Friday 15th July was Consul’s first scheduled trip of the season from Weymouth to Totland Bay, Isle of Wight in 1960.
She was due away from Weymouth at 10am for the cruise along the Dorset Coast to Swanage for 12.15pm. Then it was off on a heading of 075 degrees for the 15 nautical mile run across to the Needles Channel for arrival at Totland at about 2pm.
Departure was scheduled for 4pm with another call at Swanage at 5.30pm for Weymouth where she was due back at 8.15pm.
1960 was the first season that Capt J C W Ililffe was in command of a paddle steamer. While he had been Consul’s mate in 1959, Friday 15th July was the first time that he had berthed Consul at Totland Bay himself.
All piers have their funny little tidal quirks with different back eddies and sets during the tidal cycle and these can tax even the most experienced masters who have come to know any particular pier well.
At this stage in his career Capt Iliffe was unaware of the back eddy at Totland. He went in expecting the tide to set him onto the pier and was surprised to find that instead it set him off. A second go proved no more successful so the Trinity House pilot cutter, which was berthed on the other side of the pier, kindly stood off to allow Consul to come in up tide on the back eddy.
Consul was not a fast paddle steamer. She had a service speed of about 11 knots so punching adverse tides could knock her back particularly around exposed headlands like St Albans Head and in the approaches to the Needles Channel where the tide can be very fierce indeed at some points in the tidal cycle knocking on at 3 or 4 knots. That is great if it is going with you and so boosting your speed over the ground but not at all good if it is against you and knocking you back.
Cosens only rostered Consul for these 36 nautical mile voyages from Weymouth to Totland Bay in the peak weeks in July and August and then only once a fortnight to try take advantage of broadly favourable tides.
In 1960 Consul ran just four of these trips from Weymouth to the Isle of Wight. The following year she was rostered for only two and that was it.
Although her last season for Cosens was 1962 Consul spent that summer confined to Weymouth Bay.
Kingswear Castle returned to service in 2023 after the first part of a major rebuild which is designed to set her up for the next 25 years running on the River Dart. The Paddle Steamer Kingswear Castle Trust is now fund raising for the second phase of the rebuild. You can read more about the rebuilds and how you can help if you can here.
This article was first published on 15th July 2020.