More Mersey Sails!
by Frank Gradwell
If Tuesday 19 June 2001 was a marvellous return to North Wales after twenty four years with 644 ex Liverpool and approx 200 or so out of Llandudno ( - and if its another twenty four, some other silly bugger can run round with the raffle tickets - ) then Wednesday was the icing on the cake.
We arrived at the Albert Dock to find Waverley parading off Cammell Lairds waiting for the ten o'clock ferry, just as we were forced to wait for the ten o clock opening of the Albert Dock car park. That was sorted courtesy of a little public pressure when the attendant had to open up five minutes early as the road system went into meltdown when numerous intending passengers who had been told to come back at ten arrived en masse at ten to ten.
This stroke of good fortune was negated straight off, however, when at five past ten the Canning Half Tide lock was opened to permit a few small ship movements and was not closed again until twenty past ten - more heart attack material.
We boarded only to find that the forecast WNW wind had caused a little concern upstairs and that Purser Jim McFadzean was announcing various alternatives. We duly sailed with some 612 aboard. Whilst the weather was fresh, it was not distressing and as we reached the limits of the Crosby Channel, and let the European Envoy overtake us, it was announced that we would retrace our steps of Tuesday and sail towards Rhyl as that would be easier all round. Captain Graeme Gellatly was getting it right again.
On turning at the bar, we then sailed in a leisurely fashion, with the wind balanced beautifully so that the sails hung limp, back into a sunlit river with 600 sunbathing or putting away a few beers to while away a glorious day.
A swift transfer onto the 16.15 ferry by Alan James from the shop, George Boswell and myself put us in place
for a superb parallel sailpast of the waterfront ...
... and then a ride on a Birkenhead "Hong Kong" tram.
Waverley moored off Woodside between the ferry terminal and Lairds pending her evening cruise, permitting shots
against the Albert Dock and cathedrals - hence the one to spare.
318 came aboard for a superb run to the Mersey Bar in one of the best sunsets of the year to provide a perfect backdrop to an evening cruise. The Merseysippi Jazz Band blew all night - they really are very good you know. My mate Derek won the raffle - no fix!!! and again the run back was with the wind.
Waverley had enjoyed a peach of a return to river that should see more of her. She had carried 1,750 passengers and had enjoyed the best two days receipts of the year so far. The PSPS sold over £1,000 gross value in raffle tickets and I was one very happy chappy. Even my new son in law was impressed with the ship and also pressed into selling raffle tickets too. His wife was two weeks old the last time the ship had been on the river in 1980.
Now the important part - can we have her back next year please?
There is the little matter of the Commonwealth Games taking place 39 miles east of Pier Head and there is a canal with locks of 65' beam and 600' length that will take her 36.4 miles of that. Don't you think she would grace the new Imperial War Museum and Lowry Centre moored on their waterfront.
Come on let's be adventurous!
..... and just to complete the picure here are pictures of :-
Waverley at Llandudno in May 1977 (note smoke from both funnels) and ...
... Waverley in stormy conditions on the Mersey in May 1980.
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