Bristol Channel 2011

Report by Martin Longhurst and Tony Gamblin

Pictures by Martin Longhurst



Unfortunately the completion of Waverley’s annual overhaul was delayed owing to difficulties resolving problems with her steering gear.   Following successful sea trials on Wednesday 7 June, she was able to steam south direct to Swansea.

She arrived into Swansea shortly after 20.00 the next day for bunkers, water and an overnight berth before sailing to Penarth to take up her first public trip.   Good loadings were carried on a series of three up Channel cruises, though steady rain set in during the late afternoon and evening.    


Approaching Clevedon Pier on Saturday morning 12 June

Saturday saw the steamer offer a trip from Clevedon and Penarth to Ilfracombe for time ashore.  The tides were against her all day and also precluded a return call at Penarth, Welsh passengers being returned home by coach as planned.   About 300 sailed with her and enjoyed a smooth sailing.  The westward leg was chilly but we saw more of the sun as time went on – indeed we sailed back east under blue skies bathed in bright sunlight.  


The crew bike painted to match the paddle drum


Heading back to Clevedon

Passengers on board were pleased to see the paddler once again and, understanding the need to support the ship, many bought Grand Draw tickets.


Chief Officer David Howie lowers the ensign to salute Ken Angell, a former Engineer on board Waverley and Balmoral, whose ashes were scattered in the sea off Lynmouth.


Arrival back at Clevedon

Unfortunately Sunday’s cruise (to Porthcawl and the Glamorgan heritage coast) had to be cancelled due to adverse weather conditions.

While it remained windy on Monday 13 June, the scheduled cruise to Minehead was able to operate – though the afternoon cruise to Porlock Bay had to be curtailed due to tidal constraints.   Waverley spent her Tuesday off-service day in Avonmouth Docks, then the next day sailed from Clevedon and Penarth to Ilfracombe and Clovelly in cool and overcast conditions.   A very limited number of passengers were landed at Clovelly (as only one 12 seater landing boat was available) while the rest observed proceedings from the decks of the ship.  

Wind and sea conditions caused considerable disruption on Thursday 16 June.   The call at Sharpness was cancelled, with passengers coached to Clevedon for a cruise to Ilfracombe.   However, the call was abandoned and with deteriorating conditions all passengers were landed at Penarth and coached home.   The ship then headed to Avonmouth, but the wind across the lock entrance prevented her from entering, so she headed for an overnight anchorage at Blue Anchor Bay ready for a charter sailing out of Minehead the next day.   In the event, this charter was cancelled due to weather conditions, so the vessel returned to Avonmouth Docks where she remained overnight with Saturday’s cruise also cancelled.  

She locked out on Sunday morning, tug assistance being necessary in the continuing high winds.   Standing on Clevedon Pier awaiting her arrival, the prospects of a successful berthing seemed dubious with a strong onshore breeze creating choppy conditions.   In the distance the paddler could be seen pitching as she headed into the weather.   Unsurprisingly the message came through that the call had been cancelled.   However, Captain O’Brian realised that, if the departure from Penarth was delayed until 11.00, then there would be a chance for passengers to drive round to join the ship at her next scheduled call at Penarth.   The pier there would be sheltered from the westerly wind, creating perfectly calm conditions.   Just under 350 joined the steamer including a significant number of people originating from Clevedon.

The delay, however, ruled out the planned Lundy call notwithstanding the likelihood that sea conditions would not allow the passage there in any case.   Therefore passengers were offered three hours ashore at Ilfracombe instead.   In the event, conditions improved steadily through the day.   Shortly before arrival at the Devon port it was announced that a 2 hour Devon coast cruise would be offered as an alternative to time ashore and almost 150 took this option.   The paddler hugged the coast on this leg, turning off Lynmouth.


The Town Crier of Ilfracombe welcomes us to Victorian Week


The Bideford Youth Pipe Band play – Devon’s farewell to our Scottish ship

Waverley sailed promptly at 17.00 for her return passage to the Welsh side.   Ilfracombe residents Lin McQueen and her son Joshua Cummins (11) saw Paddle Steamer Waverley tied up in Ilfracombe Harbour and decided to go on board to have a look round the unique ship.   Lin said “It was such a lovely sunny day we were enjoying sitting in the sun.”  

On the quay the Bideford Youth Pipe Band played “Speed Bonnie Boat” and “Scotland the Brave” to tumultuous applause from the steamer passengers, as the ship started off on her voyage to Penarth, near Cardiff, with Lin and Joshua still aboard.   When Lin realised what had happened, she contacted Simon Morgan, who had just taken up his role as the ship’s purser.   He quickly alerted Captain O’Brian, who turned the ship around to return the two to Ilfracombe.  

On arrival back at Penarth, the crew started preparing the ship for her open sea voyage back to Scotland while water was taken.   She shortly sailed for Greenock, arriving well in time to start her Scottish season with a charter on Tuesday morning.




The last Welsh passengers disembark


Close up of the fan boards



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