Waverley’s last Sunday on the South Coast was spent on a private charter to view the start of the Volvo Round the World Yacht Race on 23rd September 2001. This was a very successful affair with the paddler bidding farewell to the racers by The Needles as they sped away to Capetown.
Following the final public sailing on the Tuesday, the steamer spent the night alongside Swanage Pier. She left at 8am the next day for the lively light passage to Folkestone, where she arrived at 5.45pm.
264 were on board next day for the trip round the North Foreland to London.
Passing Dover, we could see two cruise ships in port, and remarkably both were under arrest. The Ocean Glory had been held at the Eastern Docks for some weeks following enforcement action by the MCA. Subsequently she and her crew had been abandoned by her operators, leaving many debts outstanding. Eventually, her owners had paid off the crew, leaving the veteran vessel with an uncertain future.
Over at the Western Docks, the modern Renaissance Line cruise ship R Seven was alongside. Renaissance had gone bust the day before and their ship had been seized at Dover’s Western Docks.
There was also the normal cross-channel activity, with POSL Canterbury entering the Eastern Entrance as we passed. Further east the opportunity was taken to take a close look at Deal Pier, as plans are being considered to restore the landing facilities, swept away by a storm in 1980.
As it was raining when the cruise started, the Engine Room skylight was not fully open.
As things dried up, so the opening was increased.
Round in the Thames Estuary we took the deep water Princes Channel well away from land. However, we did get a close look at both the Shivering Sands and Red Sands Towers. Captain Gellatly took the steamer close in to Southend Pier so that we could admire the new Lifeboat Station at the Pier Head. A whistle blast brought waves from all the promenades watching us steam past!
Excellent progress was made upstream and speed was reduced so avoid an early arrival at Tilbury Landing Stage. Soon we were tied up and a few people doing the single journey left the ship while somewhat more boarded for the non-landing cruise to the Pool of London. Underway again, speed was reduced to pass the New Zealand Pacific container ship at the Container Terminal, as she was taking bunkers.
Just downstream of Tower Bridge we met our tug, Regarder, and she took the tow line before the bridge opened. As it was slack water, the paddler was swung immediately above the Bridge, an unusual manoeuvre. As Tower Bridge is not lifted more than once in 20 minutes, to avoid traffic congestion, Waverley gradually worked her way westwards towards London Bridge, ending up between HMS Belfast and the false paddler Dixie Queen, herself alongside Tower Pier. Finally, the Bridge re-opened and the paddler swept majestically through with a long whistle blast! Passengers were coached home from Tilbury.
This article was first published on Martin Longhurst’s Waverley – The Unofficial Site.