The paddle steamer Waverley in Worthing in September 2008The paddle steamer Waverley in Worthing in September 2008
The paddle steamer Waverley in Worthing in September 2008

National Flagship of the Year: Paddle steamer Waverley and its long association with Worthing

Waverley, the world’s last seagoing paddle steamer, is returning to Shoreham in September and booking is due to open soon.

The iconic paddle steamer has just been awarded the prestigious status of National Flagship of the Year by National Historic Ships UK.

The award recognises the breadth and geographic coverage of Waverley’s sailings in addition to the extended sailing programme planned for 2024. Shoreham has been confirmed as a departure point for only the second year and Worthing will be available as a coach connection point for sailings from Portsmouth and Shoreham.

Worthing has had a long association with the world’s last seagoing paddle steamer and many have had the opportunity to step aboard the Waverley from the pier, but these days, if you want to go on the famous vessel, you have to take a coach to join it at Portsmouth.

With the beat of her paddles, the sound of her whistle and the aroma of hot oil in her engine room, the Waverley comes alive on her nostalgic journeys and 15 years ago, Worthing had the only pier in Sussex where the steamer could tie up.

But at 239ft long and with 693 tonnage, she proved too much for Worthing Pier on September 15, 2008, when wind whipped up just as she was docking.

Hundreds of passengers were left disappointed when a bollard and timber gave way on the landing dock. Mooring lines attached to the bollard put it under a great deal of pressure and it gave way when an offshore wind caused a slight swell.

People had travelled to Worthing from far and wide for the day trip to Lulworth Cove but it sailed away without anyone being able to board.

The following year, Waverley made one successful visit to Worthing but its second docking on September 24, 2009, was cancelled as the waves proved too choppy and at the last minute, coaches were brought in to transport passengers to Portsmouth.

Her sturdy lines, immaculately varnished decks and distinctive funnels were worth the wait. There were plenty of fascinating scenes to explore onboard, including watching the glistening, mesmerising engines chugging away. Initially powered by coal, they gave off the heavy aroma of the oil which helped propel the massive, 18ft steamer wheels to speeds of more than 14 knots.

Worthing master joiner Tony Horn was a regular on the Waverley, having volunteered his services to work on the woodwork. He had loved ships since childhood and made the staircase, bar and windows on the steamer.