Bristol Channel highlights – Waverley was at Padstow during the weekend visit 21-23rd May when almost 300 passengers arrived from up-channel piers. Strong easterly winds marred the Sunday cruise and after a couple of brief groundings when departing, Waverley was unable to land passengers at Lundy or divert to Ilfracombe, and a cruise to Bideford Bay was substituted. Waverley was back at Padstow before the tide and passengers were ferried ashore by local small craft. The first calls at Padstow by a paddle steamer since 1967 were completed with a Monday cruise towards Trovose Head before the return to Avonmouth.
There was the rare sight of two excursion ships in the River Usk on 17th June when Waverley became the first paddler to visit Newport since 1956.
Pleasure cruising from East Sussex – Since 1978 there has been a revival of operating pleasure cruises from Eastbourne Pier by PS Waverley and more recently by Balmoral. Until 1981 Hastings Pier was also used by Waverley, but when the vessel returned to East Sussex in 1983 the condition of the landing stage had deteriorated making it unsafe. Of the two piers at Brighton, the landing stage at the Palace Pier no longer exists while the West Pier, the only Grade 1 listed pier in Britain, has been closed since 1975. Rye Harbour is too small to accommodate our vessels and Newhaven Harbour is available but with high charges.
From 1983 onwards the only pier available in East Sussex has been Eastbourne. However as a result of the hurricane which hit the south east in October last year, the landing stage became unsafe. Moves were made to determine the damage, the work to repair it and the costs. Unfortunately the Pier Manager did not consider the work to be justified. Two flights of steps have been removed and the end platform fenced off to allow fishermen to use the pier in safety.
Up the creek without paddles by John Hobbs – My father, Leslie H Hobbs was appointed assistant manager of the River Dart Steamboat Company in 1950. The Higher Ferry touched the Dartmouth shore just below our house. We moved in on 1st June and my father was able to watch his last vessels home if their arrival times were scheduled after he had left the office. His anxious moments, very few, were when the sea mist closed in and drifted up the river. I have a feeling that he expected one of his paddlers to ram the pier at Dittisham or run aground at the Anchor Stone. Of course his captains, Steer (Commodore!) of the Compton Castle, Austey of the Kingswear Castle and Roper of the Totnes Castle, knew the river well and would never have taken risks.
On the Saturday after moving day my brother and I made for Old Mill Creek where the RDSB had slipways and workshops. Our attention focused on the hulk of a paddle steamer just above high water level – incapable of floating, for it was holed. The outward paddle box was in reasonably good order and the legend Dartmouth Castle and ‘Up and Down the Dart’ was clearly visible. The centerpiece was a carving which seemed to portray Dartmouth’s Castle. We removed it and took it home. The quality of the carving was stunning and one can only marvel at the pains taking workmanship that must have gone into its making. When the RDSB was finally liquidated I rescued one other momento – the house flag.
And 50 years ago… Woolwich Ferries Farewell; Bristol Queen to the Isles of Scilly; Whippingham towed to Belgian breakers; Continuous spell of good weather on the Clyde; Consul completely repainted. Read more…