From Hampshire to Greater London

Report by Martin Longhurst

The South Coast season drew to a close with a one-way sailing from Bournemouth to Southampton, with coach return. Throughout the season the Wessex Branch had held daily raffles and the total raised exceeded 6,600. Well done to Don Drayton and his merry band!

Nine brave souls joined the paddler for her 06.45 departure from Southampton on 25 September 2003. They were rewarded with a bright, clear and calm day as the Waverley headed for Portsmouth where she picked up about another 100 for the cruise along the coasts of Sussex and Kent to Worthing and Dover. There was a slight delay as the steamer had to wait for Brittany Ferries Normandie to clear the Harbour Channel before the Queen's Harbour Master would permit her to enter.

Installed in the Observation Saloon, a monitor shows live pictures of the Engine Room, the Boiler Room, the Steering Engine and the view from the Wheelhouse

A correctly spelt sign now in place (click here to see the original version)

Soon after departure Selsey Bill came into sight and before long the paddler was coming alongside at Worthing Pier, notorious for swells preventing boarding.

Today there was a slight swell running and boarding was possible and a good crowd joined the ship.

The famous Seven Sisters cliffs running east from Seaford

Beachy Head lighthouse - note hang gliders above the cliff

A Coastguard aircraft gave us a close inspection

From here on the timetable had had to be amended as Eastbourne Pier had suffered damage during the summer and Folkestone Harbour was closed. Unfortunately it was not possible to arrange a substitute for Eastbourne, but fortunately the Port of Dover was able to accommodate the Waverley at the Prince of Wales Pier, just east of the Hoverport. As the tide was high at Worthing (as the pier is tidal), it meant the arrival at Dover coincided with low water. This necessitated the construction of a scaffolding tower on the port paddlebox to reach the top of the quay. This was put together by Ian McMillan and a member of the Engine Room staff throughout the cruise.

The forelorn harbour arm at Folkestone

As we approached Dover the cruise liner Saga Pearl set sail for the West as the cutter brought over the Pilot to take the paddler into Dover Harbour

A Norfolkline ro-ro ferry departs for Dunquerque ...

... and a SeaCat for Calais

Entering via the Western Entrance

A line-up of cross channel ferries at the Eastern Docks

On the other side of Prince of Wales Pier, the SeaCat Danmark departed for Calais

SeaCat Scotland was moored ahead of Waverley undergoing repairs to her port bow

The paddler spent the night alongside the Pier, being rocked "gently" by the wash from the cross-channel ferries, as the scaffolding tower was dismantled, it not being required in the morning as departure was near high tide.
Special arrangements were made to coach passengers from Folkestone Harbour to join the paddler at Dover. The passengers were greeted and reassured at Folkestone by PSPS members Alan James and Robert Whitelaw. Unfortunately there was a delay in the coaches' arrival and the steamer could not depart from Dover until nearly 10.00.

Passengers from the Folkestone coach

Seafrance Manet entered the Harbour as we departed

Clear blue skies and calm seas made this a day to remember as the steamer exited the Harbour and headed east at a spanking pace. Soon Deal and Ramsgate were passed and the paddler was turning east off the North Foreland Light (top right corner of Kent). The passage upriver was equally beautiful and arrival at Tower Pier was on time.

The Dome with Canary Wharf's towers beyond

Two 'fake' paddlers were encountered in the Lower Pool, firstly the Dixie Queen ...

... while the Elizabethan was moored just downstream of Tower Bridge

The view from the north bank (John Seed)

David Blane suspended in his box just east of Tower Bridge

In the evening the PSPS London & Home Counties Branch had chartered Waverley for a fund raising cruise with entertainment. This had sold out some time in advance and produced a healthy profit for the Society. The paddler went as far downstream as Crayfordness.  Well done to Organiser, Roddy McKee.

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