Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Paddle Steamer Waverley

For my birthday last year Tet gave me a voucher for a trip on the Waverley, and since then we have been trying to find a trip fairly local to us and on a day we were both free. That was tricky and last year I couldn't manage it. Monday was the only date that worked this year so we went for it, despite it being directly after a race weekend.

Leaving Margate
The early start wasn't exactly fun but given it was this trip or nothing we were determined to be there on time. Things went well until we got to Victoria where we discovered our train had been cancelled. Not ideal, but not a problem. We had planned for that and the next train would still get us to the boat in plenty of time. Well had it been running on time it would. It arrived late to Victoria, but made up some time immediately by loading quickly and heading off again. Unfortunately it lost that time and some more on it's way back to Margate. The Waverley was due to leave Margate at 10.30, and our train finally arrived at Margate station at 10.29. We had called ahead and asked the crew to wait for us and we had booked a taxi. The taxi was waiting for us and did his best to get us to the 'pier' on time. He would have managed it too, if someone hadn't stopped in front of us blocking him. Our only remaining option was to run for it. As we were running towards the Waverley they took in the gangways, but at the last second they did see us running towards them waving and put one back out for us. You know, waving and running at the same time is quite hard work.

Just as well there are seats all around the deck so we could stop and catch our breath. It did mean we mostly missed pulling away from the 'pier' but hey we made it, just! I'll have much more understanding when I read "Around the World in 80 Days" next.

Once we had our breath back the first stop had to be the engine. I had forgotten how good it smells (well to me at least) but the sound and the heat had stayed with me from my previous visits. There is a very special sort of heat around engines and I love it. It is also just mesmerising to watch moving. I will try and upload some video of it soon. I hadn't really thought about it before, but I guess it's quite rare to be able to get this close to a moving engine.  I'm glad it's still allowed.

When you are next to the engine you can look out of the portholes and see the paddles moving. It makes it clear why she isn't the most manoeuvrable vessel in the world. When her paddles are going they are both moving together. Great for propulsion but it would help her turn if they could be slowed independently. They do give her great acceleration though and when she leaves a dock she does it very very quickly.

The next stop on our exploration of the boat was the lower bar. When they say lower they mean it. this is the view from the portholes in the bar. They are above my head height when sitting down and as you can see they are pretty much at sea level. I would guess that later in the journey when we had taken on many more passengers they were even lower. I really enjoyed watching them as it gave a great feeling of movement.

From Margate we headed out around the Kent coast towards Herne Bay. This took us past a wind farm and Reculver. When we were at university we often visitied Reculver, and had often read about how important it had been. You really appreciate how imposing it is when you see it from the sea. It was still clearly visible when were ready to turn into Whitstable. The towers of St Mary's church, Reculver are the blocky towers in the middle of this picture. The lower structure to the left of them are the ruined back wall of the building.

 The next stop on our trip was Whitstable. This is somewhere we were both very familiar with from university and we had lived in the area for a few years after graduation. However we had never approached it from the sea. I hadn't expected the harbour to look so enclosed, it doesn't from the land side. It also seemed a lot smaller than it had. I have seen several ships being loaded with gravel, and they looked quite large. The Waverley on the other hand looks quite small and seemed to take up a lot of room in the harbour. Given how small the Waverley looks the queue on the dock was quite a surprise.  She can actually carry 860 passengers and on Monday was just 6 short of a full load. It does make it quite hard to move around so I was very pleased we had taken the time to look at the engines while there were less people on board. As soon as we left Whistable we headed down to the dining room, thinking that the new passengers would look around as we had done. Sadly we weren't that lucky and had quite a queue for lunch (which is actually a very good thing for the Waverley she is run as a charity and all the profits keep her sailing).  The food was good too, although it was the strangest haddock I've had it was tasty.

After Whitstable we headed on to Southend, which was one of the places I blogged from yesterday. All the way we were given information about where we were and what we were seeing over the PA. It was great to hear about the other vessels we passed. Some of them had almost as much history as the Waverley. I really enjoyed learning more about the history of the coast too. I think that had better be all for tonight, given I am teaching tomorrow. I'll try and finish off tomorrow.


jan said...

Brilliant, thanks for sharing Ferret.

Susan Briscoe said...

Great post - I know exactly what you mean about the special kind of heat around the engine (and can imagine the smell too mmmm)!