A PUBLIC appeal to raise the £2.3 million needed to return the paddle steamer Waverley to service was launched on Saturday.

Among the crowds at the launch event at the ship's berth at Pacific Quay in Glasgow were politicians, mariners, enthusiasts and the general public — all determined to show support for the famous paddle steamer.

Waverley’s 2019 season was cancelled last month, following the discovery of major problems with the ship’s 20-year old boilers. Since then, individuals have started to respond with over £100,000 already donated.

The Waverley Facebook page recorded more than a million hits when the news broke.

READ MORE: Waverley faces £2m boiler bill as 2019 season is cancelled

Paul Semple from Waverley Excursions Ltd, the ship's operators, said: “We’re heartened by the support so far — it’s clear that huge numbers of people around Britain and around the world want to see Waverley sail again.

“But the financial challenge which faces Waverley remains very significant, and we urgently need more funds to let us place the orders and then carry out the work over the next nine months.”

The sheer scale of what is required has been likened to a kind of marine ‘open heart surgery’.

The iconic red, white and black twin funnels will be lifted off, and large sections of decking removed to allow the boilers and other equipment to be lifted out.

READ MORE: Helensburgh's MSP urges government to help save Waverley

The replacements are expected to extend Waverley’s operational life by a further 20 to 25 years.

The Waverley's operators have spent recent weeks drawing up a detailed and costed plan, and now hope to attract the support of members of the public to make the plan become reality

“There’s a real determination not to allow Waverley to become a static relic," Mr Semple continued.

"She was built to sail, and that’s what so many people want to see again.

READ MORE: Helensburgh backs its pier as 1,200 sign Waverley petition

"Waverley’s truly unique status as the world’s last seagoing paddle steamer mustn’t be taken for granted.

"Not for the first time, the future of the ship hangs in the balance. Once again, it’s time to save the Waverley.”

Donations to the appeal can be made online at waverleyexcursions.co.uk, by calling 0141 243 2224, or by texting STEAM £20 to 70085 to donate £20.