Thames Report 2 (Part 2)

Report and pictures by Martin Longhurst

Go back to Part 1

Dawn broke over a calm sea at Southwold the following day, but no steamer appeared. Waverley was again the victim of inaccurate weather forecasting. Southwold Pier is in a very exposed position and even a modest sea could prevent the paddler going alongside. Captain Colledge therefore had to weigh up the options of going to Southwold and possibly not being able to pick up his passengers or arranging coaches to take the passengers to the more sheltered pier at Harwich. Faced with a forecast of a Force 4-6 south-westerly wind, he had to take the latter option with the decision having to be taken the previous night to ensure the availability of sufficient coaches. In fact, the wind stayed westerly and about Force 3, which would have been acceptable, but the die was already cast.

The other issue is of course the validity of the Passenger Certificate. This permits sailings "in favourable weather (close attention should therefore be paid to official weather forecasts before departing on any voyage)."
Of course none of this was apparent to the passengers looking at the flat calm surrounding the pier head, but nonetheless most took the decision in their stride and awaited the coaches' arrival in good humour. Soon after nine o'clock (the scheduled sailing time) the first of ten coaches drew up in the Pier Car Park and by 11.20 all were aboard the Waverley at Harwich as she was able to steam away to London.

Departing from Harwich Halfpenny Pier

Shipping at Felixstowe Docks on the Suffolk shore

The Harwich cutter coming to pick up the Pilot

The wreck of the Richard Montgomery with the cranes of Thamesport beyond

Passing Tilbury passengers were able to get a glimpse of P.S. Tattershall Castle (another former London & North Eastern Railway ship) on the submersible barge AMT Wayfarer inside the Docks. This was in preparation for her voyage to George Prior's yard at Great Yarmouth where she is to be refurbished during the winter. Normally she is moored on the north bank of the Thames, just above Charing Cross, and serves as a floating pub. The work plan is understood to include removal of her paddle wheels to create extra space for customers and glazing over the bow. George Prior was a passenger on the Waverley today and was able to inform us that Tattershall Castle had been floated on to the Wayfarer that very morning.

The sun setting to the west ...

... while the moon rises in the east!

The sun had come out and continued to shine until it set behind Blackwall Point. The wind continued westerly, i.e. we were steaming into it for most of the voyage. Nevertheless, our arrival under the flood-lit Tower Bridge led to another round of applause from our Suffolk Passengers, despite the disappointing start to the trip.
Waverley returned light to Tilbury for fuel and a night's rest and we watched her turn, with the aid of tug Revenge, from London Bridge as we made our way home.

Alongside Tower Pier with the yellow lights of City Hall on the south bank

The moon had climbed higher as the paddler slipped her moorings

She passes HMS Belfast

Working her way to the Surrey shore ready to go about

Passing the blue and red lights of London Bridge City Pier, the tug is just starting to pull the bow round

Now passed 90 degrees

Getting ready to slip the tow as the Bridge rises ...

... and off to Tilbury

Go on to Part 3

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