Bells and Whistles

22 Oct

Plan B’s feature regularly in the world of aviation. It’s the weather. Mostly.

So instead of flying into Goodwood a couple of weekends ago to partake in the monthly breakfast club and take a look at the classic cars (floor to ceiling mist) we drove to Southend. John often raves about the Motor Boat Museum there and it was somewhere I hadn’t been so it seemed like a good idea.

Can’t say I was thrilled with the place initially – the approach by road was pretty horrid – and the Motor Boat Museum had closed and was now a conference centre. I did see a brown signpost they’d neglected to uproot though so couldn’t accuse John of making it up. Would I!

But once we found the seafront and parked the car it started to get better.

I remembered how much I liked deck chairs… (John’s going to make some for Hobo – ideal as they fold flat so sit well on the roof)

The view across the estuary was surreal…And we saw the train on the pier…Which at 1.3 miles is the longest in the UK!

Then came the real treat…The Waverley. A lovely sight and the only sea-going paddle steamer in the world!

We wanted a ride on her.

Fast forward a week to last Saturday and we were on our way to do just that. Her last sailing this year. We decided to drive to Dagenham and pick up John’s Uncle Mike – a wiz when it comes to sorting out public transport in the London area, good company and always up for an adventure (he’s already booked his place on Hobo for when we do the Pontcysylite Aqueduct)

– then train it to Tower Pier where we could board her for a trip along the estuary to Southend.

Mike had sorted out the journey  very nicely but the District Line was out of action so another plan B was called for. To cut a long story short, when we reached Liverpool St. Station the only way we were going to get there in time and not miss the boat was to get in a taxi. John and I got held up at the barrier (wouldn’t let us through) and by the time the staff had dealt with the annoying bunch of tourists good folk in front of us and let us out of jail, Mike had disappeared. Nowhere to be seen.

Mike walks at London speed and, not realising we weren’t right behind him, had headed off at 200mph for the taxi rank. John had left his phone in the car so we couldn’t communicate with him. Our only option was to jump in a cab and hope to meet up at Tower Pier. We didn’t see him there as we ran toward the Waverley, only just making it before she cast off. We walked round to the sunny side to a great view of the Belfast and the Shard.

We fully expected to find Mike already on board and tucking into breakfast.

A tug brought us about and we were off. The first treat coming up…Tower Bridge opened up for us and, by way of acknowledgement, Waverley did that sexy steam whistle thing. Brilliant.

Breakfast then, which really hit the spot, but no Mike.

Back out on deck for coffee, ciggie and more sights. A moody Thames Barrier…OK, I’ll give you a bit blurry.

Dartford Crossing…

Getting a bit chilly so time for a look at the engine room down in the bowels of the boat…It’s quite something…And you can walk all round it. It’s warm down there too and very much John’s thing…

And, having been dragged to many a steaming day at obscure sites that house all sorts of engine relics, I have to say it was good to see one that was actually driving something.

Beautifully polished copper and brass…Cuddly toy…Whatever next?A cable car over the Thames, that’s what. We didn’t even know there was one! Did you?

Something else for the list then. I’ve found it courtesy of Google, hence this pic, so it must be true.

The Waverley really motors through the water – surprised us, the speed she maintained – we overtook two car ferries can you believe.

You can hear the whoosh as the paddles turn…And feel the rhythm through the deck. I found myself tapping my toes to it at one point.

The Waverley is maintained to a very high standard and drips 1920’s charm and elegance. The whole experience is a delight. From the bell that commands a change of speed to the classic ventilation shafts and smokestacks…What a beauty!

We arrive  some 4 hours down the line and dock alongside the pier. Very gently. Nicely done Skipper.

We’d splashed all our cash on trains, taxis and breakfast so walked the 1.3 miles back to shore,  the trains passing us and each other along the way…Really would have liked a ride.

In the absence of a proper pub, we killed some time in Wetherspoons. Well it was opposite the train station.

We managed, all by ourselves, to navigate our way back to Dagenham to retrieve the car and find out if Mike was still talking to us. I was worried he might still be running around Liverpool St. Station looking for us but it turned out that he’d arrived just in time to see Waverley sail away. He couldn’t see us though (round the other side admiring the Belfast) and had been panicking ever since that we’d missed the boat too.

He drove to Southend to meet us at the other end but got tangled up in the traffic so eventually gave up and went home.

So relieved that we’d made it, he suggested he treat us to a meal. Graciously accepted. Be rude not to.

He set off for Romford in his car, us following. Now this is Saturday night and the first choice didn’t even have a space for our cars, let alone a table for us. Another plan B then.

Well it was just one of those days and, without wishing to bore you with the details, we lost him. Again.

Time to head for Hobo.

And the moral to this story is…

‘What do you expect when you invite an old uncle out for the day’.

His words not mine.I’ll leave you with this pic (lifted off the internet) which is of the return journey that we didn’t do. Must be good to approach the city with all the lights a’twinkle….another day maybe.

2 Responses to “Bells and Whistles”

  1. charmwah October 23, 2012 at 8:35 am #

    The Waverley looks amazing! I’m going to have to go have a goosey some time. I got to the end of the tale and found myself very hungry for some reason… :p

    • Boatbird October 23, 2012 at 6:32 pm #

      Yes, she is a beauty – I’d recommend it. It was a fun day with Uncle Mike in tow (or not as it happened) and we were pretty ‘hank’ ourselves by the time we made it back to Hobo!!

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