Winter 1995

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

Winter 1995

25 Years Ago… Chairman’s Comments – I write this just before Waverley’s final weekend of 1995 sailings. With Kingswear Castle’s main season now over, Balmoral safely in Bristol for the winter and Waverley now rounding Land’s End on her way to Bristol and the last trips of the season, the immediate thoughts are for the season just past. We won the battle to keep our ships operating. By and large, this year, we got fine weather. KC experienced a very slight down-turn in revenue, albeit after an exceptionally good season in 1994. She carried similar numbers to last year, but they made on average shorter, cheaper trips. At the other end of the country Balmoral was dogged by consistent appalling weather in many parts of her early season programme, and this shows in a final result which appears to be slightly down on last year.

Temperatures Soared

Waverley’s total revenue was into seven figures earlier than it has ever been before. By the time she left the Clyde at the end of August, revenue from ticket sales and charters was up £100,000 on the same period last year. Many of this year’s autumn Thames sailings took place in rain and wind. But then in the final October weekend on the Thames, temperatures soared, the sun came out. In two days, Waverley earned the astonishing total of £49,000.

The Society owes a large debt of gratitude to all those who made these events happen so successfully in the 1995 season.

Commemorative Cruises – Our thoughts turned back fifty years to l945 when Waverley operated the second of two commemorative cruises celebrating the end of the war. As she passed slowly by the White Cliffs of Dover and came within sight of the clifftop Memorial to the Dover Patrol, and without any announcement, Waverley’s starboard rails were suddenly lined with her guests for the day. These were men who fifty years before had been celebrating the end of their War, all of them as officers and crew of the wartime paddle steamers. Many had not been back to the Straits of Dover since, but yesterday they sailed from the heart of London through Tower Bridge and down the Thames Estuary.

JB Priestley, whose most memorable wartime broadcast was given after the main BBC evening news included the following well-known words:

[quote]These Brighton Queens and Brighton Belles left that innocent, foolish world of theirs to sail into the inferno; to defy bombs, shells, magnetic mines and torpedoes to rescue our troops. Some of them, alas, like Brighton Queen and Brighton Belle, will never return.[/quote]

Waverley’s Thames Diary – The London Branch’s annual charter on Friday 29th Sept was the most successful for some years with 546 aboard. A round trip from Tower Pier to Whitstable was on the timetable for the next day. Kingswear Castle also made her way to Whitstable. Passengers were exchanged, and a good number took advantage of a short sea cruise on KC, during which the operation of the folding funnel was demonstrated. On Wednesday 4th October a strong southerly wind resulted in Waverley’s first call at the inside berth at Southend since 1978. However, folk on the Pier were not put off and joined the ship in good numbers. On Thursday a single trip with coach return from Southend to Ipswich was offered and combined with return cruises from Clacton and Walton to Ipswich and from Ipswich to Clacton and Walton.

Discordant Sirens

The afternoon departure from Ipswich was delayed as the Russian tanker Vela I sailed just before us and proceeded down the River Orwell rather sedately. Nevertheless, this allowed an extended cruise up the River Stour, turning a mile beyond Parkestone Quay, by the moored tanker Ionian Eagle. As we passed the Harwich ferry berths the Scandinavian Seaways’ Hamburg was preparing to depart and she saluted us with three long, sonorous blasts on her discordant sirens, which elicited a reply on our steam whistle. After her second call at Clacton, Waverley was ‘opened up’ to regain time. Thursday night was spent alongside at Cliffe Quay, Ipswich. Friday morning’s departure for London was delayed some 20 minutes by shipping movements, two inbound ships having to clear the buoyed channel and reach their berths. The call at Walton had to be cancelled due to the weather conditions, and the 99 passengers bussed to Clacton, where they joined the already substantial number on the Pier. There was a swell running, but berthing looked a possibility. The ideal spot was across the narrow end of the landing stage and heaving lines were put ashore on the first attempt.

Call Abandoned

However, the wind and tide carried Waverley away from the Pier more quickly than the mooring ropes could be pulled ashore and eventually the stern man had to let go of the end of his rope to save dragging the mooring party into the sea. Of course Waverley was now out of position to attempt a repeat approach, but after considerable manoeuvring an approach on the main berth was made and the ship moored. However, she was now broadside to the swell and it was reluctantly decided that the movement was too great to allow embarkation and so the call was abandoned. A cruise of epic duration took place from 09.00 on Saturday to 00.40 on Sunday, from London to Clacton and back, via the north end of the Gunfleet Sands, and then to Tilbury. The evening stage of the sailing was promoted as a Show Boat cruise and over 300 joined at Southend and more than 100 at Tilbury – a sell- out. Although a financial success, the press of numbers meant that many passengers were not able to enjoy Waverley at her best.

Perfect Weather

The Paddle Steamer Parade cruise on the 8th October took place in perfect weather and this also attracted heavy loadings. The Thames Barrier was undertaking a full test in the morning which meant that the cruise started from Tilbury, with a coach connection from Tower Pier. Kingswear Castle was packed as well and the usual pleasantries of cheering ship and whistle blasts of varying patterns and tones and funnel tilting were exchanged. The final cruise started Waverley on her voyage to the Bristol Channel, being a single trip from Tower Pier to Folkestone, with coach return, on Monday 9 October. The London Branch raffle team, led by Ken Adams and Tim Wardley, raised about £2,500 during the Thames sailings.

50 Years Ago… Lincoln Castle was on special duty on September 28th when she met the Swedish liner Kungsholm and ferried about 500 to Grimsby then to Immingham in connection with tercentenary celebrations of the Pilgrim Fathers sailing to America. Ryde was towed from Portsmouth Harbour to the Isle of Wight and is at present moored off Binfield.

Plus 66 Years Ago… Don Anderson remembers – Wednesday, 1st September 1954 Newhaven to Boulogne aboard Glen Gower. Of eight scheduled cross-channel sailings during the season only four were accomplished and the 180 on board on 1st September was by far the best loading of the year.

Compiled by Guy Hundy from Paddle Wheels No. 142 Winter 1995 and No. 42 Winter 1970.