And So To The Capital

Words and Pictures by Martin Longhurst

After an off service day at Southampton on Monday, Waverley steamed away again on Tuesday 24 September 2002. Today was thought likely to be the last call at Sandown. However, in the event, the call was prevented by heavy swell. The steamer was able to carry out the remainder of her schedule without difficulty. With time in hand following the cancellation of the Sandown calls, she was able to turn back to Hurst Point after rounding The Needles.

On Wednesday the steamer started her day at Weymouth before heading to Swanage, Bournemouth and Yarmouth for a Solent cruise.


Two shots of Waverley, by Chris Jones, leaving Swanage on 25 September 2002

On the return to Swanage, the steamer took a single evening cruise to Bournemouth and Southampton, with return by coach. Passengers were also returned to Weymouth by coach.

Thursday marked the final cruise of the South Coast season from Southampton to Portsmouth, Worthing, Eastbourne and Folkestone, with various coach return options. The weather was perfect with pretty well unbroken sunshine and an off shore breeze.

Leaving Portsmouth Harbour Station Pier for the final time

The restored HMS Warrior at the southern extremity of the Dockyard

This brought a record number of passengers for this positioning trip. Excellent views were had of Selsey Bill, the South Downs as well as the coastal resorts.

Passengers and onlookers on Worthing Pier

Slowly coming alongside the landing stage

Berthing went smoothly at Worthing, a pier notorious for swell cancellations. A good number joined the ship with the option of returning from Eastbourne or Folkestone. Westward past Brighton we enjoyed a knowledgeable commentary by Robin Jones. This voyage also saw the final Wessex Branch raffle and it was announced that the total raised in just under three weeks was 5,500.

Beachey Head from the east - note the changing shape owing to erosion

Eastbourne Pier - designed by Eugenius Birch

A good crowd look on as the steamer is berthed

Passengers boarding at Eastbourne

The berthing at Eastbourne was delayed somewhat as one of the pier men had failed to grasp the concept of putting the end of the mooring rope on the bollard. By the time his error had been corrected the ship had been blown off the pier and it took some time to work her back in again. There was an excellent exchange of passengers, but lack of additional coaches meant that some unbooked passengers had to be disappointed. Nevertheless there were still nearly 500 on board for the final leg to Folkestone.

The ominous bulk of Dungeness Nuclear Power Stations with the lighthouse to the right

Sunset over the Leas Cliff, Folkestone

Heading back to Folkestone after turning at Dover

The cruise included a short eastward extension to View the White Cliffs of Dover. So the steamer turned away from Folkestone Harbour and followed the coast past Samphire Hoe (the reclaimed land formed from Channel Tunnel spoil) before turning out to sea just before Dover Harbour. Owing to the number of movements in and out of the Harbour there is a restricted navigation zone, which we could not enter. Waverley docked at Folkestone just after sunset and the passengers were disembarked into their waiting coaches. Now there is no ferry traffic at the port, the paddler was able to lie alongside overnight, rather than anchor in St Margaret's Bay.

Disembarkation completed the steamer rests at Folkestone

Friday dawned bright and sunny and large numbers of unbooked passengers were attracted to join the ship. So much so that the steamer was unable to depart until 10.39 with 674 on board altogether.

Passing Dover Harbour a number of cross-Channel ferries were spotted including Dawn Merchant (Norfolk Line), Seafrance Manet, Seafrance Rodin (above) and P&OSL Kent.

Under clear blue skies the paddler rounded first the South Foreland and later North Foreland to enter the Thames Estuary. The Shivering Sands Towers and Red Sands Towers came into sight and finally the coast of Essex to the north. Time was made up and Waverley was able to come alongside Tilbury Landing Stage only 20 minutes behind time. A further 100 joined the ship for the short cruise to Tower Pier.

A young passenger gazes at the Dome with the Canary Wharf towers behind

Approaching Tower Bridge

After disembarking her Folkestone and Tilbury passengers, the paddler took on a further 550 for the PSPS Evening Charter. This was very successful this year, earning over 3,000 for the Society.

Waverley is just moving off Tower Pier to take the Evening Charter

Going Full Head the Waverley speeds down stream. A plume of steam from the whistle shows that a long blast will be sounded as the steamer passes through Tower Bridge.

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