Winter 1986


Paddler back in Bristol – After a break of 19 years since Bristol Queen’s final season, the Avon Gorge again echoed to the beat of paddles when Waverley made a first visit to Bristol at the beginning of October. The vessel’s first up-river sailing on Wednesday 1st literally stopped the traffic as motorists abandoned their cars on the portway to watch the steamer pass. Waverley was open to the public at Narrow Quay for the following two days before carrying out a Friday evening charter with public sailings to Lundy on Saturday and Ilfracombe on Sunday.

Poor Solent weather – The start of Waverley’s 1986 Solent season was delayed due to paddle wheel damage on the journey south which necessitated putting into Penzance for repairs. Waverley commenced her schedule on Thursday and sailed in reasonably dry but cold conditions until Saturday 13th September when the weather was very wet and high wind precluded calling at Sandown. Changeover day on 15th dawned wet, cold and windy, described by Southampton weather centre as the coldest September day since 1952. On the return to Ryde, passengers for Bournemouth and Poole embarked on Balmoral for her first visit to those parts under new ownership.

Red Funnel’s famous house flag was derived from the names of four steamers that were in the newly merged fleet in 1861- Sapphire, Emerald, Ruby and Pearl.

Balmoral’s return to her first home port of Southampton on 19th was marked by a celebration. Mr T Thorneycroft and Mr G Jones (Red Funnel) were present on the quay together with the Mayor of Southampton. Red Funnel allowed their flag to be ceremonially hoisted and flown for the remainder of the Solent stay.

Kingswear Castle at Whitstable – On 26th July KC had a comfortable number of passengers aboard, including reporters for Radio Kent, by the time she left Chatham, her second pick up point, and started down the Medway. What wind there was settled astern as the vessel proceeded round into the Swale, creating a nice warm sheltered area on the foredeck. There is a single road and rail bridge at Kingsferry and KC had to wait for the 12.30 train to pass before it could be opened, its central section being slowly cranked up between the side pillars. For some motorists the frustration of waiting was apparently lessened by the novel sight of our steamer passing beneath. We still had to wait for the tide at Whitstable, paddling in the general direction of the broken off end of Herne Bay pier. At 3.30 our ship tied up alongside in Whitstable harbour to be met by a sea cadet band and the Mayor.

Return of the Gisela – A few weeks after the 115th anniversary of her launch PS Gisela re-entered service on the Traunsee in Upper Austria. Named after the daughter of Emperor Franz Josef, she was the third and last paddle steamer to be built for the Traunsee. Her oscillating engine was built in Ruston’s engineering works in Prague. Built at Ruston’s shipyard in the Vienna suburb of Floridsdorf, she was re-assembled at Rindbach, and launched in June 1871. To put this in perspective, MacBraynes Columbia was not built for a further six years. She was withdrawn from service in 1980, but was not allowed to be scrapped as her consort had been.

Medway Queen – Weather, awkward tides and holiday absences have slowed our efforts. A seam on the starboard side has been temporarily repaired with fibreglass and the funnel repainted in its original cream colour. One of our members learnt about tides the hard way when the top of the tide lapped around the foot of the ladders up which he was working thus trapping him up the funnel until the tide went down again!

And 50 years ago… members visited the ships of the Woolwich Free Ferry; The Diamond jubilee of the Embassy took place at Totland. Read more…

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