IT'S full steam ahead for the world’s last seagoing passenger-carrying paddle steamer to return to Clacton and Harwich this year.

An appeal to raise the funding to get Waverley back on the waves for 2023 has been successful and brought in £168,000 to cover dry dock costs.

As a result, the ship will be docking at Clacton Pier and Harwich Quay again in the autumn.

The trust that runs Waverley had faced a race against time to come up with the cash to keep her sailing.

A huge hike in operating costs last season led to increased financial pressure and its future hung in the balance.

Clacton Pier director Billy Ball said that it is fantastic news that enough money has been raised through the appeal.

“Waverley returned to our attraction for the first time in four years in 2022 and it was great to see her back,” he said.

“The number of passengers was higher than expected and it was a real success story.

“The pier started out its life accommodating ships bringing visitors to the town back in the 1870s and paddle steamers are a huge part of our history. Long may these cruises continue.”

Waverley went into Garvel dry dock in Greenock, Scotland, last week and will move into the adjacent James Watt dock for work to continue afloat.

Tim Wardley, chairman of the National Piers Society, who has a 30-year association with the vessel, said the dry dock is the single largest expense of the maintenance and refit.

“It involves its annual inspection of the hull, repainting and some steel renewals this time around,” he added.

“This all needs to be completed before Waverley moves on to Glasgow where its season begins on May 19 before moving south later in the year.”

Mr Wardley said that the appeal fell just short of the £180,000 target and fundraising will continue.

Last year Waverley operated the Thames cruise programme – which includes Clacton and Harwich - from September 28 to October 6 and this autumn it will be extended to September 22 to October 8.

A full timetable will be announced later in the season.