Balmoral & Waverley .................Pix: Courtesy Waverley Excursions

The paddle steamer Waverley will sail on the Thames this season – despite cutbacks that have seen her sister ship laid up.

Balmoral has been taken out of service for the moment and is laid up in Bristol because the charity Waverley Excursions describes as too great a financial risk after 2012’s poor summer.

Both ships have sailed on the Thames for three weeks each in recent years departing from Tower Pier and calling at various times at Woolwich, Tilbury, Southend, Clacton and Whitstable.

Waverley Excursions Chief Executive Kathleen O’Neill said: “If the sun shone every days we would have no problem in covering our costs. But after the past two summers we have had to rethink our operation.

”Balmoral is being well looked after by volunteers in Bristol. We have not ruled out some kind of use if it is possible but the ship will not be in service as usual.”

She confirmed Waverley, one of the world's last surviving sea-going paddle steamers, will be on the Thames between September 27th and October 16th this year with timetables to be confirmed later.

Earlier the charitable company said: “Balmoral's operation has been hampered increasingly in recent years by extreme weather conditions. This has led to many cancelled or disrupted sailings, which has had a significant impact on the ship’s contribution to the charity. Waverley’s timetable is less susceptible to such disruptions.

“Clearly, we are unable to predict the weather for 2013, but none of the forecasters is predicting a significant improvement over recent years. After taking a wide range of considerations into account, the company has reluctantly decided that it would be too great a risk to operate Balmoral [this]  year, and that doing so would increase the threat to the future of both ships. We are not in a position to take such a risk and so will only be operating Waverley in 2013.

“This has been a very difficult decision but we consider that it offers the best way in the current circumstances to ensure Waverley's continued operation."

Balmoral was built in Southampton in 1949 and operated under the Red Funnel flag for 20 years. She then moved to the Bristol Channel as part of the White Funnel fleet then on to Dundee to become a floating restaurant. After falling into disrepair she was eventually restored by supporters.

Waverley was built on the Clyde on 1947 to replace a vessel of the same name which sank at Dunkir, originally for use off the west coast of Scotland. A major restoration was completed ten years ago which returned the vessel to the original 1940s style in which she was built.

Link to Waverley Excursions website

Story dated January 28th 2013

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