Paddling around with Russell Plummer – With her new paint shining and the Welsh dragon fluttering in the bow, Bristol Queen must have made a fine sight as she arrived at Ilfracombe, early enough to allow the Penzance passengers ashore with the day trippers. We continued to make excellent time, arriving in Penzance a full hour early. The trip to St. Mary’s took place the following morning, and Bristol Queen’s complement of over 300 passengers was easily the island’s biggest tourist influx of the season so far. On the trip home the following day, Bristol Queen’s performance was exhilarating, and the first high light came when she went inside the Longships, and really close to Land’s End. We were often taken close to the shore, and Ilfracombe was reached 45 minutes early.
On the second day of Queen of the South’s season on the Thames, an encouraging number of passengers were given a good run to Southend. The dining saloon is bright and colourful, extremely comfortable and serves excellent food. The steamer has lost none of her character – Jeanie Deans still gazes from the paddle box crests, and a large scale map of the Firth of Clyde has been retained in the port companionway. On the return trip we turned below Woolwich and completed the journey astern. The fact that so much money has been spent on the Queen of the South makes it clear that her owners regard her as a long term venture.
The Humber fleet of British Rail is often overlooked. The three operational paddlers may not be beauties but they are coal burning steamers of a unique design, and I always find them fascinating. During a recent visit, Lincoln Castle and Wingfield Castle were maintaining the service between New Holland and Hull. Usually it takes 20 minutes for the trip and I have known trips when the steamer is literally sliding over the top of mud banks – a crew member stands on the sponson armed with a long pole, testing the depth of the water.
A trip to the Clyde finally materialised in early July, but unfortunately Waverley chose the second day of my visit logo out of service with boiler trouble. Caledonia took the trip to Arrochar, Queen Mary II filling in for Caledonia’s rostered trip. Maid of the Loch had a good load of passengers, but for me travelling on this steamer, like some of those on the Continent, never seems quite the real thing. A trip on the Ryde will have to wait – to date Bristol Queen is tops for speed, Queen of the South takes the gastronomic prize, with Caledonia the best all-rounder.
Farewell to Embassy – Embassy was moved to a new berth at Customs House Quay on May 4th, and on May 25th the tow to Antwerp began and Embassy left Weymouth for the last time.
Stop press! – Managers of PS Queen of the South announced on July 25th that boiler trouble had led to withdrawal of the steamer for the remainder of the season.