Stormy Weather

After the perfect weather of the first weekend, the poor weather pattern of August reasserted itself with a succession of depressions causing many wet and windy periods.

On Tuesday 7 September 2004 it was not possible for the paddler to go round the Isle of Wight although the rest of the cruise was given. Conditions improved for the Wednesday and Thursday, with the full cruise to Lulworth given on the latter. Saturday's cruise round the Island was unable to proceed outside the Solent owing to strong winds, with a non-landing cruise from Yarmouth to Southampton, to view the liners, substituted.

Although Sunday dawned bright, sunny and still, more bad weather was forecast to come from the west, which again precluded leaving the Solent. Therefore after the Yarmouth call, the Waverley headed east to give a Portsmouth Harbour cruise. She then retraced her steps (paddle steamers walk!) to Yarmouth for an hour ashore, before returning to Southampton for an early finish.

The following day was due to have seen a Worthing sailing but this had to be cancelled in the face of a gale warning. Neither was a sailing possible the following day, but a limited programme was given on Wednesday, but with a coach covering the morning leg from Weymouth.

Thursday was a bright and sunny day but with a fresh breeze and continuing swell, forcing the ship to terminate at Swanage, giving time ashore instead of the scheduled non-landing cruise to Lulworth Cove. Friday's cruise to the Needles went as planned but the paddler did not round them as normal.

Saturday was to be the third and final Round the Island sailing of the season, and it was hoped to complete the circumnavigation but this intention was doomed. The wind freshened as the vessel approached Yarmouth and the decision was taken to offer a Southampton Water cruise in lieu. During the later passage from Yarmouth to Portsmouth, we were treated to the spectacle of three liners departing for warming climes. First there was Cunard's Caronia, reputedly making her final departure from the Hampshire port, then the QE2 and finally P&O's Aurora.

Sunday's weather was good but the forecast for the following day was again gales. The paddler was able to sail as planned from Southampton to Yarmouth, Bournemouth, Swanage and Weymouth for time ashore. However, as she was due back in Weymouth the following day for an important charter, there was concern that she should reach the Dorset port before the gales arrived. Consequently the sailing terminated at Yarmouth, with the Southampton passengers being coached from Bournemouth.   This change bought the necessary five hours to complete the light sailing.

Although this meant that Waverley was positioned at Weymouth, the weather prevented the charter sailings from proceeding as planned, but restricted sailings were given. Tuesday's sail was cancelled completely but  Wednesday's timetable went ahead as in the previous week, with a coach from Weymouth. Thursday's timetable also had to be abandoned completely, but the steamer was able to make her way east, to anchor off Southend. Again the future weather forecast was an important factor as deteriorating conditions were predicted around the North Foreland, and unless this passage could be made, the weekend's heavily booked Thames sailings would be lost.

Friday's scheduled sailing was to have commenced from Dover, but this would have been impossible. Passengers were therefore coached (by vehicles hired from Heathrow - the only ones available after phoning 42 companies!) to Whitstable on the north Kent coast. The cruise went some way up the Medway, turning at Kingsnorth Power Station. Slow steaming was called for as the distance from Whitstable was not as great as from Dover but the departure time from Tilbury, where a good crowd of 100 joined the ship, had to be maintained.

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