BRISTOL CHANNEL FINALE
When we left Waverley at Folkestone on Tuesday 13 October amidst an angry English Channel, we wondered if she would sail again in passenger service in 1998. Conditions were worsening and the forecast offered no relief. Captain Colledge could not remain in the shelter of the harbour arm as the SeaCat required all available space to manoeuvre on to her berth. So he had to run before the storm to seek shelter in Dover Harbour and Waverley remained at anchor within its confines for a day. Finally the weather abated and the passage west could begin. Conditions were reported as being surprisingly good and landfall was made at Avonmouth at 0330 hrs on Friday.
However, the weather had not finished its tricks. Conditions did not permit the full cruise from Penarth and Clevedon to Minehead and Porlock Bay to take place on Friday and a cruise under the Severn Bridges had to be substituted. Saturday saw no improvement and the morning pick up at Clevedon was abandoned, passengers being bussed to join ship at Penarth. A short afternoon cruise was given from Penarth in the lee of the Welsh coast, inshore to Porthkerry thence up channel towards Newport before they were landed back at Penarth for a nice coach journey back to Clevedon. The evening cruise was given but the calls at Clevedon and Weston-super-Mare were cancelled. In the event, conditions at Clevedon had improved by the time Waverley had crossed the Bristol Channel. Such is life!
Sunday was unexpectedly a very pleasant day with blue skies, sun and light winds. A large crowd was embarked at Penarth, many of whom were taking the circular tour option. This comprised the hour's crossing to Clevedon followed by a coach trip to Bishop's Lydeard for a steam train ride before an afternoon in Minehead before rejoining Waverly for the final leg back to Penarth. Hardened steamer passengers, however, joined the steamer at Clevedon in fair numbers for the sea passage to Ilfracombe. The course taken for this cruise is always a little surprising as it takes the ship back across to the Welsh coast before regaining the English coast at the Foreland Light, just east of Lynmouth. Excellent views were had of the forbidding North Devon cliffs as Waverley made her way the rest of the way to Ilfracombe. An early arrival gave passengers plenty of time ashore in the town.
Heading home the first call was at the tidal Minehead Harbour. Captain Colledge, with his Welsh dragon fluttering at the jack staff, skilfully brought the paddler alongside the stone jetty as if he'd been doing it for years. Our steam train passengers came back on board for the cruise back to Penarth in the gathering twilight. Passing Barry it became clear that an unusual course had been set and that we were to pass inside Sully Island. This does not sound much until one realises that it is possible to walk to Sully Island for several hours each tide! The call at Penarth was made without incident, but there was a delay while the water tanks were topped up. Finally we were taken back to England to land at Clevedon Pier. Waverley went to the traditional anchoring ground at Walton to await her final day's sail.
The season's finale was the single trip down Channel from Clevedon and Penarth to Milford Haven, with coach return. Clevedon was departed at 9 a.m. as Waverley made her way across the shimmering waters of the Bristol Channel. Nearly 200 embarked at Penarth for the unusual voyage which was to enjoy almost unbroken sunshine. Heading out round Lavernock Point and towards Nash Point the seas became more broken. Course was set across Swansea Bay with our next landfall being Port Eynon Bay.
The Gower Coast was followed to the unique Worms Head (which looks like a mythical sea serpent) then course was set across Carmarthen Bay for Tenby and Caldy Island. HMS Monmouth was encountered here practising the Grey Funnel Fleet's mysterious evolutions, turning this way and that, speeding up and slowing down, stopping and starting - who knows why?
Although we had been promised passage Round Caldy, in the event we passed inside Caldy with excellent views of the Island and of the Victorian town of Tenby perched on its rocky cliffs. Although it is navigationally possible to hug the coast from here to Milford Haven, firing was taking place on the Army ranges and Waverley had to turn out to sea to remain outside the Danger Zone. Good time was being made as we passed St Ann's Head, by the entrance to the Haven, so we able to go a little further west to turn in the lee of the cliffs of the island of Skokholm.
On finally entering the Haven we were told that, owing to shipping movements, we would not be able to dock until 1830 hrs, 30 minutes later than scheduled. While we were stopped, a presentation to retiring Chief Engineer Andy Steele was made. One of his presents was a woolly Waverley tammie emblazoned with his name. Finally, clearance was given and we made our way confidently into the narrow lock to berth and disembark passengers for the last time in 1998. All passengers were quickly landed and aboard the waiting fleet of coaches for the journey back to Penarth or Clevedon. As the coaches made their way up the hill out of the little town of Milford Haven, we could look back and catch a last glimpse of two floodlit red, white and black funnels in the gathering gloom. Would this be our last sight of Waverley in her present form?
Joe McKendrick writes: "Waverley arrived Glasgow 9 p.m. Tuesday 20th after an uneventful journey north - non-stop wind and rain since she got back!"
28 October 1998
Return to Waverley's 1998 Season