Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Mist and Missed

Decision Delayed
It didn't look good in the morning with most of the Western Isles hidden in mist and rain.
The flight of UFOs, by the way, was not an invasion from the planet Zog but merely reflections of the internal illumination in the fbb's holiday flat.

2017 marks the 20th anniversary of the Paddle Steamer Waverley's maiden voyage, so a repeat trip seemed appropriate. No 3 son was keen to have a "wee sail"; but a "wee sail" with extensive views of sea mist and low cloud did not appear to offer good value for money.

Waverley was launched in October 1946 ...
... and her first ever passenger carrying trip was on 16th June 1947 when she sailed from Craigendoran (near Helensburgh) up Loch Long to Arrochar (near one of the many Tarbets).
The trip was partially replicated on 16th June 2017 with two passengers on board ...
.. who had sailed on that maiden voyage.

James Stevenson (left) has been a regular passenger over the years - but on this voyage he released a message in a bottle. He said: "I was there 70 years ago. Pure chance wasn't it - but then life's pure chance. Regarding the Waverley, I've kept up the tradition of coming every year I think."

For Alistair Thories, the voyage brought back many memories. "It's very emotional because to me The Waverley is memories of my parents," he said. "I was 10 when they took me down on The Waverley in 1947. She was brand new, she's just looking like she was then. It was a breezy day - but a good deal sunnier, as I remember."
With the nationalisation of the railways (and thus the ferries), the funnels were painted yellow, the colours of the state-owned Caledonian Steam Packet Company. In the boat's latter years, this was enhanced (?) by the adornment of the Scottish lion in red. One such lion is displayed just outside the Souvenir Shop.
The preservation project returned her to her original colours, namely those of the North British Railway (NBR).
The NBR had become part of the London and North Eastern Railway in 1927, but the boats retained their heritage funnel colours as on the P S William Muir (above).

Scotland had begun to appear from the murk, as seen from the window of the flt in Largs, at 1130 ...
... and the delayed decision was taken to "go for it".

It was not ideal cruising weather, being overcast, cold and dreich; low cloud was, at times, rolling down the hills - typical West Coast August weather!
So, whilst the views were potentially magnificent, they were not particularly photogenic, so fbb decided to take a closer look at the vessel itself.

Of course everyone has to descend below decks to look at the engine.
It is a diagonal triple expansion steam engine built by Rankin and Blackmore of Greenock. "Triple Expansion" means that the steam starts off in a high pressure cylinder, transfers to a medium pressure ditto and finally gives the engine a last weaker prod in a low pressure can.

The working speed produced is 16 mph, although in trials when new 21 mph was achieved. The drive shaft to the paddle wheels forms an effective obstacle in the main passageways, especially effective at causing n outbreak of head banging!

What is hard to imagine in 2017, is the effect of Waverley's luxury and sophistication way back in 1947. The restaurant today serves good meals ...
... but self-service in a somewhat spartan environment.
As late as 1970, in the last years of its "cruising" life, luncheon was waiter/tress service with a three course table d'hôte meal ...
Today there are tea rooms and a bar "serving 30 different types of whisky."
The fbbs satisfied their thirst with a very pleasant cuppa served in a very unsophisticated cardboard cup.
Much has changed since 1947.

Whilst the Waverley ended its state-owned working life as a cruise boat, it is worth remembering that originally these vessels were the public transport of the lochs, calling at many piers and jetties, small and large, to provide essential links with the outside world.

Now this magnificent ship (boat)** has changed from "bus" to "coach", offering enjoyable tour to the likes of the fbb gang.

Tomorrow we take a look at one of the "bus" services operating between 1909 and 1933 on a similar route to that sailed by your seafaring blogger and family.

** The difference between a ship and a boat? Ships have boats on them ...
... not the other way round!

 Next Loch Long blog : Thursday 24th August 

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

At Largs in Large (3)

North Ayrshire Entertains the fbbs
Yesterday the gang was in holiday mood. Mrs fbb and No 3 son nipped off to Morrisons (again!) for rolls (a specific Scottish delectation) ...
... made to a recipe that English bakeries have never been able to replicate. Served buttered, with lashings of bacon and slices of tomato, these formed an excellent cholesterol-excessive breakfast. This was followed by the entertainment right outside the bay window of their holiday flat.

First the man with "ride-on" mower (top left) arrived ...
... followed by a North Ayrshire lorry and its concours d'élégance of mowing excellence. Two power mowers plus strimmer set to work to make the greensward look its best. Once this entertainment had been enjoyed by all, No 3 son went out for "a 10k run". This is a particularly frightening piece of masochism which brings into question the sanity of the "boy", aged 37!

The run took him along the coast and up into the woods at Kelburn.
Part of the afforestation is known as the "Dark Plantation".

Kelburn Country Centre is based around a 13th Century castle and Kelburn Glen, home to waterfalls and deep gorges, with spectacular views over the islands of the Firth of Clyde. Visitors can explore the secret forest, crocodile swamp and an adventure course.

Kelburn "Castle" is just a little bit "different"!!
Meanwhile fbb was undertaking some equally strenuous exercise (for his his little grey cells) by composing the public transport part of this blog, namely no 3 son's journey from base to Largs on Sunday.

Southern Railway was strike free and cancellation free, so all was well. More strikes are, however, planned.

Next, EasyJet.

After the fbb's late running train on Saturday, there was an element of schadenfreude** as the plane was significantly late. Apparently it was late arriving from Valencia. Actual times were 1548 from Gatport Airwick, with an arrival in Glasgow at 1720; 25 minutes down on a 90 minute flight. that makes Virgin's delays of the previous day seem insignificant.

As you would expect, these days, you can replay the flight on-line from take off ...
... to touch-down after a maximum flight height of 37,000 feet.
You can also see a picture of the actual plane ...
... an eight year old Airbus A319 III.

But all this begs the question, What does an "arrival" at Glasgow Airport mean? When the wheels touch the tarmac? When the plane parks at the terminal? When the passengers escape from the plane? OR ...

When luggage us collected?
No 3 son retrieved his case at 1747, nicely in time to miss the bus to Paisley Gilmour Street Station at 1744.
No worries, however as there was plenty of hang-about time before the train to Largs.
In fact, the lad walked from Airport to Station ...
... having missed a ride on a smart McGills bus.
Scotrail was on time as ever ...
... and the team of elderly meeters and greeters toddled round to the station to welcome their honoured guest.

Total journey time from Station to Station, just about seven hours; of which half was spent waiting for stuff to happen.

How did the cost compare (return fares show)?

Train Shoreham to Gatwick


Train Paisley to Largs

Total £175.83 (for comparison purposes £115.75 with a 34% discount equivalent to OAP card on the trains).

If No 3 had gone by train, and IF all services had been unimpeded by any engineering work, the journey would have taken about nine hours and cost £168.70 with no travel restrictions.

fbb and Mrs fbb each paid £126.70 (includes OAP discount).
Contrast and compare?
** schadenfreude - concatenated from German words for "harm" and "joy" - literally, deriving "joy" from other people's "harm".
 Next holiday-based blog : Wednesday 23rd August 

Monday, 21 August 2017

At Largs in Large (2)

Alarming Approximate Algorithms
16 minutes late at Milton Keynes was not looking good for passengers at Birmingham New Street. Normal running time between the two is about 56 minutes.
Surely even the most optimistic efforts of Mr Branson's minions could not pick up 16 minutes, or even ...
... nine minutes to arrive at 1121. As the wait on the unlovely platform 6 continued, expected had become later and later. The train arrived at 1122, no mater what the screen said and, after some slick station management, left about 1126, 11 down (again!). The fbbs had not even sat down by the time the train started moving. Well done Virgin, well done New Street.

Never mind, eh? Better than 19 down as shown at Birmingham International.

The electronics was ever optimistic.
But the electronics knew nothing!

Despite repeated optimism, the train became later and later.

20 minutes down at Wigan but on time at Glasgow.
Get real Mr Computer System. On the basis of these wildly optimistically estimates, fbb calculates that Virgin could save 40 minutes on the journey time from Euston to Glasgow via Birmingham.

Maybe "the system" is programmed to be optimistic in the vain hops that time will be made up. But it usually isn't and it wasn't.

Not at all. Here is the log for the run as far as Preston.
But fbb must record some positives. As far a Preston we were regaled by Virgin's recorded announcement system, three times for each stop; each time complete with a loud bingle bongle right in the fbbs' ear. The travelling twosome we positioned right next to one of the very loud speakers.

But at Preston we were joined by a new train manager, WHO MUST HAVE SWITCHED IT OFF!


Instead came exceedingly helpful announcements about onward connections and, equally blissful, reminders to apply for compensation. The young lady did everything possible to ease and appease folk who would miss their trains from Lancaster and Carlisle, giving details of alternatives, accompanied by what sounded a very genuine apology.

Excellent customer service in every way.

Far, far better than dubious electronic stuff; but, for the record, here is the log of the full journey.
Never did we make up time as promised electronically.
Thankfully, the fbb's had enough time to nip from platform 1 (top right) to platform 13 (bottom left) ... 
... and join their Dutch Railways train for Largs. Although Abellio have been making a bit pf a mess of things, the Scotrail front line management always seem to do a good job.
Despite the alarming complexity of Glasgow Central station, it all seem to work. The train was ugly ...
... but clean and offered plenty of room.
And it was spot on tine all the way!
Even "deep throat" agreed!

Collect the keys to the gaff from the weird hardware shop, send Mrs fbb around the corner and over the railway footbridge ...
... to Morrisons for victuals and soon a truly Scottish supper was being enjoyed.
Ten hours travelling from Axminster to Largs and it all worked - just.

Of the four trains and four train companies, which journeys were the best? No contest. Equal first come SouthWest Trains (from yesterday First South Western Railway) ...
... and Abellio Scotrail; both with slick service,  good views out of the window (below, Mrs fbb in the rserved seats on Cross Country!) ...
... and ON TIME!!

Wonder how No 3 son got m on, yesterday, travelling by one of they new fangled aeroplanes?

 Next Largs blog : Tuesday 22nd August