Waverley in the South 2017


Words and pictures by Martin Longhurst (except where stated)


To set the scene for this report, I am quoting from Paul Semple’s PSPS National Newsletter:

“On Thursday 24th August 2017 Waverley made her final call at the old pier at Brodick on the Isle of Arran. It had been expected that she would have been using the new pier this season but owing to a delay in completing the facilities, the new berth is not yet commissioned. It will now be 2018 before Waverley uses the new pier although she did make a trial berthing at it in June. A report on her final call at the old pier is available on the PSPS website (paddlesteamers.org).

As it happened Thursday 24th August turned out to be the steamer’s final full day sailing for this summer’s Clyde season. The following day, while leaving Rothesay pier, Waverley’s bow made contact with the promenade. Unfortunately, this caused some minor damage and the weekend’s sailings had to be cancelled. This meant that the lucrative Cowal Games Saturday and the final sailing to Lochranza for the 2017 season were lost.

Waverley then entered the Garvel dry dock in Greenock on the afternoon of Saturday 26th August for repairs. It was fortunate that Garvel were able to accommodate the ship at short notice. Repairs were completed quickly and the vessel was back alongside Greenock’s Custom House Quay on the afternoon of Monday 4th September. Unfortunately, Waverley’s sailings from Liverpool, Llandudno and on the Bristol Channel had to be cancelled. Two of the sailings cancelled were sold out but all customers were offered a full refund. The office staff in Glasgow have worked exceptionally hard during this period to inform customers, handle enquiries and process refunds. They deserve our thanks for their commitment during a difficult few weeks.

At 4pm on Tuesday 5th September Waverley departed Greenock’s Custom House Quay bound for Weymouth. By the small hours of Thursday 7th September, she had rounded Land’s End and by late morning she was safely tied up at Weymouth.”

No sooner had the steamer arrived in Weymouth then the weather closed in and the first sailing due to take place on Friday 8 September 2017 had to be cancelled.  Fortunately, the wind moderated just in time for the paddler to position to Southampton during the evening ready for Saturday’s cruise to Portsmouth, Yarmouth and round the Island.  This had to be curtailed as, on clearing The Needles, a strong swell was encountered and Captain Cochrane decided to return to the sheltered waters of The Solent.

Stormy weather then intervened precluding any more sailings until Friday 15 September.  This took Waverley from Southampton to Portsmouth and Yarmouth for a cruise Round the Needles.   There was a significant delay at Portsmouth awaiting an ambulance to evacuate an injured passenger, resulting a shortened cruise from Yarmouth but still late returns to Portsmouth and Southampton.

Fortunately, the weather took a break and both the weekend’s sailings were able to go ahead as planned.  Saturday saw the circumnavigation of the Isle of Wight completed and Sunday took the steamer to Swanage and Weymouth.  


Returning towards The Needles on 17 September

Tuesday took the paddler light to Swanage for another trip round the Isle of Wight, concluding with a positioning run to Weymouth, ready for Wednesday’s cruise.  Unfortunately, Waverley was delayed by 2 hours awaiting the fuel tanker.  This ruined the day’s itinerary as there would now be insufficient day light for the steamer to return to Swanage.   Therefore, few passengers travelled from these two ports, as they would be returned home by coach from Southampton very much later than planned.   The trip round Portsmouth Harbour was cancelled at the last moment as the tug needed to turn Waverley had to deal with an urgent task instead.  Bad weather returned on the final Thursday, 21 September, with the planned Lulworth sailing being confined to The Solent, including a visit to Portsmouth Dockyard.


Two cross channel ferries (Mont St Michel and Etretat on the right) and  alongside at Portsmouth Continental Ferry Port at the northern end of the commercial harbour


The vast bulk of HMS Queen Elizabeth undergoing commissioning








A Dutch amphibious support ship


Wight Ryder II passes HMS Dragon at anchor in the background

Fortunately, the weather relented sufficiently for Waverley to make her overnight passage to the North Kent Coast, where she dropped anchor in the early morning.  She was able to give her first Thames trip later, leaving Whitstable at 2.30 for Southend, Gravesend and Tower Pier.  The weekend’s cruises were given successfully, to Whitstable on the Saturday …

On Saturday 23 September we shared our bridge lift with the Thames sailing barge Hydrogen

The Brazilian naval training ship Brasil was moored alongside HMS Belfast

After passing through Tower Bridge


The sail training ship for the disabled Lord Nelson moored at HMS President

Two Cobelfret ferries at Purfleet, Clementine (right) and Wilhelmine

Waverley alongside at Whitstable Harbour

… and to Red Sands Fort on the Sunday.


The timetable has been modified now only allowing a visit to the nearer fort


Three container ships alongside at Thames Gateway


Hapag-Lloyd’s Europa moored at Greenwich

Monday was a planned off-service day while Tuesday’s scheduled trip was cancelled in favour of a private charter.  Wednesday’s sailing took the steamer from Clacton and Southend through Tower Bridge to Tower Pier.  High winds returned and Friday’s was restricted to upriver from Gravesend with Southend passengers being coached there.  However, the steamer was able reach Harwich ready for her sailing on Saturday back to Clacton and Tower Pier.

The wind returned on the Sunday with activities restricted to upriver from Gravesend.   Monday was again a planned off-service day so was unaffected by the weather but Tuesday’s sailing was limited to the upper reaches, with Whitstable and Southend travellers brought to Gravesend by coach.   Wednesday’s cruise was cancelled completely and Thursday’s programme was cut back to a single positioning sailing from Gravesend to Tower Pier, again due to adverse winds.

Conditions improved on Friday and the whole cruise from Tower Pier to Gravesend and Southend for the Thames Forts was given as scheduled.  Similarly, the cruise from Tower Pier, Gravesend and Southend to the River Medway went ahead, with the paddler again meeting the preserved tug Touchstone for a rendezvous near Sheerness.  



Preserved tug Touchstone carrying a party of Waverley supporters


wav from tstone2

Waverley as seen from Touchstone (Jean Spells)

On the return journey we passed two Chinese warships leaving after a successful goodwill visit to London’s West India Dock.

This is the frigate Huanggang.  Note the pilot cutter as the upriver pilot is relieved by his down river colleague.

The final day of the Thames programme started bright and sunny, with over 400 on board from Tower Pier to Southend direct. 


Looking back at Woolwich, with the three master Earl of Pembroke and Hurricane Clipper at Woolwich Pier and the Free Ferry to the right of the picture

Unfortunately, there were boiler problems while we were alongside Southend Pier and our departure for Whitstable was delayed by 45 minutes.  In turn this meant there was insufficient time for time ashore at the Kentish port, as 300 more had to come on board during our brief stay. 

wav whit

Waverley approaching the harbour mouth at Whitstable (Jean Spells)

The steamer was able to start her return voyage on time but the boiler gremlins returned at Southend but they were dealt with in 25 minutes on this occasion.   Waverley then proceeded upriver in fine style, knocking back the deficit to arrive on time for her bridge lift at 8.30 p.m.   The paddler then set out on her return voyage to her Glasgow base.  The forecast for the coming week predicted spells of strong winds with a few windows when the wind speed was expected to reduce.  After a few hours at Gravesend, she set out for Weymouth, just beating the first spell of adverse weather.  After over a day at the Dorset port, conditions were propitious for the next leg which took the steamer round Lands End to the Welsh port of Fishguard, where she again took shelter waiting for the next gap.   This came after a day and allowed her to steam north in the lee of the Irish coast to a sheltered anchorage off Bangor, Northern Ireland.   The westerly wind was too strong at that point to allow passage across the open water to the Firth of Clyde.   Another day passed before Waverley could undertake the final leg, arriving back at Pacific Quay, Glasgow, shortly before midnight on Sunday 15 October 2017.   Unfortunately, this meant the final weekend sailings on the Clyde could not be given but at least the steamer was back in Glasgow in time for her lay up to start on time.


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