Thames Season 2009 - First Report
Report by Martin Longhurst
Friday 25 September 2009 saw the Waverley continue her grand voyage from Portsmouth by sailing from Dover to London Tower Pier direct. Some 470 passengers enjoyed a first class sail in perfect conditions. We were ashore on this occasion but were able to watch the paddler pass the O2 Arena, the former Millennium Dome. On arrival at Tower Pier, it was a quick turn round as the London & Home Counties Branch Charter was due to depart an hour later. This was a very successful evening; with just over 600 enjoy the slow cruise to Silvertown and back.
After a night alongside Tower Pier, the steamer departed at 09.30 for Tilbury, Southend and Clacton with about 400 on board. This year, Waverley is berthing at the Cruise Terminal at Tilbury, making this the paddler’s best appointed calling point. A lot of passengers left the steamer at Southend before she continued along the Essex coast to Clacton. Just under an hour ashore was available to enjoy the delights of the Tending resort before we rejoined the steamer for the return passage. Passengers from Clacton were able to sail to London, to view the twinkling Thames, with a coach return. The band also embarked at Clacton to entertain passengers during the evening Show Boat cruise. More evening cruise passengers came on board at Southend. After a quick stop at Tilbury, the paddler headed home but was delayed by 30 minutes off Tower Pier waiting for the fake ‘paddler’ Dixie Queen to vacate the berth.
Sunday’s cruise was fully booked with ticket holders only being taken from London and Tilbury for the Paddle Steamer Parade. Under the blazing sun some 400 got off at Southend with slightly fewer joined, giving a total of just over 600 to witness our rendezvous with the Kingswear Castle. This was excellently worked out by Captains Clark and Megoran.
First of all, Waverley passed KC before she was turned by the tug Nippashore just upstream from the Chatham Bullnose. The mighty paddler headed out to sea again and encountered the KC going astern upstream. Quickly she reversed her engine as we caught up and the two paddlers steamed along together, whistle salutes being exchanged. Then KC dropped back to get into position to run up Waverley’s starboard side, finally completing the overtaking manoeuvre by Darnetness Fort and crossing to the north side of the channel. This allowed Waverley to overtake once again for the final time. Three blasts rang out from each ship’s whistle before the two ships’ complements cheered each other. Then the larger steamer set off for Southend.
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