Thames Report 1

Report and pictures by Martin Longhurst

Saturday 27 September 2003 took the Waverley from Tower Pier to Southend and Whitstable, to meet the Kingswear Castle. The sailing had been completely sold out for about a month, the busiest sector being between Whitstable and Southend on the way back.

The Gravesend - Tilbury ferry Duchess M

Good time was made and the Waverley beat KC into the Harbour, both ships berthing on the western quay. KC was offering a trip round Sheppey, out via The Swale, back via the Thames Estuary.

Some were taking advantage of the opportunity to change ships at Whitstable, while KC offered a trip round the bay for Waverley's return passengers.

Captains Megoran (left) and Lee confer

KC letting go to return to Strood

Although single trips were offered from Whitstable to the Tower, the level of bookings was such that it was not necessary to offer a single trip from Southend. There were a couple of familiar faces from the Company's Anderston Quay office working on board over the weekend - Kathleen O'Neill, the General Manager, and Nicola Reid.

After spending Saturday night alongside Tower Pier, the paddler headed out for the Thames Forts early on Sunday morning. The departure time of the cruise had been advanced from 10.30 to 08.15 as the Thames Barrier was to be closed (on test) from 09.00 to 19.00. Fortunately the cruise was fully booked to Southend, so it had been possible to notify all passengers of the revised arrangements.

The next sequence shows tug Revenge taking Waverley upstream from Tower Pier to turn her just below London Bridge.  This procedure is used other than at slack water.

Former Mersey ferry Royal Iris on her mud berth just downstream of the Barrier

The Tilbury call was similarly advanced but the steamer lay alongside Southend Pier for two hours to regain her advertised schedule.

A Southend Pier train

Princess Pochahontas and Waverley lying at Southend Pierhead

The Forts cruise took in three towers, the Red Sands and Shivering Sands group and the solitary Knock John naval tower. Over 300 travelled on this, so-called, unpopular cruise. As ever, Frank Turner of Gravesend gave talks and a commentary on the history of the forts.

Red Sands Fort with Shivering Sands on the horizon beyond

L'Audace outbound

Shivering Sands Fort, former home to Radio City

Knock John Fort

Sunset over the Mucking Flats - the commentator's nightmare

Tilbury Landing Stage

After passing through the floodlit Tower Bridge, many passengers on deck broke into spontaneous applause after a splendid run up river. After dropping off her Tower passengers, Waverley returned downstream with a few evening cruise passengers from Tilbury to position for her day off service on Monday.

Alongside Tower Pier

Having turned by London Bridge, the paddler heads for Tilbury

The timetable for Tuesday took the steamer to Southend and Margate for a coastal cruise to the Foreland Lighthouse, near Lynmouth, Devon. Sadly, in the event, this was curtailed off Ramsgate Harbour after passing the North Foreland lighthouse, near Broadstairs, Kent. On the return sailing passengers were able to enjoy a beautiful sunset between Southend and Tilbury.
On Wednesday the steamer headed for Southend, Clacton,Harwich for a cruise on the River Stour. Unfortunately weather conditions deteriorated and it was not possible for the vessel to return south after entering the Harwich Haven. A cruise up the river Orwell to Ipswich was substituted for the River Stour and passengers for Clacton were returned by coach (Southend and Tilbury passengers were due to return by road in any case).
On Thursday the ship offered an upriver cruise from Harwich and Clacton to The Tower. During this sailing the Waverley passed another paddle steamer, the Tattershall Castle, near the Dome. She has been taken from her berth on the Embankment near Charing Cross to go to George Prior's yard at Great Yarmouth for a major refurbishment during the winter. For the voyage to the Norfolk port she was loaded on to the same lifting barge, AMT Wayfarer, as was used for the Waverley last year. Has anyone got a picture of this, please?
Southend Pier was graced with the paddler's presence on Friday as she gave a non-landing trip turning in the Upper Pool. This was followed by a one-way evening "Show Boat" cruise back to Tower Pier to position for the weekend's sailings.

Go on to Part 2

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