South Coast & Thames Part 2
Report and pictures by Martin Longhurst
We could tell from the way the weather was going on Sunday that Waverley’s programme for Monday 6 September 2010 was going to be problematic. The plan was to sail from Worthing to Yarmouth, Swanage and Yarmouth. Alan James takes up the story: “I received a phone call on Sunday afternoon from Jim saying that due to weather and the state of Worthing Pier(only the west side of the landing stage would be available for Waverley) could I assist with a coach transfer for passengers to get to Southampton. Seven coaches were booked for Monday, but only five were needed as many people could see the rough conditions at Worthing and decided not to travel. The paddler departed Southampton Eastern Docks (1035) with just over 200 passengers on board. It was not possible to berth at Yarmouth (1215) due to the wind and then cruised the Solent for a Portsmouth Dockyard cruise which then got cancelled at the last minute by QHM at Portsmouth due to shipping movements. Then she steamed back to Yarmouth for an extended time ashore (1600-1800), but it started to rain quite heavily at 1630 for the rest of the day. Waverley then sailed back to Southampton (1920) with coach return to Worthing. Not a good day at all.”
Fortunately the weather took a turn for the better and Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday’s cruises were not affected for this reason. Tuesday saw the steamer give a sailing newly timetabled for this year. Starting from Swanage and Bournemouth the paddler headed for Yarmouth and then a circumnavigation of the Isle of Wight. The latter sector was the new element and introduces a second Round the Island sail into each week’s timetable. This proved very popular with 200 joining the ship.
At the conclusion of this sail, the steamer sails light-ship to Weymouth so as to take her mid-week stores and fuel as well as to position for the start of Wednesday’s trip. Heading east along the incomparable Jurassic Coast, the steamer called at Swanage and Bournemouth before setting course for Yarmouth once more. This was not scheduled but unfortunately Ryde Pier was unavailable to Waverley owing to structural works and so the call at Yarmouth was substituted. The cruise round Portsmouth Harbour went ahead as planned. Owing to light patronage, the Swanage to Weymouth sector is now timetabled as a coach return so the steamer spent the night alongside the pier.
The first stage on Thursday was a light sail to Portsmouth to take up her public schedule for the day. This weekend saw the ‘Bestival’ music festival take place on the Isle of Wight. Consequently, the Wightlink Terminal was packed with festival goers all carrying their large back-packs and bedrolls. To segregate Waverley’s passengers arrangements had been made for them to join the steamer by means of a Gosport ferry, the Spirit of Portsmouth. This meant we were transported the 200 yards from the ferry pontoon to the normal Station Pier berth (i.e. on the same side of the harbour) by water!
Passengers boarding Waverley from Spirit of Portsmouth
Of course, there were just too many passengers to be taken in one trip so it was about 10.35 before we could get under way for Yarmouth, Bournemouth, Swanage and Lulworth. Good progress was made westward although the numbers joining the ship caused further delay to accrue. After Swanage, Chris Warren came on board to give his familiar commentary laced with much local knowledge. We had to stand out to sea to clear the Range Safety Zone on the way west but were able to come close in to the coast on the way back from Lulworth.
Passing St Alban’s Head
Approaching Swanage, Purser Jim McFadzean announced that owing to swell conditions combined with low tide, it would not be possible to make the second call at Bournemouth. Alternative arrangements were made to return the Bournemouth passengers by Dorset Belle Cruises from Swanage and to take passengers ashore in Bournemouth home by coach (and ferry from Lymington for the 11 Yarmouth passengers). So the paddler made a direct sail from Swanage to Yarmouth enabling her to make up much of the lost time. At the end of the public sail, she was alongside at Portsmouth about 20 minutes late. Finally, she steamed off for Southampton to position herself for the next three day’s sailings.
Back alongside Portsmouth Harbour Station Pier