Interview: the last surviving Clyde Puffer

18 November 2014
imports_CESC_screen-shot-2014-11-18-at-15.14.06-49759_70708.png Interview: the last surviving Clyde Puffer
Mandy Hamilton and David Hawson, the brains behind the hugely popular Puffer Cookbook, share their thoughts on the appeal of sailing on VIC 32, the world’s last surviving Clyde Puffer ...
Interview: the last surviving Clyde Puffer Images

Delivering ammunition to the Atlantic fleets during the war, working as a day boat in Rosyth Naval Dockyard, and taking cement out to Barra to build a pier, were just some of the tasks given to ‘VIC 32’, now the last surviving Clyde Puffer, in the early years of its eventful life.

Today the steam-powered boat enjoys a more sedate workload as it takes lucky holiday-makers on cruises around some of Scotland’s most picturesque waterways.

According to regular traveller Mandy Hamilton, it’s the puffer’s peaceful pace that keeps tourists coming back for more.

‘The Puffer glides along completely silently,’ Mandy tells us, ‘the perfect vehicle for wildlife watching and quiet contemplation of the world as it slides past.’ Artist and VIC 32 regular David Hawson agrees: ‘it’s perfect for any artist wanting to paint Scotland,’ he says ‘It’s a stable platform from which to paint the passing coastline.’

VIC 32 was first discovered derelict just a year after it was built, and after enduring many difficult journeys during and after the war, its seemingly unhinged captain deserted the vessel again believing it was cursed. Thankfully, enthusiast Nick Walker thought differently after spotting the boat sitting quietly in Whitby harbour in 1975.

VIC32 Clyde PufferGenerous helpings of elbow grease and enthusiasm meant that by 1979 the restored VIC 32 was back in Scotland offering tours, and the boat’s journey has continued since then.

With the ongoing fundraising for the boat in mind, Mandy and David joined forces to create The Puffer Cookbook, a  mixture of recipes, photographs and illustrations. The success of the book has now led to the release of a 2015 calendar, boasting some of David’s wonderful images.

‘The two of us worked on the book for about a year,’ David says, ‘Mandy persuading all the other cooks who’ve worked on board to part with a suitable recipe or two whilst I did the illustrations. I took most of the photos in between sessions of peeling potatoes and doing the washing up.’

David’s photos capture the tranquil travels beautifully, and his paintings are equally evocative.

The two friends worked hard to produce the book and calendar, but are both quick to heap praise on captain Nick and the friendly, enthusiastic folk who come on board too.

‘The Skipper is hugely important to the boat’s appeal,’ David says, ‘excellent company, very experienced, generous to all and a modern day Para Handy with a host of stories that would make Neil Munro jealous.’

‘You find an amazing variety of passengers book for a Puffer cruise,’ says Mandy. ‘Many are Friends of the Puffer and have been on several trips, generously donating both time and money to help keep her afloat.'

Good food and drink, good company and great views combine to make a trip on VIC 32 most memorable, adds David with a smile:

‘The act of putting twelve passengers within a confined space and setting out to sea, often after they’ve had to shift four tons of coal from the pier head, then plying them with good food and drink, tends to make for good company.’


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