Wessex & Dart Branch AGM Chairman’s Report

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

Wessex & Dart Branch AGM Chairman’s Report

Chairman’s Report to the PSPS Wessex & Dart Branch AGM – 1st February 2014

Once again it is time to reflect on the past year in the annals of the PSPS Wessex Branch. The first change to report is a change of name! Consequent on the return of Kingswear Castle to operate on the River Dart, your Branch Committee volunteered to co-ordinate the launch of a local sub-group of the Society aimed at building Membership levels and support for the KC operations.

Whilst liaising with The Dartmouth Steam Railway and River Boat Company, some of your Committee had the unique opportunity to see KC out of the water under refit, and meet her new and enthusiastic Master Richie Swinglehurst who has shown such pride and care in his new command.

Our special thanks must go to Chris Phillips, and our friend from the Bristol Channel Richard Clammer, for spearheading this initiative which was officially launched on the first public sailing from Totnes to Dartmouth in June. Those of you who joined the coach trip to Totnes, organised by our indomitable secretary Peter Lamb had a most enjoyable time, the weather was good when it needed to be, and I was delighted to present, on your behalf, the PSPS House Flag which now flies from the masthead on PSPS sponsored cruises to mark the association. Oh yes and the Fish and Chips at lunchtime were superb!

I reported last year that along with our colleagues from the other Branches we had continued to petition the Central Committee and National Executive Officers to pursue the necessary changes in the way both Waverley and Balmoral operations are managed. As you will know this resulted in some significant changes in the PSPS Central Committee and as a Branch we were delighted to have the opportunity to welcome Iain Dewer our new National Chairman to our November Meeting.

Your Branch Officers have also met on two occasions with David Kells the Chairman, and I have had a separate meeting with Kathleen O’Neill Chief Executive, of Waverley Excursions, when our ideas for improving the promotion of Waverley’s sailings on the South Coast were discussed.

We have also been able to conclude negotiations for Waverley to return to Poole for a sailing around the Isle of Wight on Tuesday 16th September. Do please support this very special sailing to reinforce our argument that regular Poole departures should once again feature in the timetables for 2015 and beyond.

Change is never achieved without calm and rational debate and once again I would wish to pay tribute to Richard Engert our Branch Representative at the Central Committee who has conveyed our concerns firmly but tactfully in his own inimitable manner.

The annual visit of Waverley is always a delight to be savoured and again we are grateful to Hazel Gawn and Frank Snart for organising and selling the national raffle tickets around the deck. I would also like to thank Geoffrey Ryder for all his hard work, both afloat as shopkeeper on Waverley and in the preceding months, when he tirelessly visits many steam fairs and rallies promoting our Society and our Ships.

Sadly after glorious sunshine in July and August I suppose it was too much to expect calm seas and blue skies to remain for Waverley’s visit, and sadly cancellations of some Bournemouth and Swanage calls followed. This was particularly unfortunate when good loadings of passengers had to be left standing on the Pier watching our ship sail past.

Sadly completion of the refit of PS Monarch (our new local paddler) over ran and the return to service on the Wareham River was not achieved in 2013. However within the last few weeks she has successfully completed steaming trials and we look forward with confidence to sailing on her in Spring 2014. Please watch Paddle Wheels for the announcement of our Special Inaugural Sailing Day.

I will not steal the Secretary’s thunder by referring to the programme of visits, trips, and speakers, so well organised but take this opportunity to thank both Peter Lamb and Geoffrey Ryder for their hard work in this respect. The 2013 Christmas Weekend was again a high spot and the Sunday Boat Trip in Poole Harbour most enjoyable. It is such a shame that more Members did not support these events.

Much has been written and spoken about the planned attempts to bring Balmoral back into service in 2014 and I know many have supported the call for pledges of cash to finance this objective. Naturally I would love to stand once again on the decks of this classic motor ship as she sets sail on a cruise from Poole Swanage or Bournemouth. That said one of the main concerns your Officers hold is that insufficient numbers of potential passenger remain in this day of free bus passes and cheap inclusive coach holidays to finance operation of the vessel on a six or seven day basis for a period from April to October. We do however recognise the vital Balmoral support role she plays to Waverley as an emergency back-up ship, in the training of officers and crew and ensuring that Piers are maintained for their use, and support the endeavours to return her to service if feasible.

When the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow thwarted our outline plans for a touring holiday in Scotland we attempted to arrange an alternative trip to Luzern. Unfortunately it is clear that we started making our arrangements too late in the day, and certainly after the majority of the suitable hotel accommodation and flights had already been booked. Switzerland is an expensive country to visit and to ensure we gain the most from a short trip, early outbound flights are essential. We intend to try again in 2015 and will ensure that you all have sufficient advance notice to book what I can promise you will be a most enjoyable visit (weather permitting) and opportunity to sail on some superb paddlers. All we ask in return is a prompt commitment from you! Meantime my apologies to those of you who had elected to join us in 2014 and who will understandably be disappointed that we have had to postpone the trip until next year.

Finally my thanks to Keith Adams who has kept our finances in order during a year that has been a most challenging one for him, to Allan for his guidance on legal issues, Chris Warren my Vice Chairman for covering my own absence during a period of ill health, and of course Don, and his assistant our invaluable raffle organisers.

Ladies and Gentlemen that concludes my report and I ask you to recognise the effort your Committee have expended on your behalf over 2013 in the usual manner.

[signature name=”C J Wood” role=”PSPS West & Dart Branch Chairman”]