South Coast & Thames Part 8

Report and pictures by Martin Longhurst

On Monday 4 October 2010 Waverley offered a sailing from Tilbury and Southend to Clacton for a River Blackwater cruise with coach return.   This positioned her on the Essex coast ready for her upriver sail from Harwich to Tower Pier on the Tuesday.   This arrived at ... which tied in nicely for an evening event organised by Waverley supporter Jim Pettigrew to promote the “relaunch” of the paddler.   This started with the invited guests joining the trip boat London Rose to view the steamer’s arrival from Harwich and her passage through the raised Tower Bridge.   After she had disembarked her passengers, the guests transferred to Waverley for a short cruise downstream.   The objective was to promote the paddler to potential up-market event organisers and amongst opinion formers.  The event was reported in the following day’s edition of the City AM newspaper.


The paddler spent the night alongside Tower Pier before her trip to Tilbury, Southend and the River Medway.   Departure was delayed by a few minutes to allow three “tugs with vessels” to pass upstream on the flood tide.  These were empty refuse barges being returned to the central London transfer stations.   Over 300 had joined before tug Revenge swung the steamer between the pier and the bridge before she set off downstream.  There was a brief delay approaching the Barrier as some maintenance work was in progress.   More passengers came on board at Tilbury and we proceeded to Southend where most got off and a lesser number gone on, including David and Naomi Duncan who were on their way to Whitstable to join the ship the following day.   David was sporting his Waverley bobble hat for the first time this season, as he had not been able to find it earlier.

The small tug Haulier turned the paddler off Gillingham Marina in the River Medway.   On the return passage there was a small presentation to Purser Jim by the Friends of Southend Lifeboat.   This was followed by a wreath laying ceremony to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the loss of the previous Waverley at Dunkirk.

After disembarking her passengers at Tower Pier the paddler returned to Tilbury for the night, having offered an evening cruise from the Cruise Terminal.   She steamed off early on the Thursday light for Margate to give a non-landing upriver sailing to the Upper Pool of London, also picking up at Whitstable.   Passengers were coached home from the Essex shore.   On the Friday the paddler was chartered to a purveyor of entertainment for younger people.   This entailed much preparation at Tilbury, including the installation of a sound system, before she sailed in late afternoon to make her pick up at Tower Pier.   A slow cruise to just beyond the Barrier was given with the ship full of party goers who were coached off to a club on the steamer’s return to complete dancing the night away.

Waverley was now in position to give her Saturday programme which started off with a single sailing to Southend direct, primarily for the benefit of coach parties.   There were about 300 on board when she slipped her moorings at 09.30.   The main part of the day’s timetable was an up-river sailing from Southend and Tilbury, turning in the Upper Pool.   This is always a popular sail and there were 775 aboard after Tilbury.   While we waited for the customary 30 minute interval between bridge lifts to elapse, commentator Jeremy Gold described the buildings lining the shore and the paddler stemmed the ebbing tide with the assistance of tug Revenge.   This was also a suitable moment for David Green, the Secretary of the London & Home Counties Branch of the PSPS, to make a presentation to Purser Jim MacFadzean to mark his retirement.   In addition, Jeremy Gold, as Chairman of the KC Trust, presented Jim with a Life Season Ticket to sail on the Kingswear Castle and Alan and Peter Bushell made a personal presentation to mark their long association working with Jim as his coach organisers in the Thames area.

The steamer anchored off Southend for the night before hauling up at about 06.30 to head for Harwich.   Here she berthed at Halfpenny Pier amongst yachts decorated for the local Sea Shanty Weekend events.   After a short delay while DFDS’s Dana Sirena passed inbound for Parkestone Quay, the steamer sprung off the pier and turned for the open sea.   Once clear of the Harwich Haven it was clear the wind was strong enough to cause gentle rolling as we rounded the Naze and headed for Clacton.   Sea conditions were marginal alongside the pier but the crew managed to embark everyone who wanted to sail, including those who had come from Great Yarmouth by connecting coach.

Despite the clear skies, the previous period of bad weather had depressed bookings and there were only about 300 on board for the passage to Tilbury.   Visibility was good and we enjoyed views of the various forts and wind farms as we headed west.   At Tilbury, about 170 more came aboard for the evening cruise to Tower Pier and back and we enjoyed a glorious sunset which backlit the Canary Wharf towers to great effect.   Planes were taking-off and landing every few minutes at London City Airport (in Docklands) and we had a grandstand view as the flightpath is along the line of the Thames.   The Great Yarmouth, Harwich and Clacton passengers disembarked at Tower Pier while the Tilbury passengers stayed on board for the final trip of Waverley’s Thames season.   Some filming for “Sherlock Holmes II” was due to take place on the Monday off Dover and some technicians and their equipment was brought on board at Tower Pier.   After Dover, the steamer was due to give her cruise to view Cunard’s new Queen Elizabeth depart Southampton before heading to Weymouth for more fuel and Glasgow for her final weekend of service for 2010.

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