BRISTOL CHANNEL REPORT
Words and images by Martin Longhurst
Waverley had a reaonably good passage south. Conditions got a bit lumpy at one stage though, and she anchored for a while off Peel, Isle of Man. The weather was glorious for her arrival on the Bristol Channel, but broke the moment she started boarding passengers.
For the first two days it was impossible to berth at Clevedon owing to the wind and swell. On Friday 21 May, some Penarth passengers had already been landed at Minehead for a Somerset Villages coach tour before this became evident. They were due to re-embark at Clevedon, but had to be coached backed to Penarth. On arrival at Penarth, the 11 passengers from Minehead were take back in the same coaches. As there was no diversionary port available, the remaining passengers had to remain on board while the ship anchored for over an hour waiting for sufficient water at Penarth. On the following day a series of non-landing cruises from Penarth were given as no other calls, other than at Clevedon, were scheduled or indeed possible. Loadings were light for the first week's public sailings, but there were good numbers for the evening charters.
Waverley was due to take bunkers on Friday evening 28 May ready for her 0930 departure from Penarth on the Saturday morning. Unfortunately the fuel suppliers were unable to deliver the fuel until Saturday morning. This left Captain Gellatly no choice but to cancel the early Penarth sailing and arrange for the 85 passengers to be coached direct to Bishops Lydeard for their ride on the West Somerset Railway.
|We joined the ship at Clevedon being surprised to see the paddler approaching from the east while she should have been tied up at the Pier for an hour and three quarters. As you can see this did provide an unexpected opportuntity for digital photography. As the wind and tide were from the east, Captain Gellatly had to swing the ship to stem the tide from the west. A slow approach brought the paddler gently alongside without difficulty. Note the Scottish saltaire flying in the bow.|
|The name pennant is being flown from the Pier.|
Soon after leaving Clevedon the weather closed in with spectacular lightning, thunder and torrential rain. At this point a request from was received from Swansea Coastguard for Waverley to assist in a search for a missing vessel. A distress signal had been activated apparently between Flat Holm and Steep Holm. This was later found to be a false alarm, perhaps caused by the electrical storm.
|Waverley had to wait for the tide to rise sufficiently at Penarth before she could berth at the Pier, which dries out with each low tide despite its considerable height. The tide was about half an hour later than predicted.|
Not surprizingly, following the violent storm, there were only a few brave souls waiting on the Pier. However, the weather gradually improved as the day progressed. The next port was Minehead and this calls for a direct course across the Channel. Minehead Harbour is only available for Waverley for about two hours each tide which makes calls here fairly unusual and round trips even rarer. Waverley berths inside the substantial stone harbour wall with small craft berthed a few feet ahead of her bow. A short cruise to Porlock Bay and back was given for Minehead passengers and we were also joined by many Penarth passengers who had arrived by steam train some four hours earlier. Following the second call at Minehead,where we picked up the remaining Penarth passengers and the Clevedon passengers who had gone ashore, Waverley headed back up Channel without further incident.
For operational reasons it was not possible for Waverley to call at Bristol this year and coach connections were laid on to take passengers to Avonmouth or Clevedon on 31 May and 1 June. The sailings took place as scheduled apart from this. The cruise on Bank Holiday Monday westward from Ilfracombe reached Woolacombe Bay, well passed Bull Point, with excellent views beyond Hartland Point of mystical Duchy of Cornwall.
Saturday 5 June was rather stormy and there was some doubt about whether the sailing from Swansea could go ahead. 230 passengers took the plunge, however, and enjoyed a rough crossing to Ilfracombe. Before leaving Swansea Bay, Waverley passed close to Mumbles Pier, currently under restoration. The planned special call was not possible as the pier is not yet ready to receive shipping. On arrival at Ilfracombe, after consultation with Lundy Island and the M.V. Oldenburg (the Lundy ferry), it was decided that conditions would not permit the onward passage to Lundy.
The annual Wildlife Trust cruise to the Pembrokeshire Islands took place on Sunday 6 June. This is a round trip from Milford Haven and is always very popular, this year with 618 on board. Conditions had improved considerably with a long Atlantic swell running. It was possible to reach the islands of Grasholm, via The Smalls to Ramsey Island, Round Ramsey Island with close views of St David's Head, through the notorious Jack Sound, Round Skokholm then into St Bride's Bay back through Jack Sound and then around the west side of Skomer back to Milford Haven. Among the many species of birds noted were gannets, puffins, kittewakes and Manx shearwaters.
|Saturday 12 June saw a trip from Penarth and Clevedon for time ashore at Ilfacombe for the Victorian Festival there. Captain Colledge had taken over from Captain Gellatly who had taken some leave before assuming command of M.V. Balmoral during her stint on the River Thames. Here the paddler is seen approaching Clevedon Pier with the Welsh Dragon at her bow. Once again an inclusive steam railway trip was being offered from Penarth which accounts for the packed decks.|
|After a short
shower just after leaving Clevedon the weather steadily
improved during the day although temperatures remained
low. An hour and three-quarters was given at Ilfracombe
before Waverley turned her bows eastward. A quick call
was made at Minehead to pick up the steam railway
passengers before heading for the Welsh shore at Penarth.
This view shows the windlass used to haul in mooring lines and to raise the anchor. It is driven by a two cylinder steam engine (silver) which is controlled by the two lower red handles - the circular one changes the direction while the other controls the steam supply. The upper red handle is the brake on the anchor chain.
|The evening sun lit Clevedon Pier as we arrived at 2100 at the end of the cruise. The Pavilions were replaced last year as part of a Heritage Lottery Fund project to restore the Pier Head.|
|Veteran seaman Ray Buck hauls in the for'ard heaving line (from the bow) as Waverley comes alongside. The tide rises and falls 47 feet here so the current is strong.|
|The paddles start going astern to
slow the ship, pushing their wash out against the tide.
The heaving line for the for'ard spring mooring line,
which is run out from the sponson below, can be seen over
the hand rail ready to be thrown ashore.
Below her passengers disembarked, Waverley slowly paddles out to anchor for the night just off the Pier. It is now 2130 and she is due to start boarding at 0730 on Sunday.
Sunday 13 June was the Annual Waverley Church Service at St Helena's Church on Lundy. To give maximum time on the Island, early departures and late returns are necessary. Clevedon was left at 0800 and Penarth at 0900. Among the passengers were the acting couple Prunella Scales and Timothy West, who read a lesson at the Service.
On the return passage about 4 miles off Foreland Point, Waverley sustained damage to No. 1 float on her port wheel. This element of the wheel is critical as it drives the feathering gear on the remaining floats. Three radius rods were bent and the damage was such that it was impossible to effect repairs at sea and a tug had to be summoned. The tide carried Waverley westwards until she anchored off Lynmouth. As the extent of the damage became clear, passengers were offered complimentary tea, coffee, biscuits and chips. The tug Holm Garth arrived at about 0130 on Monday but a speedy tow was not possible as to do so might have caused further damage to the crippled wheel. This was only possible because the tide had turned and carried both paddler and tug eastwards. During the incident Waverley was escorted by Barry Lifeboat.
Approaching Barry Docks another tug, Port Garth, took a line from Waverley's stern and the two tugs gently manouevred the paddler slowly into the lock and finally spun the ship round inside the Docks to berth her port side to in order to facilitate repairs. The final arrival was about 0800 and passengers were then coached to Penarth and Clevedon.
Gordon Reid, the Rebuild Project Manager, transported spare parts from the store at Anderston Quay, Glasgow, to the ship during the day on Monday. The wheel was rebuilt overnight so that Waverley could resume service on Tuesday. Waverley took up her timetable at Clevedon at 1130 on Tuesday with passengers from Sharpness being coached down.
The call at Weston on 17 June did not take place as planned due to building work at Knightstone Harbour which would have prevented passengers landing. Instead passengers were transferred between ship and shore by launch.
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