End of Season Report

by Martin Longhurst

Having departed Whitstable on Monday 13 October 2003, Waverley encountered some rough seas rounding the East Kent coast as she headed for the Bristol Channel. Nevertheless she was able to make headway
and docked at Avonmouth at 07.15 on Wednesday.

She left on Thursday evening to anchor off ready to commence her public sailings from at Penarth at 09.15 on Friday.  All week the wind had been blowing from the east and consequently cruising conditions were far from ideal. She called at Minehead as planned, but her Welsh passengers had to remain on board. At Ilfracombe the low water berth would have been unusable due to the direction of the swell, so the  departure time had to be advanced so the Stone Bench high water berth could be used throughout her call. Unfortunately this meant that there was no time to bus passengers along from Minehead and, in addition, the Exmoor Coast cruise had to be cancelled.

The rest of the day's timetable was given as scheduled, but the final call at Penarth took place in marginal conditions.   Overnight the wind had strengthened and it came as no surprise to those of us at the Welsh pier that the proposed sailing to Lundy had been abandoned. However, conditions on the Somerset coast were quite good at this time and this exaggerated the disappointment of intending passengers waiting at Clevedon Pier.

A select band set out from Penarth, however, for Aberystwyth to ride on the Vale of Rheidol Railway to Devil's Bridge, which was a very enjoyable substitute trip.

Sunday was a bright but still very windy day. The paddler managed to get alongside Penarth Pier but again conditions were marginal. Today we were going up river under the two Severn bridges. The ship was full leaving Clevedon Pier, in fact, leaving quite a few unbooked passengers ashore.

The Second Severn Crossing

The original

The former car ferry Severn Princess (replaced by the first bridge) on the northern shore

On the return to Clevedon, passengers for Penarth were also put ashore to be coached back to Glamorgan, as a further call at Penarth Pier was considered too risky. Over 300 stayed on or joined the ship for an afternoon cruise round the Holm Islands.

After a night at anchor off Walton Bay, Waverley came alongside Clevedon Pier for what was the final cruise of the year to Penarth, Porthcawl and Milford Haven with coach return. Over 100 joined at the Somerset pier in bright but chilly weather. She sailed at 09.00 with a TV crew on board making a programme for the Discovery Channel.

Steaming away from Clevedon

Approaching Penarth

There was some concern whether a call would be possible at Penarth but in the event there was little difficulty and another 200 joined the paddler. So we set course for the west but with a good cross-wind blowing.

Approaching Porthcawl

Across the Harbour

Just after noon we called at Porthcawl and picked up another 87.

There were excellent views of the distant English coast and along the Welsh side too.

Rounding Worms Head at the western extremity of the Gower Peninsular, the steamer turned north and entered Carmarthen Bay.  

She eventually cut across to make the western landfall just north of Tenby, before passing between Caldey Island and the mainland.

Then the paddler had to stand two and a half miles out to sea to avoid the Castle Martin Firing Range Danger Zone.

The Pembrokeshire islands just west of Milford Haven

The pilot cutter approaches

To the east

The final arrival of the season took place in the lock to Milford Docks, where eight coaches were waiting to carry the passengers back to their points of departure. As the coaches pulled away, the fuel tanker moved to take position on the quayside to bunker Waverley for her passage to her winter berth at Anderston Quay, Glasgow, where she tied up at 17.15 on Tuesday 21 October.

If all goes to plan this will be the paddler's last sojourn at AQ, for in 2004 she is expected to sail from Pacific Quay, on the south bank of the Clyde, adjacent to the Science Centre and Glasgow Tower. The relocation is a consequence of the construction of a new low-level road bridge intended to aid the regeneration of the Govan district.

By the end of the season, Waverley had achieved 156,867 passenger journeys, the best result since 1997 and probably the best ever in terms of passenger journeys per operating day at 1,388.

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