Waverley Returns to the South

by Martin Longhurst

Updated to 27 September

Update Saturday 4 September 1999

After a magnificent run south from Glasgow to Weymouth in 36 hours, Waverley took up service on Friday 3 September. 500 passengers travelled on the day time sailing from Weymouth and 582 on the evening cruise from Bournemouth.

My first trip was on Saturday 4 September, joining the paddler in the River Itchen within Southampton's Eastern Docks. Under clear blue skies the vessel made her way to Portsmouth to pick up more happy trippers before steaming on to Sandown Pier. Althogether some 521 people had joined the ship for the clockwise circumnavigation of the Isle of Wight. Passing Scratchells Bay the paddler paused and blew three good whistle blasts in memory of Kevin Smith, a regular passenger whose ashes had recently been scattered there.

Roddy McKee had brought his personal GPS Receiver with him and measured the distance round the Island as 51.6 nautical miles. The voyage was completed in 4 hours 7 minutes, giving an average speed of almost 12.5 knots.

At Portsmouth we were delayed awaiting the arrival of P&O's Pride of Portsmouth. Then we were able to proceed up the Harbour to turn in the wider part near the North Corner

Out in the Solent we passed close by another P&O ship, the Oriana, outward bound for a cruise. Coming up Southampton Water we overhauled one of Red Funnel's car ferries. leaving her lights far astern. And so back to the Eastern Docks, but not quite to the same berth as we moored at Berth 24 in the Empress Dock for the night.

Update Sunday 5 September 1999

On boarding Waverley we were informed by Purser Jim MacFadzean that the fuel company had failed to deliver any fuel that morning. Consequently the paddler would not be able to complete the day's full schedule. The options were to arrange a tanker at Weymouth, to give a one way sailing to Weymouth (with coaches back) or to turn short at Swanage.

The departure from the Empress Dock was effected by warping the ship astern around the end of the quay and into the River Itchen, completing a 180 degree turn in the process. Progress was then made through quite misty conditions which remained all day. A large crowd was lifted at Yarmouth. Shortly after leaving there the Trinity House vessel Mermaid was passed inbound.

By Bournemouth Captain Gellatly had decided to cut short the cruise at St Alban's Head, thus giving Swanage passengers the opportunity of a short sail. Unfortunately this put off some passengers but those that came had an excellent trip.

Waverley lay alongside Swanage Pier for nearly three hours thus conserving fuel for her return to Southampton.

As the paddler was due to sail at 0530 on Monday to take up her schedule at Worthing, Captain Gellatly elected to turn the ship on arrival, taking advantage of the presence of a mooring party from the S.S. Shieldhall. This was the reverse of the morning's manoeuvres, with the stern being winched around the end of the quay in to Empress Dock. Then the mooring rope was moved from bollard to bollard back into the Dock by the mooring party until the final position was reached.

Update 9 September 1999

Monday's cruise went ahead as planned following the delivery of fuel on Sunday evening. Nearly 600 joined the paddler at Worthing for the trip to Yarmouth, Bournemouth and Poole Harbour. 12 coaches were booked for the return from Portsmouth to Worthing.

On Tuesday weather conditions deteriorated during the day causing a heavy swell which led to difficulties berthing at Sandown. Arrival at Bournemouth was just over two hours late. The light sailing on to Weymouth to take up schedule on Wednesday was cancelled. Instead the paddler proceeded to the safe haven of Southampton.

On Wednesday morning she sailed at 0900 light for Swanage. The 70 Weymouth passengers were coached to join the ship there. The remainder of the cruise proceeded with swell conditions not greatly improved. In the end it was decided not to return to Weymouth and the unfortunate passengers were also returned by coach.

The paddler spent her second night at Swanage before sailing light for Portsmouth. Standing in for Wightlink's Fast Cat Our Lady Patricia was the local excursion catamaran Ali Cat, owned by Mark Rayment. Departure was delayed as HMS Grafton made her way out of the Harbour. A good number were uplifted at Yarmouth before we made our way to Bournemouth and Swanage. Excellent views were had of the Dorset Coast as we sailed west to Lulworth. Conditions were perfect at the Cove and Captain Gellatly took the bows of the steamer right up to its entrance before turning east. The remainder of the cruise went ahead as scheduled.

Updated 11 September 1999

Friday's cruise from Southampton and Portsmouth to Yarmouth and The Needles was a great success. A special offer for Senior Citizens of 'Take a Friend Free' was available and nearly 400 people took advantage of it. Altogether some 580 passengers were on board leaving Portsmouth.

Approaching Portsmouth on the return leg a thick fog came down which slowed things down resulting in an hours' delay by Southampton. Nick James, PSPS Chairman, had organized a Jazz Charter in the evening so he was a little concerned by this development. However, the fog lifted and his cruise went ahead as planned to raise funds for his school.

Saturday dawned hazy and remained so. Waverley was berthed in the Empress Dock at Southampton, stern in once again. Departure was effected by carrying the mooring lines forward until the bow line could be used to turn the paddler round an elbow in the dock wall to line up with the entrance. This procedure takes some time to complete compared with the relatively easy departure from Town Quay. All the way down Southampton Water and across Spithead there was a large number of yachts milling about. This caused more delay as Captain Gellatly threaded the steamer between them.

We were allowed to enter Portsmouth Harbour between Brittany Ferries' Normandie and P&O's Pride of Portsmouth. To assist with a smooth departure, the little launch James Green was employed to push the bow round, avoiding the need for time consuming manoeuvres.

538 were on board for the circumnavigation of the Isle of Wight. At 3pm Purser Jim MacFadzean made a Special Announcement. He had been asked by a young man named Stuart to propose marriage to his girl friend Michelle. Suspense then prevailed on the ship until Jim made a further announcement requesting to know Michelle's answer. Fortunately she had said "Yes!" Later the happy couple were invited on to the Bridge to meet Captain Gellatly. Mrs Jean McGowan wowed passengers with her bronzed knees (someone tell her about this, please!). Rounding The Needles, Waverley was cheered by a group of South African students aboard the local boat Rambling Rose.

Passing through the Solent we passed t private yacht Atlantia on trials from Camper & Nicholson's yard at Gosport.

P&O's Pride of Le Havre crept through the harbour entrance as we disembarked our Portsmouth passengers.

Updated 12 September 1999

Overnight rain had left excellent visibility which lasted all day. However, the temperature had dropped some seven degrees and we could no longer sit on deck in T shirts until seven o'clock in the evening.

Very good numbers were carried all day and passengers were rewarded with excellent views of the Dorset coast. At one point we could see from St Catherine's Point to the east to Portland Bill to the west.

Captain Gellatly opted to take us home via The Needles Channel. We passed The Needles Lighthouse at dusk with the lights at St Catherine's Point, at the southernmost point of the Isle of Wight, at Durlston Head, near Swanage, visible.

Updated 19 September 1999

The weather this week has not been kind to the Waverley. Following an off-service day on Monday, Tuesday's sailing from Swanage to Bournemouth and Sandown for a Portsmouth Harbour cruise was given without difficulty.

On Wednesday, although the sailing commenced from Weymouth as scheduled, the weather deteriorated and the return sailing was terminated at Swanage. Weymouth passengers were coached home.

By Thursday the Portsmouth to Lulworth sailing was unable to proceed far beyond the Needles, so a Solent cruise was substituted. Friday was slightly worse, the paddler turning short of the chalk pillars and providing a cruise towards Cowes in lieu.

Saturday saw the weather at its worst with a Southerly gale lashing the coast. Although a Solent cruise with time ashore at Yarmouth was contemplated, the Harbour Master vetoed the proposal. Captain Gellatly reluctantly cancelled the entire day's sailing and the steamer spent the day being bashed into the quay by the wind and sea. Conditions at Sandown Pier were reported as Force 7-8 with seas breaking up to the Landing Stage accompanied by a very high swell. On the same date the Coastal Cruising Association's charter of the M.V. Flamborian was also cancelled due to the ship still being in Weymouth.

The wind had dropped somewhat on Sunday and there was a favourable forecast. Captain Gellatly decided to sail and look at conditions in the open sea beyond The Needles. Leaving the River Itchen we had a good view of the QE2 berthed at her Terminal for the day. After the pick up there were 49 passengers aboard. Passing Alum Bay enormous white horses could be seen breaking over the sand banks. The swell was already building up and progress further west was considered inadvisable. The paddler was turned and a cruise given to off Norris Castle and back to Yarmouth. An hour and a half time ashore was given before the final leg to Southampton.

Updated 26 September 1999

Waverley's last week on the South Coast was set to be disrupted by the closure of Bournemouth Pier for security reasons in the run up to Labour's Party Conference. In the event, the weather finished off the job of ruining the timetable.

Tuesday's sailing went ahead as per the revised schedule, i.e. with the calls at Bournemouth eliminated. After that weather conditions deteriorated. In fact, the intended light sailing from Swanage to Weymouth had to be abandoned, so not even Tuesday was entirely unaffected.

On Wednesday, therefore, the Weymouth passengers once again had to be coached along the coast to join the paddler at Swanage. After sailing direct to Yarmouth, it was announced that both Weymouth and Swanage passengers would be landed at Southampton, where the ship would tie up for the night, and coached home. This sailing marked the end of Captain Gellatly's command as he was to take the Balmoral for her final weekend on the Clyde.

There were very strong winds on Thursday, and Waverley did not stir from her berth at Southampton on Captain Colledge's first day back in command.

Conditions had improved by Friday and the Needles cruise went ahead as planned, including the rounding of the chalk stacks, which had not been possible the previous week.

On Saturday, the Round The Island sailing picked up from Sandown, but it was deemed inadvisable to attempt to take the passengers back there. Consequently the paddler retreated eastwards to The Solent and did not venture past The Needles. Passengers from Sandown were landed at Yarmouth and coached across the Island. Unfortunately a passenger was taken ill while Waverley was alongside at Portsmouth Harbour and this, combined with delays from shipping movements, resulted in an hour's late arrival back at Southampton.

Sunday dawned bright and sunny and hopes were high for an unaltered sailing. These were dashed as the westerly wind freshened. Nevertheless, a reasonable crossing to Swanage was enjoyed - straight across the bay as Bournemouth was still closed. Captain Colledge decided that it was too rough to go on to Weymouth and made arrangements to cruise in Poole Harbour instead.

A coach had been laid on from Bournemouth for pre-booked passengers and waiting for this demonstrated that the road journey to Swanage takes longer than the passage by sea-going paddle steamer.

And so we set off westwards towards Anvil Point, the first element of the afternoon's cruise. Conditions steadily got livelier and clearly a heavy swell was running along the Dorset coast, confirming the wisdom of the decision not to go to Weymouth.

Anvil Point Lighthouse stands above the unruly sea.

Waverley is turned to port to head back to sheltered waters.

Back to Swanage Bay for a close pass of Old Harry Rocks.

Picking up the Poole pilot from the launch Venture.

Poole Harbour is said to be one of the largest natural harbours in the world but its entrance is quite narrow, being spanned by the Sandbanks chain ferry.

Close to the roro berth we met up with the Poole Harbour Company's tug, Herbert Ballam.


Instead of simply turning the paddler, as we expected, the tug was attached to the steamer's starboard quarter to provide additional steerage. In the background, Truckline's Coutances waits at the linkspan.

We continued our passage along the narrow and winding buoyed channel, picking our way between the numerous yacht moorings.

Eventually, we turned at Hamworthy, just beyond the Royal Marine's Landing Craft Base, slightly further than the point where Balmoral had turned in July.

Landing craft tied up at the Royal Marine's Base.

Similar additional steerage was applied on the passage outwards before the tug was slipped back at the roro berth.

After leaving the Harbour, dropping off the Pilot and clearing the Poole Bar, course was set for Bournemouth Pier. Through binoculars it could be confirmed as totally deserted. Then the launch Police Alarm decided we were too close and zoomed up to warn us off! Then we headed back south west to Swanage for 45 minutes ashore. Leaving the Pier, three long, farewell blasts were blown on the ship's whistle although another sailing was due to be given on the following Tuesday. Was this a comment on the long-range weather forecast?

Similar blasts were sounded leaving Yarmouth and a Wightlink ferry responded from the darkness, flashing her navigation lights as well!

It was a mild night and we were still able to stay on the Promenade Deck for the final run up Southampton Water. The lights of Fawley Oil Refinery shine out from the west bank.

This sailing turned out to be the final one of the South Coast season. The paddler had been due to sail from Portsmouth to Folkestone on 29 September and on to London the following day. Unfortunately the weather forecast for those days was for high winds and rain. Captain Colledge decided to run for Tilbury on Monday 27 September so as to be ready for Waverley's Thames season.

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