guildford steamboat meet makes welcome return
saturday 9th july 2022
The colourful presence of anything up to 18 steam launches of different sizes and vintages always makes Guildford’s ‘Puffing a-Wey’ event truly atmospheric.
‘Puffing a-Wey’, first held in 2012, brings members and boats from the Steamboat Association of Great Britain to Dapdune Wharf in central Guildford as guests of the National Trust. The Trust owns the River Wey and Godalming navigations, maintaining the waterways to a high standard, and the charming Dapdune heritage site is their centre of operations. Almost hidden behind Guildford’s Cricket Ground, the place has a uniquely rural atmosphere despite its closeness to the busy centre of town.
A number of steamboat owners regard the Wey as home waters, and steamboats somehow ‘fit’ because they are extremely colourful. No two are the same and like anything steam driven they seem to breathe and have their own individual voices, be it ‘Lady Amanda’ and her huge ‘chime’ whistle of the sort you might hear on ‘Mallard’ – the world’s fastest steam locomotive - or a discreet, terribly English, ‘toot’, more in keeping with the scale of the petite ‘Melissa’.
A few steam boaters might admit that they only run their boat for the whistle and the steam kettle, the highly polished and fast acting ‘Windermere kettle’ being an essential piece of equipment. Some even sport pie ovens and the owners are quick to point out you can’t have that feature if you’re powered by an outboard motor...
‘Puffing a-Wey’ is popular with visitors to Dapdune Wharf, and boaters are asked if, for this one official day of their weekend meet, they will keep the wharf area busy with lots to look at.
Registrations are rolling in and between 15 and 18 vessels will be making the journey to Guildford for the day.
Whatever the age of the craft, the ‘look’ is essentially Victorian or Edwardian, whether the boat carries a clerestoried cabin or is simply arranged as an open launch or day boat. Often boats have been constructed by their owners and the same is true of many of the engines – ‘singles’, ‘twins’, ‘compounds’ or ‘triples’ built in various configurations by the owners themselves in home workshops. Being steam powered their moving parts are largely exposed, making them into conversation pieces for those really interested to find out more.
One of the delights of steam boating is that it is still reasonably accessible and if not built by the owner, a 16’ open launch might cost between £5 and £8000 depending on condition, Maintenance is important as is safety, and the Steamboat Association is committed to promoting best practice in both areas.
The SBA, an early member of the Heritage Fuels Alliance, is also dedicated to looking for sustainable alternatives to coal in its effort to reduce the impact of heritage steam power on our changing climate: you might even detect compressed coffee grounds, amongst other things, being used to raise steam...
Come and take a look at Puffing a-Wey on Saturday 9th July.