Sailing Reports 28 & 29 June 2003

by Roddy McKee

Saturday, 28 June 2003

"Balmoral’s" first weekend sailing of her 2003 visit to south-east England was also the initial PSPS London & Home Counties Branch hospitality cruise of the season.   Members were treated to tea and biscuits while "Ba1moral" stemmed the tide in the Pool of London waiting for Tower Bridge to lift for the outward sailing, and on the return trip down river to Woolwich and Tilbury Society Chairman Nick James conducted parties to the Great Hall of Machinery for a closer look at and listen to the new Grenaa diesels.

Sunday, 29 June 2003

Margate was warm and sunny with just a gentle easterly breeze when "Balmoral" arrived at the Lighthouse Pier for her 1130 sailing for the Pool of London. On passage to Whitstable Captain Kit Lee made a close pass of the isolated pierhead at Herne Bay, sadly showing signs of increasing dereliction.   By the time the ship reached Whitstable Harbour with twenty minutes in hand for her 1300 departure the easterly wind had picked up appreciably, but that proved a bonus.   On her predominantly westward voyage wind speeds over the deck were minimal and "Balmoral" became a suntrap for the rest of the afternoon.   After a slight delay at Whitstable waiting for a party of late passengers "Balmoral" was away for her next call at Southend, again catching up easily to allow an on-time departure at 1430.   The gremlins then decided all this was too boring and took a hand.

 Ten minutes out of Southend at the western end of the Leigh Small Ship Anchorage "Balmoral" came on a little motor cruiser "Al'n Dee", whose outboard motor had stopped motoring.   The two occupants were not up the creek without a paddle; rather the paddle was being waved vigorously as a signal of distress.   "Balmoral" turned, allowed the boat to drift down on her, passed a line and stood by.   Southend lifeboat was called and when the casualty had been transferred "Balmoral" resumed passage after a 27 minute delay.   The next target was the Tower Bridge lift at 1800 and, despite the strong ebb and the inevitable ease-downs in the river, time was gradually clawed back.   At the Thames Barrier Captain Lee asked Woolwich Radio to relay to Tower Bridge that he expected to be no more than five or ten minutes late.   But all unknown the gremlins had been at work again, this time on the diary in Tower Bridge's computer.

 As she approached Wapping, "Balmoral" proceeded ever more slowly as all efforts to contact Tower Bridge by VHF proved unsuccessful.   A call to Woolwich Radio confirmed the earlier message had been relayed, to a telephone answering machine!   "Balmoral" finally came to a stand at 1813, stemming the tide just below the bridge, an object of great interest to the tourists (except for the pair of romantic lovers wrapped up in and around each other dead centre in the opening span oblivious to the bows of an impatient passenger vessel yards away).   Neither was "Balmoral" apparently of great interest to the staff of Tower Bridge.   Woolwich Radio then offered to contact the bridge on the security number and a conversation ensued at second hand;  the cabin containing the controls for the bridge and the VHF radio was locked.   After initial denials that the booking had been made, "Balmoral" received an apology, the computer got the blame, the key for the cabin was found and a crew was assembled to chase the tourists off the bridge.   "Balmoral" sailed through at 1838, turned and was allowed an accelerated exit at 1850.   Despite all this extra entertainment "Balmoral" berthed at Royal Arsenal Pier in Woolwich only eleven minutes late where the sunburned Margate and Whitstable passengers' coaches awaited them.

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