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A bluff-bowed, Clyde-built, Scottish cargo boat, the heroine of Neil Munro's Para Handy tales, originally designed to fit the locks on the Forth and Clyde Canal. The first, the 20-metre (66-ft) iron-built Thomas launched in 1856, acquired the name because of the way her steam engine, which used fresh water from the canal instead of having a condenser, ‘puffed’ with every stroke. Later ones had condensers, so they did not ‘puff’, but they were still called puffers. Simple to operate, by the 1870s three types were in use: those working the Forth and Clyde Canal; the ‘shorehead’ ones that operated above Bute in the Firth of Clyde and on Loch Fyne; and the longer, 27-metre (88-ft) ones that were employed for trading with outlying Scottish islands. Later ones had diesel engines though the ones used as tenders to service the British fleet at Scapa Flow during both world wars were often steam powered. Puffers were still being built in the 1950s.

Subjects: Maritime History.

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