After an off service day on Monday, Waverley resumed her timetabled duties on Tuesday 9th October 2001. Cruises generally went ahead as planned, except on Wednesday. Having sailed from Southend to Clacton and Harwich, it was decided that conditions did not allow a return to Clacton. Instead a non-landing cruise up the River Orwell to Ipswich was substituted. The paddler was turned off Cliff Quay by the Rochester registered tug Tanya.
On Friday it was learnt that the Gravesend-Tilbury Ferry service was to be suspended “until further notice” because of an “internal dispute.” A small notice at Tilbury thanked passengers for their support in the recent difficulties, but gave no hint of the actual operator of the ferry or when, or if, the service might resume.
On Saturday, the paddler left her overnight berth at Tilbury very early to take up service at Margate, where about 150 joined the ship.
Steaming up to Tilbury’s Landing Stage, Waverley’s paddle beats could be clearly heard from over a mile away.
Subsequent calls at Whitstable, Southend and Tilbury brought the total aboard to 640 for a non-landing cruise to the Upper Pool on the second warmest October day since records began.
A good view of HMS Belfast with Tower Bridge beyond.
On the return to Tilbury, the steamer took on her Show Boat role, via Southend to Tower Pier (with coach return).
Steaming off to Southend, the paddler’s lights stood out in the twilight.
Sunday was Paddle Steamer Parade day with record numbers booked on board. 600 were expected at Tower Pier alone.
Here are the crowds joining the steamer at Southend.
On board was Nigel Coombes, well known steamer author and former Chairman of the PSPS. He warned me of the dangers of cream slices.
Some £420 was raised in the day’s raffle. Here London Branch volunteers tear out the tickets prior to the Grand Draw.
The two paddlers first met just downstream of Gillingham. The Waverley was turned with the assistance of tug Nore Triton once again.
Then a second encounter – as Waverley headed for the Estuary, Kingswear Castle steamed passed both sides of the mighty paddler.
Passengers were entertained on board by the Hockley Royal British Legion Pipe Band.
Returning to Southend, there was a good view of the RNLI’s new Lifeboat House at the Pier Head.
Unfortunately, this turned out to be Waverley’s last sail on the Thames, as the planned cruise to Folkestone on Tuesday 16th October was cancelled. The weather pattern meant that the paddler’s best chance of reaching the Bristol Channel for the following weekend’s sailings was to sail on Monday night.
This article was first published on Martin Longhurst’s Waverley – The Unofficial Site.