The Maid of the Loch has been successfully winched out of the water for essential repairs and we went along to have a look whilst killing a few moments in Balloch.
The Maid is a paddle steamer and was the largest of its kind on Loch Lomond. Licensed for 1000 passengers, she was built at A&J Inglis on the Clyde and then dismantled for transportation to Loch Lomond.
The hull was floated up the Leven - just making it under Dumbarton bridge(!) This was in the days before the weir at Balloch had been built. The superstructure was transported partly by rail and the entire ship was then reassembled at Balloch and then launched into the waters of the loch on Thursday 5th March 1953
After many years of neglect The Maid of the Loch is currently undergoing extensive refit and refurbishment in anticipation of her once again ferrying passengers up and down the loch on pleasure cruises. The ship has recently been lifted out of the water at Balloch using a 1902 built steam winch housed in its own building at the end of the slipway. The winch is open to the public several days throughout the year and for a small fee you can toot the whistle.
.All went successfully on July 14th this year and the steamship was lifted out to the water as you can see in this video:
However it was a different story in January 2019 when the boat broke free from the substructure and transporter which supported her and headed back into the water.
Crew had to jump to safety and out of the way of the 430 tone vessel.as she careered back down the slipway and into the water.
A video of that unhappy day can be seen here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=XSJtTRi43JM
For those interested in visiting the Grade A listed which house and having a toot on the whistle more information can be found here: www.maidoftheloch.org/steam-slipway-winch-house
Although restoration work has been continuing for a number of years now there is still much to do on this majestic paddle steamer to once again make her ship shape for recommencing sailings up the loch. Much of the deterioration appears superficial - that a coat of paint may fix. Other renovations run much deeper - including the provision of a new boiler.
"Hard hat tours" are currently available around the interior of the ship and they can be booked here: www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/maid-of-the-loch-hard-hat-tour-tickets-169854843409?aff=esfb&utm-campaign=social&utm-content=attendeeshare&utm-medium=discovery&utm-source=fb&utm-term=checkoutwidget&fbclid=IwAR0A9CAlsCH0WFbQQAr-toh2mU0hAs7KXSbia18UB7D1awVVShzMpRfgyD4
Recent good news is that with the aid of a steam boiler located on the adjacent shore it was possible for the crew to run the engines and turn the paddles and so check all was in order and ready for when a replacement boiler is located (or manufactured) and fitted on board.
The paddles which give the steamer its name appear to be in good order. Paddle steamers were known for their manoeuvrability which aided docking.
However, the paddle steamers were less agile in rough seas as unlike their screw propellor cousins their paddles were apt to pop out of the water now and again in the choppy water making steering difficult..
The many small wheels of the supporting carriage can be seen in the bottom of the above picture. They are secured every so often with wooden chocks to prevent the ship rolling back into the water. A good thing.
More can be found out about The Maid of the Loch at the organisers website here: www.maidoftheloch.org.
We look forward to when all the work is completed and The Maid of the Loch is once again able to offer tours up and down the length of Loch Lomond.