THE charity which owns and runs the Maid of the Loch paddle steamer has launched an appeal for new volunteers to help keep the ship’s restoration plans on course – and has outlined a host of ambitious plans for the future.

The call has gone out from the Loch Lomond Steamship Company (LLSC) as the charity prepares for one of the most important days in the famous vessel’s story: the moment when she will be winched out of the water and on to a ‘carriage’ next to her Balloch Pier berth for a comprehensive hull survey.

That work, the charity hopes, will ensure the Maid – which carried her first load of pleasure cruisers on Loch Lomond 68 years ago last month, but hasn’t sailed since 1981 – will be in a suitable condition to go on welcoming people on board for decades to come.

The LLSC’s plans for 2021 mean that, as previously revealed in the Reporter, the Maid herself won’t be open to the public this summer – but there will still be plenty going on throughout the year.

LLSC director Henri van der Stighelen said: “The Maid of the Loch is the largest ship afloat on UK inland water.

“In fact the Maid has not sailed for many years. She was put to rest in 1981, berthed at Balloch Pier and left neglected.

“Before the Maid can sail again, her hull must be inspected. For this she must be pulled out of the water.

“This is where the story becomes incredible. The Maid will be loaded on to a massive articulated carriageway that supports her unladen 430 tonnes and our fully functioning steam winch house pulls her out of the water.

“The old carriage was not up to the job so an incredible re-engineered version has been built and the Maid is now in waiting for her trip to dry land.

“Already there is massive interest in this soon-to-be-announced historic moment, planned for this summer.

“But this is not just about the Maid, there is much more.

“Our heritage ‘A listed’ winch house is already a popular tourist attraction and the only one of its kind in the northern hemisphere.

“We plan to rebuild and commission Balloch Pier station, with potential to restore the bridge between rail and water.

“We will host a museum workshop on site with presentations and skills demonstrations as a tourist and special interest destination, even when the Maid is sailing with her guests.

“The benefits of what we plan to achieve are almost limitless.

"The success of the Maid of the Loch programme will be a blueprint for what can be achieved for the wider community and a celebration of our heritage into the future.”

The charity already enjoys the help of a small army of volunteers and engineering specialists, but with those big plans, for this year and beyond, in mind, they’re keen to welcome more volunteers to the team.

Henri continued: “Our volunteers would be the pride of any of our Clyde shipbuilders, without whom none of this would be possible.

“Engineering, the trades, practical enthusiastic helpers, even retirees with a ‘can still do’ attitude are very welcome to apply.

“Young people looking for some work experience with real craftsmen and women are always welcome.

“Of course this is an all-encompassing programme; if you feel you have something to contribute, people skills, customer service or admin we’d like to hear from you.

“This could even be a ‘peep’ into a future – your future – that is possible and achievable.

“We operate a policy of equal opportunity. This is a great opportunity to become part of history in the re-making.”

If you would like to become part of the Maid of the Loch’s volunteer team, email and tell the team what skills or abilities you can bring to their programme.