THE paddle steamer Waverley is due to pay her first visit of the year to Kilcreggan on Tuesday – but the ship's general manager admits he's "deeply concerned" at the impact of rising fuel prices on the famous vessel.

The Waverley is scheduled to call at the village pier at 1.35pm on May 31, en route to Blairmore and a cruise on Loch Long and Loch Goil, returning at 5.35pm.

Further calls later this week are scheduled for Thursday, June 2 and Saturday, June 4.

An extensive programme of Clyde spring and summer cruises, lasting until August 25 and marking the 75th anniversary of the Waverley's maiden voyage, includes two special visits to Arrochar, retracing the route for which the Waverley was built in 1947.

As in recent years, there will be no calls at Helensburgh due to the poor condition of the town’s pier.

Coach connections are available between Helensburgh and Kilcreggan, but only for passengers who have booked Waverley tickets in advance.

The ship's first public cruise 'doon the watter' took place on Saturday, May 28.

New, modern boilers were installed in 2020 following the discovery, shortly before the Waverley's 2019 programme was due to begin, that her boilers needed replaced at an estimated cost of more than £2 million.

The new boilers burn fuel at a rate of over £11 per minute, an average daily fuel bill that tops £7,000.

Paul Semple, general manager of Waverley Excursions, the ship's operators, said: “It is fantastic to see the first passengers step aboard as a new season begins. Watching Waverley cast off is the ultimate reward after the endless hours of hard toil from our dedicated volunteers and crew over the winter months.

“I am delighted Waverley is back in service, but deeply concerned on how we can cover operating costs this season given the current fuel price.

"The focus over the past few weeks has been on getting everything ship shape for passengers. Now Waverley is sailing daily I am faced with the stark reality of buying fuel at a cost which has increased by more than 50 per cent since 2021.

"We have, very reluctantly, introduced a modest fuel surcharge of £3 to go a little way towards keeping the paddles turning.

"Despite this I am determined that as many people as possible will step aboard to enjoy the unique experience of sailing on the world’s last sea-going paddle steamer.

"We have several schools booked to travel in the coming weeks and throughout the summer there are many free trips for kids.

"For Waverley to survive we need the next generation to sail and work on her. She also needs the continued support of the general public in the coming months or we will face a serious financial crisis that will put her continued operation at risk.”

For more information on the Waverley's 2022 cruising programme and to book tickets, click here.