Balmoral's Start of Season

Report by Martin Longhurst

Waverley was unable to resume service after her dry-docking at Greenock, owing to a rare failure of the keying of the port paddle wheel with its shaft. The defect could not be remedied at the Garvel Dry Dock, so the paddle box top was taken off and the wheel and shaft lifted out of the ship. As all other work on the paddler had had been completed, she was weighted to compensate for the absent components and moved to lay up in the James Watt Dock.   A firm in Manchester were contracted to undertake the repairs. The shaft was taken to Birkenhead to be built up by spiral welding before being shifted to Manchester to be machined for a good fit to the centre of the paddle wheel.

Initially it was thought it would take a month to effect repairs and therefore WEL's timetable for May and June was recast to redeploy the Balmoral to cover the most popular sailings by both ships. The plan was for the Bal to carry out her first weekend on the Bristol Channel (instead of serving Northern Ireland and Scotland), her second on Manx-bound sailings (as planned) and her third back on the Channel (instead of North Wales). The remaining sailings were cancelled completely in the absence of alternative tonnage (!). The cancellation of the North Wales sailings was fortuitous as all efforts to broker the repair of Llandudno Pier has come to naught but the timetable had been based on using this pier.

So it was that Balmoral entered service on 24 May 2008 at Newport, Gwent, using the new river berth. Unfortunately weather conditions were very poor and it was only possible to offer a short one-way cruise to Penarth where the sailing was terminated. Having discharged her 62 passengers, she went to anchor off Barry for a day before retiring to Avonmouth Docks where she remained until Tuesday morning.

Leaving Avonmouth on the 8 o'clock lock, she resumed service at Penarth slightly behind time. She was able to complete the scheduled cruise to Minehead and Ilfracombe on time, by virtue of omitting time alongside at 'combe.

Then she headed north to pick up her own schedule at Barrow on Thursday 29 May sailing to Douglas, Isle of Man, for time ashore. She was Manx bound as well the following two days but from Whitehaven, offering a Calf of Man cruise on the Saturday. For pictures of these sailings see Manx Weekend.  On 1 & 2 June Garlieston was her port of departure, again for Douglas. The whole series of sailings went ahead in good weather and with good passenger numbers.

Then back south to take up a Lundy sailing from Porthcawl on 4 June, to Swansea and Ilfracombe. Thursday took the steamer to Sharpness and on Friday she offered another Lundy landing, this time from Minehead. Ilfracombe for a Foreland cruise was her destination on Saturday.

These four pictures were taken on 5 June 2008 - Off Clevedon Pier (Adrian Sweeney)

Approaching Clevedon Pier (Adrian Sweeney)

Alongside at Ilfracombe (Adrian Sweeney)

Alongside at Penarth at the end of the sailing.  Balmoral was unable to return to Clevedon owing to swell conditions. (Adrian Sweeney)

Sunday saw the annual Lundy church service sailing, departing Clevedon at 08.15 By the time she left Penarth there were 400 passengers on board. On the bridge were the father and son team of Captain Ted Davies and Chief Officer Luke Davies.   The family outing was completed by the arrival at Penarth of Ted's wife/Luke's mother Frances with Luke's brother, former crewman Jon.   An excellent crossing to Ilfracombe ensued with good visibility of both the English and Welsh coasts. At Ilfracombe there was a good turnover of passengers with the result that 310 continued westwards to the Mystic Isle. Landfall was successfully achieved and soon everyone was streaming (or struggling) up the hill to the village. Two and a quarter hours ashore were allowed and during this time about 50 took part in the service in St Helena's church. All too soon it was time to return to the ship down the steep track. 24 people with difficulty walking were given lifts in one of Lundy's Land Rovers. With the wind astern, the run home was much warmer.





Assistant Purser Jim McFadzean (note the single pip on his epaulettes) played second fiddle to Balmoral's own Purser Tony Gamblin.   Jim was off home to Glasgow to celebrate his birthday off duty for the first time in 21 years.







Ilfracombe's low tide berth was submerged during the outward voyage





Lundy Island looms up ahead - note the jack - is this a new tradition?











Coming alongside Lundy's pier - note the sloping deck











These substantial piles form the pier head












Passengers heading off for the dizzy heights








Lundy ponies grazing on the top of the island




The descent back down to sea level














The view from the erstwhile Landing Beach - until 2000 all passengers came ashore by small boat to this beach











Coming alongside the low water berth on the return voyage













Ilfracombe's Town Crier and friend














Between Penarth and Clevedon we were treated to a spectacular sunset











A beautiful end to a beautiful day









After the conclusion of her Sunday sailing, Balmoral headed north for Liverpool to commence her short season of HTV charters. These were due to take place at Liverpool, Menai Bridge and Caernarfon. Public sailings were due the following weekend - the "Birdies" cruise from Milford Haven and a special from Swansea to Padstow. These were to be followed by further HTV charters at Swansea, Barry and Fishguard.. The HTV charters are in connection with the making of a series of television programmes. Rehearsals were to be held during the day followed by a 90 minute cruise with the recording subsequently. A limited number of public were sold 5 tickets for the cruise and then formed the "audience" for the action.

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