then again, what’s the attraction of steam trains if not nostalgia for a past in which computer technology was absent and push bikes weren’t replaced by Council run electric scooters.
Fifteen of us experienced a glimpse of those days whilst taking on a sea view of Wight, a bit of a tan and a memory of a day well spent, thanks to Veterans Outreach Support.
A special hello goes out to members of the Gosport Steampunk Society whom we encountered on our travels!
Trips like these provide new experiences, social connections and more- all to support the mental health and wellbeing of our local Armed Forces and Merchant Navy veteran community. Thank you to the generous VOS funders and donors who make it all possible.
If you’re a veteran from the UK Armed Forces or the Merchant Navy (from any time of service) or a partner, spouse, or carer to one, VOS would love for you to join our community. We are here to offer our support: call us on 02392 731 767, visit an upcoming drop-in, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.