'HEARTENED' Waverley chiefs are preparing to say thanks a million to thousands of people who have steamed in with donations to help save the special ship.

The current running total of cash gifts to return the iconic paddler to service next summer now stands at more than £850,000 — with new boilers and generators already ordered.

The non-profit charity which operates the vessel has set a target of £2.3 million to provide the maritime equivalent of open heart surgery and ensure her survival for decades to come.

Waverley Excursions general manager, Paul Semple, said: "The continued support for the boiler refit appeal has been heartening.

"We are receiving support from across the UK and beyond with many donations being made in memory of someone.

"We are delighted that the total raised so far is more than £850,000 but time is tight if we are to reach our target and have Waverley back in service for next summer."

Mr Semple added: "I would like to sincerely thank everyone who has donated so far as this has given us the confidence to order the boilers and electrical equipment required.

"The Paddle Steamer Preservation Society has continued to support our efforts and recently made a grant of more than £150,000 to the appeal.

"With so many people donating there is clearly strong support for this special ship."

Waverley's entire 2019 summer cruising season had to be scrapped as hopes that repairs to her existing boiler units would be enough were dashed.

Several other boiler room components are also to be replaced as part of a major investment to ensure that the grand old ship — which entered service in 1947 — can sail on 'for at least another 20 years'.

If further funds can be secured the work to recommission the last seagoing paddle steamer in the world will begin in earnest in January.

Mr Semple said: "All involved with this project are totally focused on the fact that Waverley must sail again and can't remain static.

"Our aim is to keep Waverley alive, but to achieve that aim we will need further support."

Donations can be made to the appeal at waverleyexcursions.co.uk or by calling 0141 243 2224 or by texting STEAM £20 to 70085.