South Coast & Thames Part 6

Report and pictures by Martin Longhurst

Monday 20 September 2010 was an off service day which Waverley spent at Southampton.   Unfortunately early morning fog prevented her leaving early enough to take up her service at Swanage or Bournemouth but it did clear later allowing the paddler to make Yarmouth in time to take her Round the Island sail.


Richard Joliffe took this picture of Waverley arriving Yarmouth 21st September at 12:00 in glorious sunshine after arriving direct from Southampton berth 49 after cancelling both Swanage and Bournemouth calls due to thick fog.

She waited for the incoming Wightlink ferry which had some passengers from the cancelled locations.

With the exception of some thick cloud off Cowes the passage clockwise round the Island was in perfect sunshine. The new HMS Diamond was passed off the Forts. 211 passengers boarded at Yarmouth.


Then she was off to Weymouth for the night ready for Wednesday’s timetable.   This took her to Swanage, Bournemouth and Ryde for a Portsmouth Dockyard cruise.  This was the paddler’s first call at Ryde at the new berth following the re-arrangement to allow the introduction of the Wight Ryder catamarans.   There were presentations to retiring Purser Jim McFadzean at both Swanage and Bournemouth.

The steamer spent the night alongside Swanage Pier before heading for Portsmouth for Thursday’s sail along the coast to Dover.   There were generator problems which caused a late arrival to load her passengers.   At 10.25 she steamed off with about 80 on board.   After about 30 minutes we saw a Coastguard helicopter swoop by and Purser Jim announced “Taxi for O’Brian.”  


Captain Andy O’Brian had commanded the ship out of the Portsmouth pilotage area and now Captain Ian Clark had taken over, so as to use his Thames pilotage certificates for the next part of the season.   Following the previous weekend’s exercise, Captain O’Brian had enquired whether the Coastguard who need further practice today in order to take him ashore.  

Approaching Worthing there was speculation among the passengers as to whether conditions would allow the paddler to berth, the Sussex pier being notoriously affected by swells.   Captain Clark carefully navigated the steamer towards the only available western berth and gently brought Waverley alongside allowing about 250 people to join us for the eastward sail to Kent.  


Passing the Royal Sovereign Light off Eastbourne


The weather from now on was very pleasant with a warm stern wind.   We arrived at Dover about dusk, entering via the Eastern Entrance so as to approach the Cruise Terminal 2 berth from the correct angle.   The tide was pretty well at its lowest and we were confronted with a vertical concrete quay towering over the paddler.   This had been foreseen and Chief Engineer Ian McMillan and Bosun Janusz Lunski had spent the afternoon building a small scaffolding tower on the upper deck so one of the Cruise Terminal’s gangways could be run out to allow disembarkation.   Passengers were coached home to Worthing and Portsmouth.



The pilot boat pushing Waverley’s bow round to ease departure

Friday saw the steamer complete her passage to the capital.   She sailed promptly at 11.00 with just over 400 on board.    There was a freshening northerly wind but the rain held off.   Having rounded the North Foreland, Captain Clark took the steamer through the Princes Channel, thereby giving us good views of the shipping and the Shivering Sands Towers.   Speed was reduced as we proceeded upstream so as to arrive at the appointed Tower Bridge lift time of 19.00, the earliest slot after the evening rush hour.   As the day trip passengers got off and headed for their coaches home, so the passengers for the PSPS Evening Charter waited patiently to join the ship.


Waverley whistles to announce her turn as she starts off the PSPS charter

The shipping forecast on the Saturday indicated very strong northerly winds, especially to the east.   Captain Clark felt it was inadvisable to attempt to reach Clacton as scheduled, but the only practical alternative was to cut the cruise short at Southend for extended time ashore.   Passengers joining the steamer at Tower Pier and Tilbury were warned of the revised arrangements.   Waverley went off to anchor in Leigh Roads for the afternoon.


Tug Revenge assists the paddler’s departure on Sunday morning


We passed Amsterdam off the Mucking Flats

The forecast was more optimistic on Sunday, as the paddler sailed from Tower Pier for Southend direct.   But as the steamer headed from Southend to Whitstable the wind strengthened and a 1.5 metre swell was reported by the Harbourmaster.   Reluctantly, Captain Clark changed his plans and turned near the Kentish Flats Wind Farm.   We enjoyed a slow cruise back to Southend as the rain gradually increased.   There was a tight schedule back up river against the tide, Waverley taking just over three hours for the run from Southend to London direct.   Fortunately the rain stopped in time for passengers to observe the floodlit opening of Tower Bridge.   Having discharged her complement, the steamer returned to Tilbury for a day off service.

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