AN APPEAL to raise £2.3million to safeguard the future of the last seagoing paddle steamer has been launched.

The PS Waverley is a regular visitor to Poole Harbour, Swanage Pier and the Jurassic Coast.

However, the paddle steamer's 2019 season was cancelled, earlier this year, following the discovery of major problems with the ship's 20-year-old boilers.

More than £100,000 has already been donated, such is the popularity of the vessel. And on Saturday, in Glasgow, Scotland, the official appeal was launched.

Paul Semple, who heads the team which operates the ship, said: "We are heartened by the support so far.

"It is clear that huge numbers of people around Britain and around the world want to see Waverley sail again.

"But the financial challenge which faces Waverley remains very significant, and we urgently need more funds to let us place the orders and then carry out the work over the next nine months."

It is hoped the paddle steamer will be back in operation in 2020.

PS Waverley was built in 1946 and sailed from Craigendoran on the Firth of Clyde to Arrochar on Loch Long until 1973.

She was bought by the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society and restored to her 1947 appearance.

Since 2003 the Waverley has been listed in the National Historic Fleet as "a vessel of pre-eminent national importance."

The work on the boilers will be a complex job, which will include the removal of the ship's twin funnels and large sections of decking just to allow the boilers to be removed. Engineers say the replacements are expected to extend the vessel''s operational life by another 20 to 25 years.

Mr Semple said: "There’s a real determination not to allow Waverley to become a static relic. She was built to sail, and that’s what so many people want to see again.

"Waverley’s truly unique status as the world’s last seagoing paddle steamer mustn’t be taken for granted.

"Not for the first time, the future of the ship hangs in the balance.

"Once again, it’s time to save the Waverley."