South Coast & Thames Part 7

Report and pictures by Martin Longhurst

Monday 27 September 2010 was an off service day which Waverley spent at Tilbury.   Tuesday saw her head off for East Kent, picking up at Tilbury, Southend and Margate for a cruise to the North Foreland Light.   Back at Tilbury for the night, the paddler next steamed off on the Wednesday to deepest Essex for a cruise to the River Blackwater calling at Southend and Clacton.   This time passengers were coached home as the steamer set course for Britain’s newest pier at Southwold.   She spent a rocky night at anchor off the Suffolk port before making her approach to the pier to pick up for her direct sail to Tower Pier.   As with all piers on sandy shelving coasts, there is always likely to be a problem with ground swell at Southwold, but on this occasion the motion decreased as time went on enabling the full crowd of over 300 to join the ship.   After dropping her complement in Central London, the paddler sailed light for Tilbury for the night.

Unfortunately her sojourn here was extended as high winds prevented her planned Southend calls and the presence of the tall ship sail training vessel Stavros S Niarchos moored alongside HMS Belfast in the Upper Pool of London prevented the planned manoeuvres there.   Friday’s timetable had called for a day time return trip from Southend to the Upper Pool (non-landing) followed by a evening single show boat cruise up-river with coach return.   Since the Tower Bridge authorities will not permit two openings within 30 minutes, the steamer normally stems the tide while this time elapses.   Unfortunately, the turn co-incided with slack water (i.e. there would have been no tidal stream to work against to control the vessel’s position) which, combined with the high winds and lack of space, ruled this plan out.   So in the end all that could be offered on the day was a single evening up-river trip with coach connection from Southend to Tilbury and from Tower Pier back to Southend.   As the paddler had to make this trip as a positioning run anyway, these arrangements at least allowed a little revenue to be earned.

Saturday dawned bright, sunny – and still!   So Waverley was able to carry out the day’s plan, which involved calls at Tilbury and Southend before a trip to view the Thames Forts.   Today was the 80th Birthday of long-time supporter John Brown who was on board for a celebratory meal.   When Purser Jim wished John ‘Happy Birthday’ over the PA he added that today was also the 64th anniversary of Waverley’s launch in 1946.  


Stavros S Niarchos alongside at Tilbury on Saturday 2 October

There was a good number on board, with a noticeable lessening after Southend.  


Leaving Southend we encountered Kingswear Castle undertaking a Thames Estuary cruise – this was to be the two paddlers only meeting in 2010

The sea and wind conditions were so calm that Captain Clark was able to give us some excellent close views of Red Sands Fort (the nearer one) and to give us a complete circuit of Shivering Sands Fort.  


The Red Sands Fort – note the newly installed landing platform and aerial system on the furthest tower which is now used by anoraks


Shivering Sands Fort with the dredger Thames outward bound




Approaching Tilbury we followed MSC Carmen bound for the Container Terminal while Rio de la Plata is outbound

The forecast rain held off until after Tilbury but did not become heavy until we approached Tower Bridge.   However, the thrill of seeing the floodlit bridge opening made up for the damp!

Sunday was a windier day and we were promised much more rain and high winds.   The timetable included calls at Tilbury and Southend before the annual paddle steamer parade with the Kingswear Castle.   


Revenge takes the strain as Waverley starts to turn below London Bridge


Note the array of aerials on the top of Waverley’s wheelhouse




A crane barge was moored just upstream of the Thames Barrier


One of  Cobelfret’s new ships the Yasmine at their Purfleet Terminal in the shadow of the QE2 (M25 )Bridge.  Also present is Valentine.


Regrettably the weather forecast turned out to be rather inaccurate as there was limited rain and the wind dropped instead of increasing.   Why was this regrettable?   Because in the face of the forecast gale, Captain Clark had no choice but to terminate the day’s cruising at Tilbury, where we berthed at 12 noon, as the calls at Southend would have been impossible, as would be turning in the Medway.   As it turned out the worst wind (47mph at the Isle of Sheppey Sailing Club at Sheerness) occurred at 12.01 and by 3.30 it had reduced to Force 3, against the forecast increase (although as it was a southerly wind these readings may have been falsely low).   By then the die was cast as the Tilbury passengers had been sent away and the Tower Pier passengers put on coaches.   Meanwhile on the Medway, some 37 passengers sailed on the KC in blustery conditions with heavy rain for the first hour.


We left Waverley forlornly berthed at Tilbury


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