On Saturday 7 October, just over 50 Paviors, families and guests boarded the Paddle Steamer Waverley at London’s Millennium Tower Pier for a cruise to Southend and back.
The Paviors’ party joined several hundred other passengers on board and watched as the ship was turned around by a tug and then towed under Tower Bridge, which had raised its bascules to let the vessel pass. The ship then proceeded under its own paddle-wheel power down the Thames and on its way to the estuary.
The PS Waverley is one of the world’s greatest historic ships and is the last sea-going paddle steamer in the world. It made its first commercial voyage in 1947, so is now celebrating its 70th year of operation. The vessel is owned and operated by a charity who have restored the ship to a high standard, with towering black, white and red funnels, timber decks and gleaming varnish and brass. The ship had just spent several weeks operating out of London, and this was its penultimate voyage before returning to its home port of Glasgow.
The day was overcast, but it was still possible to enjoy the fascinating view of the lower reaches of the Thames, passing Canary Wharf, Greenwich Waterfront and the Dome. The trip continued through the Flood Barrier and under the QE2 Bridge before making a stop at Gravesend to pick up more passengers. The views of the shoreline presented an interesting mixture of redeveloped docklands and traditional industries, and the experienced was heightened by an informative commentary pointing out the many places of interest.
Whilst on board, many Paviors enjoyed a lunch in the Dining Saloon, a drink or two in the bar, and were able to view the motion-rods of the steam engine that drives the paddles and enable the vessel to cruise at over 20 knots. Some light rain showers were not allowed to spoil the experience prior to arriving at Southend Pier. On arriving at the Pier, which is the longest of its kind in the world, all the Paviors disembarked and chose between queueing and riding the length of the pier on the train, or walking the one-and-a-quarter miles to the seafront.
After what seemed like a short time ashore, passengers re-boarded and made the return journey into the Pool of London. Darkness fell, and this enabled everyone to view features such as the Thames Barrier, Greenwich, Canary Wharf and, of course, the opening bascules of Tower Bridge bedecked splendidly with lights. This provided a fitting finale to an excellent day out.
Many thanks to Jim Cook of the Liverymen’s Committee for making all the arrangements.