Words and pictures by Martin Longhurst




The paddler’s Clyde season came to an abrupt end on Saturday 25 August when boiler control problems brought her sail to Tighnabruaich to a premature end between Helensburgh and Dunoon.  After a long delay the steamer was able to reach Greenock where the sailing terminated.  Specialist repairs were required and these were not signed off until 5 pm on the Monday by which time it was too late to reach Liverpool to start her next scheduled sailing.  Instead, passengers were coached from Liverpool to Llandudno where Waverley took up her timetabled sailings.  The rest of the Irish Sea programme went ahead as planned.

The steamer then positioned to Swansea to commence her Bristol Channel season.  The initial call at Porthcawl did not go ahead, with passengers taken to Swansea by coach instead.   The rest of the cruise to Ilfracombe and the Devon coast went ahead.  After that the paddler proceeded light ship to Walton Bay anchorage ready for an early start the following day.

Saturday took Waverley from Clevedon and Penarth to Ilfracombe for three and a half hours ashore.  Good numbers were booked on all the short season’s sailings. 

Waverley alongside Clevedon Pier on 1 September

Approaching the same pier on 2 September


Sunday was a similar trip but extended to Lundy Island with nearly two hours given on the mystic isle. 

Arrival at Lundy

An earlier visitor had not been so lucky

Passengers streaming off the steamer and up the hill

The view from half up

The Lundy crew watch our departure

The Cardiff Pilot climbs aboard

Minehead Harbour fits Waverley like a glove

A complex trip was given on Monday 3 September, leaving Clevedon and Penarth for Minehead.  There passengers had the choice of returning on the West Somerset Railway to Bishops Lydeard and coach to Clevedon or staying on board to Ilfracombe for time ashore.  Here, the opportunity was taken to load fuel and stores.  Passengers from Minehead were offered a single steamer trip to Ilfracombe with a coach return to Minehead.  As Minehead is tidal, a second call was not possible on this occasion. At Clevedon, the train passengers from Penarth re-joined Waverley for the return to Wales.  The paddler anchored in Penarth Roads rather than Walton Bay, as she has the previous two days.

The wind had turned colder for the last day of the short season on Tuesday 4 September.  The steamer sailed across to Clevedon to start her day, picking up excursionists for the Brecon Mountain Railway at Merthyr Tydfil.  At Penarth, the next trip started with passengers joining for a cruise under the Severn bridges.  English passengers joined at Clevedon before the short passage upstream.  On the return to Clevedon the afternoon cruise round the Holms commenced, with another call at Penarth before the circumnavigation commenced.   Finally, the steam railway and cruise passengers were carried back to Clevedon before Waverley headed for Porlock Bay to anchor for the night.

After hauling up the next morning, the steamer proceeded to Ilfracombe for a brief operational call before heading for the open sea to round Land’s End.  She berthed at Weymouth early on Thursday morning, poised for her first South Coast cruise on the Friday.

The weather had been serene throughout the Bristol Channel season and for the positioning voyage but now the wind was starting to increase.  The early part of the trip went ahead as planned from Weymouth and Swanage to Yarmouth for a sail round the Isle of Wight.  

Approaching Yarmouth Pier from Swanage

Rounding The Needles on the way back to Yarmouth

Waverley preparing to sail to Southampton from Yarmouth

The circumnavigation first continued eastwards through the Solent continuing round Bembridge Ledge and across Sandown Bay.  Rounding St Catherine’s Head, the seas became more lively as we steamed west for The Needles, finally turning east again to berth at Yarmouth.   Captain Cochrane had decided that sea conditions were no longer suitable for the steamer to return to Swanage and it took some time for a plan to be made to get the Weymouth and Swanage passengers home.  In the event, Waverley sailed direct to Southampton.  Coaches had been previously booked (as timetabled) to take Weymouth passengers back from Swanage and it was possible to divert these to Southampton.  No more coaches could be obtained at short notice, so the Weymouth passengers were taken to Southampton Central station, so they could return by train at the company’s expense.   The coaches then returned to the quayside to pick up the remaining passengers and take them to Swanage.  This arrangement was adopted because there is no regular rail service to Swanage at present.

The wind continued to blow over the weekend, with Saturday’s cruise unable to go outside the Solent and Sunday and Tuesday’s cruises cancelled completely.  (Monday was a planned off-service day.)  On the Saturday the cruise proceeded as planned from Southampton and Portsmouth to Yarmouth where the curtailment was announced.  Waverley returned east, turning off St Helens, but on the return to Yarmouth, Captain Cochrane took the steamer well to the north to provide a least a glimpse of The Needles as compensation.

The bow of the brand new car ferry Victoria of Wight with the Gosport ferry Harbour Spirit on passage to Gosport

HMS Warrior is masked by the car ferry which awaits full commissioning

A busy scene in Portsmouth - Ali Cat of Cowes (left), the 3-master Tenacious and Wight Ryder II while the Spinnaker Tower dominates

Normandie Express inbound

The paddler was able to resume service on the Wednesday, having spent three days alongside her berth at Southampton.   However, she did not venture to Weymouth, with passengers coached to Swanage to join the ship.  The rest of the sail went ahead as planned to Yarmouth for a Portsmouth Harbour cruise.  The steamer anchored off Gurnard (just west of Cowes) for the night.

Thursday’s cruise started as planned from Portsmouth Harbour Station Pier, although a little delayed waiting for connecting coach passengers from Worthing.   A good load joined at Yarmouth under blue skies and light winds.   The turnover of passengers at Swanage was incredible and all these factors combined to make the steamer late.  Nevertheless, we were able to sail west as far as Lulworth, albeit some distance from the coast as the firing range was in use, and still depart from Swanage on time.  At the conclusion of the public sailing, the steamer proceeded to her berth at Southampton ready for her weekend sailings.

Friday took Waverley to Portsmouth and Yarmouth to view The Needles.  There was a brisk southerly breeze blowing at Yarmouth.  The approach to the pier is heavily constrained by nearby moorings and on this occasion a yacht was moored in a very awkward position, leading to the cancellation of the call after two attempts.

However, the weather was perfect on Saturday 15 September with a lighter sou’westerly breeze and a lot of sunshine.  We enjoyed a beautiful sail around the Isle of Wight, rounding the Needles first.  The visibility was exceptional, with distant views of Purbeck and the South Downs being possible.

Unfortunately, the period of light winds was coming to an end with the approach of the remains of Hurricane Helene and Sunday’s cruise had to be cancelled once again.

Many cruise ships are encountered as Southampton now hosts three or four most weekends.  Azura is framed by the starboard aft sponson door.

The sun sets as Waverley steams past the anchored Hurst Point


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