Winter 1985

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

Winter 1985

Grand parade of paddlers, Lucerne – Thursday 1st August dawned clear and bright and a schedule was devised so that our party of English (and Scottish) enthusiasts could take part in the grand departure of five paddle steamers sailing together to Brunnen to observe the fireworks. During the late afternoon the clouds had begun rolling in and it was raining in torrents as the five steamers loaded capacity crowds. Our party boarded the Uri, berthed inside Unterwalden at berth one. Ahead was Gallia and in front of her, Schiller. Stadt Luzern was moored on the opposite side of the river. A whistle from Stadt Luzern decreed that the proceedings were to begin. We were privileged to be taking part in the first simultaneous sailing of five paddle steamers together on the same route anywhere in the world for many years.

The five white paddlers sailed in line astern up the lake away from Lucerne. The rain continued to pour and, just briefly, a shaft of sun broke through on the horizon and lit up the steamers in front. The scene was magnificent, backed with lighting and thunder. As we passed Rutli, Stadt Luzern had turned and was heading up the lake on the other side. The procession followed and we stopped engines close to Unterwalden. The deck lights were extinguished and at 9.45pm we were treated to a fine display of pyrotechnics.

Discovering Hjejlen – Built in 1861 and still driven by her original engines, this tiny paddler claims to be the world’s oldest steam vessel. She was built in Copenhagen and after launching made her only sea voyage to Randers on the east coast of Jutland, and then with difficulty up the river Gudena. On arrival at Silkeborg she made her maiden freshwater voyage with King Frederik VII on board. We sailed from Silkeborg along lakes Brassø and Borressø before disembarking on the banks of lake Julsø at Himmelbjerget – the ‘sky’ mountain.

Waverley diary – There was a lot of weather in 1985! In the west of Scotland there were only three dry days in July and August, and September was the wettest on record. September 21st was an exceptionally bad day. The Clyde burst its banks at Glasgow Green and flooded a whisky storage yard. The result was that some 15,000 casks floated free and 10,000 remained in the river to become a hazard to shipping. Waverley’s first trip up river since returning from the south took two hours from Bowling as a watch was kept for steel bound barrels. Several stops and slows were required. The barrels continued to disrupt the weekend sailings and Waverley had one on board by Monday night.

Millport illuminations.

28th September was the first warm sunny day since June 4th and Waverley had her busiest Millport Illuminations for years. More than 600 prospective passengers were turned away. Largs Pier in particular was mobbed and at least 200 were disappointed.

Kingswear Castle report – One of KC’s busiest days must have been the Invicta Radio charter when 250 passengers spent a sun drenched day viewing the vessels arriving to compete in the tall ships race. Throughout the cruise a live broadcast was transmitted. Highlight of Waverley’s autumn visit to the South Coast were the meetings with KC at Whitstable on 21st September and in the River Medway on the following day. The weather could have been better but grey skies didn’t dampen the spirits of enthusiasts from all over Britain who crowded the decks of both vessels for the first meeting of two fully certified paddlers in home waters for more than a decade.

Medway Queen – In the three months since the formation of the preservation society a good deal of progress has been made. While the ship has been sunk a large quantity of silt has accumulated. Much of it has now been removed while work continues on the rest. At the beginning of September the ship floated for the first time in nearly a year.