1946 paddle steamer Waverley enjoys a busy season

Posted by Chris Graham on 20th February 2023

The 1946 paddle steamer Waverley returned to the south coast of England last autumn, with thousands of trippers enjoying the experience.

1946 paddle steamer Waverley

Waverley on the Thames passing Gravesend, 22 September. (Pic: Fraser Gray)

Waverley’s 2022 season ended on a high last October, with a sailing from Glasgow to Tighnabruaich and the Bute coast. Over 900 passengers stepped aboard during the day to have one last cruise before winter. During the season, over 100,000 passenger journeys were recorded from May 28th to October 16th; the most since 2016. 

For the first time since 2018, Waverley gave supporters beyond the Firth of Clyde the chance to travel on her, with trips from Oban to Skye, as well as along the south coast and on the River Thames, as the photographs here illustrate.

1946 paddle steamer Waverley

Waverley passing The Needles lighthouse during a cruise around the Isle of Wight on September 10th. (Pic: Andrew Cooke)

Among the many highlights were the 75th anniversary sailing to Arrochar returning to Ayr, trips out of Poole and Southwold for the first time in many seasons, evening sunset cruises, weddings on board, meeting the steamship Shieldhall, sailing with the steam tug Challenge and a passage under a floodlit Tower Bridge into the Pool of London. Most sailings during the season were sold out.

1946 paddle steamer Waverley

Waverley coming alongside at Poole, on September 12th. (Pic: Richard Clammer)

Waverley’s return to the south coast came during early September, and included a variety of sailings from Southampton, Portsmouth, Yarmouth, Poole and Swanage. The popular Round the Isle of Wight sailing gave passengers the chance to enjoy spectacular views of the island’s coastline, including features such as the famous Needles Rocks and lighthouse, Freshwater Bay and St Catherine’s lighthouse.

1946 paddle steamer Waverley

Having taken aboard her passengers, Waverley departs Yarmouth Pier on the Isle of Wight, September 11th. (Pic: Andrew Cooke)

A highlight of Waverley’s tour was the Bournemouth Air Festival on September 4th, when she met the steamship Shieldhall. The two historic ships anchored between Bournemouth and Boscombe for the air festival. 

Waverley’s general manager, Paul Semple, commented as the season drew to a close: “As we now prepare Waverley for winter lay-up, we can reflect on what has been a highly successful season, with the ship receiving warm welcomes at all the ports and piers she visited. I am personally very grateful to the whole Waverley team for what has been achieved. The ship’s master, officers and crew have done Waverley and the company proud. The small office team have worked incredibly hard behind the scenes to facilitate the numerous tasks which enable the ship to operate and passengers to be carried.

1946 paddle steamer Waverley

Waverley on a blustery day of sunshine and showers, passing Tilburyness on the Thames. The paddle steamer returned to the capital’s river after an absence of four years for a series of excursions from London, during which she also visited locations such as Southend, Clacton and Whitstable. (Pic: Fraser Gray)

“Everyone involved should be proud of a job well done, and take pride in knowing they have played a part in keeping one of the world’s greatest ships operating. The preservation of Waverley is a story of sheer determination to succeed beyond the odds to keep the last seagoing paddle steamer operating.”

Waverley at Tilburyness during her Thames cruises, September 26th. (Pic: Fraser Gray)

While passenger numbers have been strong, the enormous rise in fuel costs on top of other cost increases mean the paddle steamer faces a possible shortfall of as much as £200,000 for the year. Ticket income has often covered daily operating costs, but there is a significant funding gap in meeting the maintenance costs which will be incurred over the coming months.

Waverley going astern from Swanage Pier on September 11th, setting off on a cruise along the Dorset coast to Lulworth Cove. (Pic: Kevin Mitchell)

A £4 fares surcharge was brought in from May 2022, but it proved insufficient to offset fuel prices, which increased from 55p to £1 per litre in a matter of weeks. 

Waverley at Whitstable in Kent in October. (Pic: Spencer Alden)

Friends of Waverley donors continue to provide key income during the winter. If you are able to make a small monthly donation (starting at £5.20), Waverley Excursions would be most grateful. For further details and to sign up, visit:

Waverley departing Gravesend Town Pier for a Thames cruise to London at the end of September. (Pic: Fraser Gray)

This feature comes from the latest issue of Ships Monthly, and you can benefit from a money-saving subscription to this magazine simply by clicking HERE


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