September on the South Coast 1998

Part 1

Waverley enjoyed a favourable passage south despite having receiving a poor advance forecast. Consequently it had been decided to cancel the first cruise during the day on September 3 due to strong likelihood of a delayed arrival. The evening charter by the Swanage Pier Trust was given but the poor weather and uncertainty over her arrival reduced passenger numbers to only 92.

The first public cruise was therefore on Friday 4 September but this was not without incident. Unfortunately the weather deteriorated during the day with heavy rain intervening. The arrival back at Bournemouth coincided with a heavy ground swell and Waverley was unable to berth. The Bournemouth passengers were landed at Swanage and coached back. The evening fireworks cruise had to be abandoned due to the continuing ground swell. Waverley proceeded to Portsmouth to shelter overnight and her deliveries were diverted there.

The paddler was chartered on Saturday 5 September for a wedding celebration. The cruise was planned to be Round the Isle of Wight from Sandown. However, a few minutes alongside the Pier proved that conditions were too rough to remain for boarding. Coaches were laid on to take the guests to Ryde Pier to board there. Eventually they were all aboard and set off on a cruise confined to the sheltered waters of the Solent.

Sunday's cruise started on schedule from Southampton's Town Quay but difficulties were encountered releasing the bow rope from the pile. The slight delay caused was enough to mean that Waverley had to wait for the 0900 Red Funnel car ferry to get clear before she could turn. Although this would not normally be a problem it became clear as we approached Fawley Oil Refinery jetties that a large tanker, the Norissa, was getting under way. She had a tug attached to her stern to assist, if necessary, with steering and was proceeded at some distance by a pilot cutter. Her size meant that she was surrounded by an Exclusion Zone which no vessel can enter. Waverley was steaming down Southampton Water approaching Calshot Spit. The Norissa was following the deep water channel which would take her first to the west before describing a 180 degree turn around the Bramble Bank to exit to the east through Spithead. The Norissa's course was to take her across our bow. There was no alternative but to stop and allow her passage. The cumulative effect of these three events meant that Waverley had been delayed by some 30 minutes by the time we reached Yarmouth.

Leaving the Solent, the sea was choppy with some white horses. By taking a course out to sea some time was made up by Bournemouth, where there was a little swell alongside the pier. Across the Bay to Swanage and we were on time as we put out to sea for Weymouth. As we rounded Durlston Head the large ferry Barfleur passed on passage from Poole to Cherbourg. Away to the west large white seas could be seen breaking off St Albans Head. In view of this and forecast weather conditions, Captain Gellatly decided to turn for the east to give passengers a smoother cruise past Swanage Bay, Old Harry Rocks, Bournemouth Pier to Hengistbury Head before heading back to Swanage Pier to give time ashore. The return passage to Southampton went ahead without further incident.

Martin Longhurst

7 September 1998

Part 2

My last report ended with Sunday's cruise curtailed as the weather worsened. Fortunately Monday 7 September 1998 was a scheduled off service day so it didn't matter that conditions were bad, but continued high winds forced the complete cancellation of Tuesday's and Wednesday's sailings. Thursday was a little better and Waverley sailed from Portsmouth and Yarmouth as planned. However, conditions outside the Solent were still too bad to continue very far and a Solent cruise with two hours ashore at Yarmouth was substituted.

Friday saw a return to normality on the Southampton - Portsmouth - Yarmouth - Needles cruise. Even this sailing suffered as she turned back short on the cruise "for the comfort of passengers." Conditions continued to ease and Saturday's Round the Island was given in its entirety. The highlight was steaming past S.S. Shieldhall, a former Clyde sludge ship, just off The Needles. The Sheildhall was returning to Southampton from a day trip to Swanage under the command of Waverley's Master on the Solent in 1997, Captain Peter Tambling. There was much whistle and siren blowing as each ship tried to out do the other.

Conditions were a little rough between The Needles and St Catherine's Point, causing a late return to Sandown. This was to cost us dear for our delayed departure from Portsmouth Harbour Station Pier coincided with the arrival of the Superstar Express super-cat from Cherbourg and the Pride of Le Havre from Le Havre. The Queen's Harbour Master strictly controls all movements in the Harbour and insists that all other vessels give way to the super ferries. So we had to remain tied up at the Pier while these two vessels entered and passed us by. Conditions were such that a turn straight from the Station was not possible and so Waverley had to steam sedately astern of the Pride up to the North Corner to turn. In the end we left the Harbour about an hour down and tied up at Town Quay, Southampton, at 2210 hrs.

By Sunday calm seas and blue skies were in evidence and the sailing was given as scheduled, albeit some 30 minutes late back to Southampton. Again Monday was off service and sailings resumed on Tuesday with the Weymouth - Swanage - Bournemouth - Sandown - Portsmouth Harbour cruise. Unfortunately on the return south about from Sandown conditions began to worsen and Waverley put about and the Dorset passengers had to be coached home from Portsmouth. Wednesday's cruise was due to start from Weymouth as well, but the need to take fuel in Southampton meant that a coach had to be provided to bring these 46 hardy souls to join the ship at Swanage. The remaining cruise went ahead and the rendezvous with the S.S. Norway was accompanied by much whistling.

Thurday's sailing from Portsmouth to Yarmouth, Bournemouth, Swanage and a cruise to off Lulworth Cove was given under clear blue skies and on calm seas with excellent visibility. Captain Gellatly gently nosed Waverley up to the entrance to the Cove and was heard to remark on its narrowness! There were good numbers all day and on arrival back at Portsmouth the opportunity had been taken to turn the light sailing to Southampton into a birthday party for 150 guests.


Friday's cruise was undertaken successfully as was Saturday's, which finished on time with favourable tides. Over 600 enjoyed the sailing under blue skies and a flat calm sea. There was a glorious sunset with the golden-red light reflecting off the sea. The highlight was passing close by the outbound P&O liner Oriana in Spithead just after 2000 hrs. She looked magnificent with all her lights blazing.


Martin Longhurst

19 September 1998 (images added 30 September 1998)

Part 3

Sunday September 20 saw another cruise successfully accomplished with good numbers on board. Visibility left a little to be desired and 12 knots was the timed speed on the Durlston measured mile. The weather was changing for the better and there were no problems with the Worthing call on the Monday. Waverley sailed from Worthing to Yarmouth and then circumnavigated the Isle of Wight. There was a good pick-up from the Island port as this was the only Round the Island cruise offered in this short season.

Fine weather remained for the rest of the week with excellent sunshine up to Thursday. Friday remained fine but cloudy and a chill began to set in. Saturday's Round the Island went well, although heavy rain at Southampton left passengers paddling along Town Quay to join the ship. There were two good dry spells during the day with good views of the 'Back of the Wight' between St Catherine's Point and The Needles. At Sandown, Chief Officer Steve Colledge berthed Waverley on the little used western berth. This was part of his preparation for relieving as Master later in the season.

Continued changeable weather featured on Sunday's cruise and the long range forecast for the following week was pretty depressing. The sea remained calm, however, on September 27 as we paddled westwards. At

Yarmouth the particular combination of wind and tide was taking keen yacht skippers close to the Pier Head. Much whistle blowing was required to persuade them to go about and clear the way for us to berth. There were some showers later in the cruise which ran to time throughout the day. As it turned out this was to be the final Wessex cruise for 1998.

Martin Longhurst

13 October 1998

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