Waverley on the South Coast 2011 Part 2
Report by Martin Longhurst
Ironically, Monday was the best day of the week but it was Waverley’s off service day.
Then a large storm blew in and no sailings were possible on Tuesday or Wednesday. Conditions were little better on Thursday but the schedule included two Solent ports (Portsmouth and Yarmouth) so it was decided to offer a sailing within the sheltered waters. Just under 200 passengers joined the ship at Portsmouth Harbour Station Pier, via a Gosport ferry as Bestival traffic was monopolising the interior of the Wightlink Terminal. In the event, the wind was too strong to come alongside Yarmouth Pier, so the paddler turned east back along the Solent and round Bembridge Ledge. A cruise was then given round Sandown Bay before she headed back towards Yarmouth in the hope of giving passengers some time ashore. However, the wind had not abated sufficiently and the paddler had to turn back to Portsmouth just west of Cowes.
By Friday the weather had improved enough for the full Southampton, Portsmouth, Yarmouth and Needles cruise to be given, Waverley turning off Freshwater Bay. Saturday saw similar conditions and the steamer gave a Round the Island cruise starting from the same three ports. Today, tidal conditions were suitable for a northabout circumnavigation via Cowes, Bembridge, St Catherine’s and, finally, The Needles. Another big storm was on the way, arriving just in time to cause a complete cancellation of Sunday’s cruise.
Meanwhile, further west, Balmoral was experiencing similar difficulties. Originally she had been timetabled to end her season on Wednesday 7 September but an extension to the 19th had been planned to compensate for the late start to the season. However, the first storm arrived on the 2nd, curtailing that day’s cruise and then forcing a retreat to Avonmouth. The following weekend’s sailings were scheduled to be to the Isle of Man. The forecast was such that, even if Balmoral could have reached the North-West, she could not have given any public sailings there. Rapid calculations were made and it was concluded that there was little prospect of making a financial success of the remainder of the season. Therefore the decision had to be taken to cancel all remaining sailings and return the ship to Bristol for her winter lay-up. She was, however, kept in readiness should the call come to stand in for the paddler.
There was further bad news from the Thames, where a barge had broken loose in bad weather and had damaged Southend Pier sufficiently the cause its temporary closure. I am pleased to say that WEL have been informed that repairs should be completed in time to allow Waverley’s calls to go ahead.