Autumn 1984

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

Autumn 1984

Statue of Sir John Betjeman at St. Pancras Station.

A much loved figure – The death of Sir John Betjeman, our Patron for 25 years, has robbed the world of a much loved figure. We owe Sir John a considerable debt because he, more than any other single mentor, encouraged and led the British preservation movement. In our own field he was a valued member of the steering committee which gave a new role to PS Tattershall Castle. He also championed the rebuilding of Clevedon Pier and surely there could be no finer memorial than the restoration of this West Country masterpiece.

Operating Kingswear Castle – As Kingswear Castle does not yet have a passenger certificate she can only carry 12. A sail on KC is like enjoying your own private yacht. As she operates entirely on a volunteer basis it is not possible to have a regular master. This task is undertaken by John Megoran and a team of Thames and Medway pilots. Although KC only sails for one or two days per week, the boiler has to be kept in steam throughout and the ship constantly attended. JP Knight’s tugs at Chatham have very kindly allowed KC to moor on their floating pontoons during the week whilst she is not running trips.

Coaling the ship is a problem. It usually means a gang of people spending a day carrying coal, shovelling and generally getting filthy. Coal was offered at a low price from a barge at Queenborough if we could bag it and remove it. An entire day was spent – the bagging of coal continued relentlessly – and it was soon obvious that the truck was not big enough. Next Wednesday with a much larger hired lorry we were amazed to see that our barge was about 50 feet to seaward sitting in the mud! Five days later the barge was alongside again and the coal was transferred to Gillingham Pier ready to be loaded when the ship called.

Plans are to submit KC to the Dept of Transport survey for passenger certificate soon after the end of the present season. This will be the most important test that our newly restored ship has to pass and very expensive.

Waverley diary – The opening months of Waverley’s 1984 season have been highly encouraging with some excellent loadings. Few could have anticipated the days of classic cruising that lay ahead when 100 joined the ship at Ayr on 4th May for Waverley’s second public sail “Round the Mull” to Port Ellen, Oban and Fort William. The visit to the Bristol Channel produced tremendous support, and yes, it was true that the steamer was going down to Plymouth for the start of the Observer single-handed trans-Atlantic yacht race. The cruise to the Lizard was one of those classics which is worth travelling hundreds of miles to enjoy. Waverley hugged the shore by the mouth of the Helford. Just short of the Lizard light she turned out to sea in the brilliant afternoon sunshine, bucking handsomely as she went about. She returned from Plymouth on 5th June ready to re-commence sailings on the Bristol Channel. The following three weeks were to prove most successful with fine weather and large crowds. It was pleasing to see the Minehead calls reinstated on 8th June.

Blumlisalp to flower again – The bright news from Switzerland this year has been the agreement of BLS to restore its former flagship, PS Blumlisalp to running order on Lake Thun. Blumlisalp was withdrawn in 1971 and laid up near Spiez. A preservation group was formed immediately after the coal burner’s last sailings. Arrangements are in hand for a triumphant return in 1986.

Blumlisalp prior to 1971.|Walter Jau