Diary of a (novice) shopkeeper

Supporting the preservation and operation of paddle steamers Waverley and Kingswear Castle

Diary of a (novice) shopkeeper

……..Having disembarked our passengers at Swansea, we took on fresh water then at 2345 set sail for Penarth and anchor.  After a long day, I headed for my bed – Walter Snowdon (shopkeeper) had the cabin and the catering crew were set to party in the lower bar, so I stretched out in the shop lounge and was soon asleep, woke briefly when the anchor was let go and the chain rattled noisily out of the hawse pipe.

Wednesday 13th July  – Woke at about 0700 the sea was calm, sky slightly overcast with a light easterly breeze.  I spent the morning familiarising myself with the shop, finding the stock and reading the notes that Walter had written for me. At 1200 the anchor was raised and we steamed across to Clevedon where we said goodbye to Walter and I started the job proper – helping with the gangway, counting the passengers on and off and running the shop -on my own!

Leaving Clevedon we headed to Penarth, leaving there with about 200 aboard.  The sky was brightening and the sea calm as we crossed the channel to Watchet.  In the shop, there was a steady trickle of customers – just what I wanted on my first day.  At Watchet, about half the passengers disembarked to take the steam train to Minehead and about 50 got on for the Watchet/Minehead shuffle – 2 calls at each port in 2 hours with hardly any time to open the shop between ports – still, I like to be busy!

Leaving Minehead for the second time, on time, we headed back to Penarth where there was a slight delay while we took on more fresh water (Balmorals fresh water tank is not very big, so is filled up at every opportunity, and not all piers have a supply point) Arrived back at Clevedon at 2200, disembarked our passengers then headed for the Avon bouy and dropped anchor.  Totalling up the days takings, they were only slightly down on the previous day – maybe there were less sales but more high value items sold?

Not having slept in the officers accommodation before, I was suprised by the noise of the waves lapping against the hull (the cabins are just above waterlevel) I’ve slept in foc’sle (well above waterlevel) and the lower bar a number of times, there, the noise of the generator and or engine ensure that the noise of the lapping waves is not heard.  Luckily, I had brought my ear plugs so a sound nights sleep was had.

Thursday 14th July – An earlier start today.  The weather was dry, blue sky and little wind.  I was up at 0630 to make sure the shop and shop lounge were clean, bins emptied and windows cleaned inside and out.  The anchor was up at 0815 and were alongside Clevedon pier early to embark about 100 then across to Penarth where nearly 200 got on for the trip to Ilfracombe.

At Penarth, David Farmer (our vice chairs nephew) boarded together with a party of school children, senior citizens and teachers from his schools luncheon club – well done David in suggesting the trip. David helps out in the shop whenever he’s able to, his company and assistance was much appreciated, especially as there were so many youngsters on board – they kept the shop busy with a lot of small purchases.

We were alongside at Ilfracombe for 2 hours (enough time for a nap!).  Whilst alongside we were to take on bunkers – there was a misunderstanding between the oil company and the tanker driver when “we’ll be alongside between 1.00 and 3.00” was taken to be “turn up anytime between 1.00 and 3.00” consequently the tanker arrived at 2.30 and bunkering would take 45 minutes – then there was a problem with the pump…., so we eventually got away 45 minutes late – there was some muttering by one or two of the passengers, but it was a glorious sunny day and most enjoyed the delay.

No time was gained on the return to Penarth, the shop was still fairly busy and the volunteers were on deck selling the Grand Prize Draw Tickets. We arrived back at Clevedon at 7.30 dropped our passengers off, then went to anchor at the Avon buoy. 

With an early’ish finish and not too early start the next day, the crew bar was opened, so I and a couple of the others partook of a couple of cans of alcoholical refreshment and a chin wag.  I didn’t stay up late, with all that fresh air and an early start (and a few beers!) my bunk was soon beckoning……………….to be continued
Peter Havard