On Saturday 28th May 1966 Queen of the South ex Jeanie Deans made her first public sailing from Tower Pier to Greenwich, Gravesend, Southend and Herne Bay.
Her master was Captain Stanley Woods who in the previous season had commanded the Princess Elizabeth which was then running from my home town of Weymouth. I had been introduced to Capt Woods, who was then the Lizzie's mate, the previous season by Capt Defrates. Capt Woods therefore knew of my love for paddle steamers and was very encouraging of my ambition to go to sea and maybe one day become a captain of a paddle steamer myself. He taught me to steer that summer on the Lizzie and bombarded me with nautical text books on seamanship, navigation and so on. He expected me to read and learn them and was forever testing me on their contents. "What is the signal for a vessel not under command?" he would ask. "What navigation lights would you expect a trawler to carry?". "What does the sound signal of two long blasts in fog mean". That sort of thing. I just lapped it all up and am hugely grateful for the entirely positive influence he had on my young self.
He invited me along for the ride when he brought the Jeanie Deans round from the Clyde in November 1965, part of which fitted neatly with my school half term holiday. He kept me posted on developments as Jeanie Deans was transformed into Queen of the South during the winter in a series of long letters. He invited me along for these first trips on the Thames which fitted with my Whitsun school holidays.
So that is how I came to be on the bridge of Queen of the South as Capt Woods's helmsman for our departure from Tower Pier on Saturday 28th May 1966. I recounted some of the details of this first weekend of sailings on the Thames in my book "British Paddle Steamers the Twilight Years" published in 2018 by Amberley: